'One Million Mile' Electric Car Battery Is Now 'Ready to Produce,' Tesla's Chinese Partner Reveals

The leadership of a Tesla technology partner in China that is helping to develop a "one million mile" battery says the company is now "ready to produce."

Zeng Yuqun, chairman of Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL), has said the Ningde-based manufacturing firm has the capability of making a battery pack that can last for about 16 years, powering an electric vehicle for 1.24 million miles.

"If someone places an order, we are ready to produce," Zeng said in an interview with the South China Morning Post (SCMP), declining to elaborate on contracts.

According to the SCMP, CATL signed a two-year contract to supply batteries to Tesla in February this year, and its technology is set to be incorporated into the Model 3 range of vehicles being made at Musk's new gigafactory located in Shanghai.

"We're getting along well and he's a fun guy," Zeng said, referring to Musk. "He's talking about cost all day long, and I'm making sure we have the solutions." CATL is not solely focused on Tesla, however, with customers also including BMW and Toyota.

Tesla has been contacted for comment.

The creation of the next generation of battery technology for consumer electric vehicles has long been teased by Tesla boss Elon Musk, who recently announced that a much anticipated "Battery Day" event could share news as early as this month.

It will be "one of the most exciting days in Tesla's history," Musk said during the Q1 2020 earnings call. COVID-19 caused announcement delays, he later tweeted.

The long-lasting but lower-cost batteries are expected to eventually cut the cost of Tesla cars, bringing them more in line with some of its gasoline-fueled competitors. The "one million mile" phrase refers to the total lifetime of use, not range on a charge.

Reuters reported last month that Tesla's battery tech was being developed by CATL and a team of academic experts recruited by Musk.

Those experts included Jeff Dahn of Dalhousie University, who previously led research indicating that a one million mile battery pack was feasible. The batteries are expected to be released in China first, but will eventually reach other regions, including the U.S.

Breakthroughs in how to make batteries store energy for longer periods were linked to their chemical additives, materials, and coatings, according to Reuters.

The current Model 3 offers a full-charge range of 348 miles, with battery modules that Musk says can last between 300,000 to 500,000 miles, as previously reported.

In an earlier earnings call this year, the Tesla boss said increasing battery capacity was fundamental, and the company must now ramp up production.

He said: "We've got to really make sure we get a very steep ramp in that battery production and continue to improve the cost per kilowatt hour for the batteries.

"We've got to solve this battery... We've got to scale battery production to crazy levels that people cannot even fathom today. That's the real problem."

To that end, Tesla will now start to increase battery production in large "terafactories" although exact timescales for manufacturing and release remain murky.

"We're going to be really focused on increasing battery production," Musk said. "If you don't improve battery production capacity, then you end up just shifting unit volume from one product to another and you haven't actually produced more electric vehicles."

Forecasting from research outfit BloombergNEF suggests the COVID-19 pandemic will delay some electric vehicle (EV) launch plans, but the market is promising.

"By 2022 there will be over 500 different EV models available globally. Consumer choice and competitive pricing will be key to attracting new buyers to the market," it said.

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A Tesla vehicle is seen at a dealership on January 03, 2019 in Miami, Florida. The Model 3 range in China is expected to get the "one million mile" battery first, reports suggest. Joe Raedle/Getty