Betting on Tesla, Think Twice

I have written two posts on electric car related topics recently. The last one was about why I think Apple should buy Tesla to get a jump start in the EV industry and innovate ahead of the competition. But, you may wonder, what is out there that is more attractive than Tesla—the poster child of electric vehicles? If you don’t wonder, you should, because it is a great way to think about innovation. Let me show you some examples.

At 4iNNO, we use various tools to analyze existing technologies. I found three tools that are perfect for this topic. I call them Fundamental Challenge, Competing Systems and Technology Maturity Analysis (this last is well known).

Tesla’s Fundamental Challenge
There are several Fundamental Challenges that can potentially disrupt Tesla’s current market or constrain the future. To name three:

  1. Lithium is a limited resource
    Lithium is the same as crude oil—both are limited natural resources. So, you can expect governments and companies to control and manipulate the price of lithium-based energy storage solutions as they currently do with oil.
  1. Tesla is not making the battery
    Tesla has strong technologies for integration of batteries into a battery pack safely and efficiently, but they do not make the batteries. Even though Tesla has a plan to build a Giga factory, there is still uncertainty of how well Tesla can perform in this new area.
  1. Battery pack
    Why do we need 7000# type 18650 batteries in the pack to power an EV rather than a single battery? It might be a dumb question, but perfectly legitimate to ask it, especially from point of view of the space that seems to be wasted in between all of these round cells, and the incredibly inefficient use of the packaging material used on each individual battery. We all know how important weight is to performance, so how does Tesla eliminate all of the seemingly unnecessary space and materials in the power pack?

More exciting cars in the space are strong competing systems
You may think—so what, this is the best available option. But no! There are more exciting competing electric power systems to the Tesla Li-Ion approach:

    1. A car that runs on salt waterQuant is developed and designed by NanoflowCell AG. The high efficiency and environmental sustainability of the nanoFlowcell® opens new horizons in many areas. To quote, “The aerospace industry is searching for alternative on-board battery technologies. The rail transport industry is in search of new ways to save energy. Flow cells are already in domestic use; the nanoFlowcell® could cover the energy needs for individual houses and even whole towns.”Read the car’s specification on their website and you will see why it is attractive. As of writing this we are still taking the word of Nanoflowcell AG regarding specs, but if close to true the technology would be a big shake up for the lithium community. It could also be disruptive to the global oil economy.
  1. Graphene and Super capacitors graphene
    I think this technology has huge potential, yet no official release of the details on any working prototype in a car. There are rumors around it, which makes this technology more interesting. Here is a picture of a bench top prototype from Graphenano’s website.
  1. Solar powered plane

    Rethinking transportation and energy, if solar energy can power a plane in the air non-stop. Why not a car? To be sure there are still massive hurdles, not least that solar energy density on the earth’s surface has a limit, but advances continue and that theoretical limit is far from being reached.
  1. Iron-Phosphate battery
    This is an E-bus that is made by BYD China. If you have ever travelled to LA and rented a car at Hertz, you may have ridden one already. Read more about its specs here.

Fully Charge the battery in 120 seconds

Close to the market
Excited! That is how I feel even after watching these videos several times. Except for the graphene battery technology, all the other technologies are already deployed or ready-to-go. So, think twice before betting solely on Tesla.

What else?

OPPORTUNITIES! Look at the following picture from inno360 on the ecosystem activity during the past two years of EV related technologies. Except the existing well known automobile manufacturers that have been labeled, we can see a lot of small research activities are going on in the space. Will we see any disruptions among them? Sure we will, because the prize is a truly massive one!

Want to learn more about 4iNNO and what we do? Contact us for more details.

*inno360 is a proprietary open innovation platform developed by inno360 INC.

Qian Li, PhD