Published on July 26th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro


Elon Musk Says A 500-Mile EV Could Happen Soon

July 26th, 2014 by  

Originally published on Gas 2


With an EPA-rated range of 265 miles per charge, the Tesla Model S is the longest-range electric car you can buy today. In an interview with AutoExpress, though, Elon Musk revealed that a 500-mile battery will be possible “soon” … but at an exceedingly high cost.

When asked “How far will a battery-powered car be able to go?,” Musk had this to say:

It will be possible to have a 500-mile range car. In fact we could do it quite soon, but it would increase the price. Over time you could expect to have that kind of range.

For a car that can easily exceed $100,000 even with federal and state tax incentives, jacking the price even higher probably isn’t a priority for Tesla. However, it’s been widely speculated that the Model S is in line for a bigger battery pack, which could go along with a stretched-wheelbase version that’s rumored to be in the works. It’s more than just a bigger battery that gives the Model S more than twice the range of any other electric car; aerodynamics and a unique drive unit make the Model S remarkably efficient despite its heft.

A longer-range Model S takes backseat priority to the soon-to-launch Model X SUV, though, and Tesla’s most important car will be the 200+ mile Model III. Tesla has shown that being able to go 200-miles on a charge is more than enough range to get from one side of America to the other, and a 500-mile battery is unnecessary for 95% of peoples’ daily driving needs (even 50 miles of range is unnecessary for 95% of trips).

Don’t expect Tesla to go hybrid to achieve that kind of driving range either, though a hybrid battery pack might be possible. Rather, Tesla will always be “pure electric” in Musk’s words, fully embracing his notion that every car on the road should be electric. Musk has also pulled back on his autonomous car bluster, saying that he wants customers to enjoy the electric driving experience. That’s a lot less bullish than his earlier claims that by 2017, Tesla will have a “90% autonomous” car. Instead he wants to “alleviate driver workload,” which indicates he’s probably aiming for adaptive cruise control and auto-follow features, rather than a car that “drives” itself.

As for when we’ll see a 500-mile battery, I’d wager it won’t happen until well after the Model III hits the road. For some people, though, this is the ultimate answer to range anxiety.

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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • Doug

    I really don’t know why someone would buy a 500mile EV. It’s like buying a 5lbs iPhone that charges once per month.

  • At Bridge Water Energy Systems they have already produced ION (UV) batteries that can do this. The US Government would prefer this tech not to come to US yet.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “The US Government would prefer this tech not to come to US yet.”

      Right. And there are goblins under your bed.

  • josetony

    With a 20% energy efficiency improvement from Tesla’s battery pack, the actual model S could up to 318 miles of range. With all the new discoveries and lab experimenting with electric batteries `I think that at least 350 mile range will be a realistic goal.

  • I think most people should stop to drive after 3 or 4 hours of driving to eat/drink/go to the toilet, which is the time it takes to recharge the “car”. What about adding some kind of a small trailer: the design of the car would have to be completely rethought of course because a trailer is not that cool to look at in its present form and shape.

  • Vensonata

    So BMW has a different solution. If you have an electric bmw when you want to drive 500 miles they will give you a free SUV for two weeks. You pay for gas. The number of times anybody needs a 500 mile range is almost nil. And of course you can drive 500 miles in a day in the present tesla S, if you are willing to stop for 30 minutes to charge. Umm…are we not already there, just who needs 500 mile batteries?

    • Bob_Wallace

      I don’t know that anyone really needs 500 mile batteries. But part of Elon’s mission seems to be myth killing.

      He slew the myth that EVs needed to be slow, ugly golf carts with windows and were only fit for drives around town.

      Might as well sell a few 500 mile range EVs and whack the “I can go further with my gasmobile” meme. After all, we know that H2 FCEVs are superior because the Toyota will supposedly go 300 miles between filling while the S will only go 265 miles.

    • eject

      A 500 mile battery is needed if you want to make use of the power the motor can put out. This is certainly a big problem for German manufacturers even though it is only really a problem in Germany itself. How far does a 100kWh battery take you if you are going at 100mph including a couple of sprints from 50-100mph? You will struggle to do a 100miles, that is physics.

  • Wayne Williamson

    If the mega factories(lion batteries) are mostly automated, I would think that after the initial lets make as much profit as we can thing, the price should drop dramatically. The Tesla has plenty of room for double the batteries it currently can house which would get it to that 500 mile range.

  • Tesla may want to use the Phinergy aluminum “battery” (which is a fuel cell in some regards). Phinergy has already refered to an automotive partner which is planning to use their system.

    That could be a sufficiently low-cost secondary system but it has its weaknesses. Phinergy’s plans for their first-gen batteries only included aluminum plate replacement in service centers (non-user-replaceable).

    However, this may fit well with Tesla which already has a lot of supercharging stations deployed and already spoke about battery swapping before. Maybe they meant the swapping of the depleted low-cost alu-cells. Possibly, Tesla may even develop the Phinergy system to the level where a Tesla owner can actually do the swap themselves while the supercharger is working on the primary battery (modularized battery with smaller, user-movable cells, say 5kg each). This would eliminate the need for automated battery swapping and only a dispenser unit would be needed at the supercharger stations, which gives a fully recharged alu-cells and takes depleted ones.

    Battery swapping with only low-cost, long-range alu-cells would work better than with shorter-range, primary/main, expensive batteries (aka Better Place). The alu-cells could even be owned by Tesla and offered as a supplementary recharging service to Tesla owners. This way you don’t depend on Tesla very much since you use the main battery most of the time and you use the alu-cell service only rarely, on long trips (instead of getting a long-range gas/gybrid car for a long trip and leaving your EV home).

    With alu-cell swapping stations you could even do a alu-only recharge if you have no time for a slower, main-battery recharge (I believe the supercharger can fill-up a model-S in a half an hour or so). Even if the swap would be manual, it could be done swiftly if the design is clever and easily accessible).

    • Bob_Wallace

      The supercharger can pump in 170 miles in 30 minutes.

      If a swappable battery for the extra range was the solution there wouldn’t need to be many swapping stations. Perhaps every 150 miles or further along major travel corridors.

      If you post your destination as you start on a long trip the car’s brain should figure out when/where you would need to swap the secondary battery.

      • Absolutely, the car can plan your swaps just like the way it gives recommendation for recharging (I believe Teslas do something like that already).

        Phinergy, states that they have a Citroen C1 demonstrator which can go 1600km (1000mile) with a 25kg (55 pound) battery. The C1 is a small car, so lets add a 50% extra energy use for a normal sedan. This would reduce the mileage to ~1065km (666mi) for the 25 kg battery. Let’s say the modularized design adds 30% weight extra, which would result in a 32,5kg battery. Since we don’t need such high mileage, we can calculate with a half-sized battery (3 independently swappable modules, 5,41kg/module, 16,25kg full battery weight). This would still result in a ~532km (333mi) range for a single swap. This may coincide with the runtime of the water (the battery needs water refill as well) so they can be done together.

        I believe 3 such light modules could be easily be swapped manually in 5 minutes if they are placed accessibly (e.g. rear section of the trunk). Water could be refilled in parallel with the swaps.

        Of course, this is only speculation but the above would result in a fairly good user experience.

        • As Aha

          1kg Al = 8kWh energy and only half as electricity, so no way 25 kg (100kWh) energy could move 1000 mile any “real car”, besides for every 1kg Al it needs 1 kg of H2O, so you would need 25 kg of water plus it would absorb about 22 kg of O2 from air you would need to carry for some time, while in wieght is okish, bigger problem proabably will be volumetric density…

        • Jens Stubbe

          Tesla is so efficient compared to C1 that you need not assume less range for Phinergy batteries.

          • As Aha

            no way 2 tons can be more efficient (at slow/city traffic)

  • GCO

    a unique drive unit make the Model S remarkably efficient

    The S sure is a great car, but with consumption rated 236 W·h/km or 380 W·h/mile (EPA), compared to other EVs, efficient it is not.

  • Jan Veselý

    Big battery is a dead weight most of the time. Much better option would be some “range extending batteries” like those one use Al-air. That batteries would be most of the time out of the car (garage, shop, …) and in time of need you would just put it in and have extra 500 miles or so range.

    • vensonata

      Tesla is luxury. No grubbing around in the garage with the spare battery. Your idea would probably work though. Personally I wonder why Rolls Royce doesn’t make a 600 mile range all lithium electric. The price of the battery and its weight is irrelevant when you start paying a couple hundred thousand. Of course a couple of simultaneous high voltage chargers need to be in Garage where Jeeves can plug it in.

      • ecological

        Hi Vensonata, Rolls Royce produced the 102EX 100% EV Phantom. Tesla Motors powered. The British government funded automotive collaboration with niche vehicles such as the Electric Morgan test vehicles. Lotus created a range extended Evora, Tata JLR created Limogreen Jaguar XJ and a fleet of plugin hybrid Range Rover Sports achieving 100mpg. The Rolls buyers were asked for feedback and they would prefer wireless inducted chargers. Wealthy individuals struggled with the concept of plugging inone of their cars over night.

        • vensonata

          Hey I was close! I looked it up, it has 3 chargers not two. I am definitely from the lower classes! However The car could go a mere 125 miles per charge. That is so Mickey Mouse. What gives? Here I go with the psychoanalysis: Rolls Royce is most famous as an engine company, not just cars, but jet engines. Their whole persona would be threatened by electric motors, that is just not who they are. Identity crisis must have been discussed at the board meeting, half-hearted effort was made, conservative Lords won.

          • Jens stubbe

            Rolls Royce that produce cars is not the same Rolls Royce that produce jet engines.

  • Vensonata

    I think what Elon is talking about is a second battery…zinc air or something like that which has very high density but does not have much life cycle, so once in a while when you drive over 265 miles the other battery will kick in a go the other 250 miles. This special battery can only do this maybe 100 times before it is toast. It will cost what? 15 or 20 thousand? That seems to be part of tesla’s already patented design for next gen.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “very high density but does not have much life cycle”

      That’s a very interesting idea. 100 cycles with 6 long drives per year would mean a >15 year battery.

      The sweet spot might be something more like 100 miles for the high cycle battery and 400 for the seldom-cycled. As long as it didn’t suffer from being in a partial discharge state for a while.

      • Jouni Valkonen

        I do not think that is commercially feasible, because this means only dragging extra weight along. There is not available such high energy density but low cost batteries and even if there were, the flexibility of long range EV is just lost.

        If Phienergy delivers, then I think that aluminium air batteries could work as good range extender that is easy to replace. E.g. if you go for road trip, you could just drive to nearest service station and take range extender pack and continue journey. When range extender battery is exhausted, it can be replaced or returned if not needed anymore.

        But the main problem is that I would not put my money on that Phienergy is able to deliver what they claim.

    • Roger Pham

      Of all the metal-air battery known, such as Lithium, zinc, Aluminum, Hydrogen, etc, only the Hydrogen-air battery has been found to be practical, with 1500 Wh/kg energy density, $15-20/kWh, and $78/kW at this moment.

      With a 15-20 kWh Li- ion battery for power and daily commute range of 40-60 miles from home electricity, the next Tesla Model 3 can have additionally a 133-kWh Hydrogen-Air battery for well over 300- mi range. The high energy density and low-cost of the extended battery can allow for 1,000-lb weight reduction and $35,000 cost reduction while keeping the Model 3 the same size as the Model S for even greater sale potential. Bigger cars are always more appealing.

      • Roger Pham

        I’ll take back the above assertion, that not just Hydrogen-Air battery is ready, but apparently, Aluminum-Air battery is also ready as of 2014. In a Tesla Model S, an Al-Air battery can offer about over 600 miles, then time for a battery swap. Brand new development by Phinergy. It would be exciting to see how it will turn out…cost, safety, packaging, etc…

      • Jens Stubbe

        1600 km on a 25 kg Battery has been proven so future electric cars could be hybrid rechargeable and non rechargeable batteries. This will end range anciety and lower cost.

        Tesla are too heavy. Future Carsten will be inwheel driven.

  • Adam Devereaux

    A 500 mile ev may be enabled (or more accurately called a by-product) of high capacity but low power battery chemistries. Lithium silicone for example is likely to work best at 1c or less. Creating a 150kWh pack would allow for decent acceleration power (perhaps bolstered with a small capacitor bank) and long range.

    • Jouni Valkonen

      Silicon batteries do not work as they have too poor cycle life that is not yet solved in commercial products.

  • DGW

    The added cost of an optional 500 mile range Model S won’t matter to the wealthy. In fact a stretched version with 500 miles could be used also as green limousines that are sold by the millions around the world.

    • No way

      I think the idea is rather that when battery chemistry improves the top model today will be at the same price and weight but with a longer range.

      The Panasonic 18650 has been greatly improved since the launch of the Model S and can hold about 33% more energy in the same battery.

      We haven’t seen that improvement in the Tesla yet and there have been fairly substantial rumors of a 115-120 kWh Model X (and most likely a Model S with the same number).
      Which would give the top range Model S about 350 EPA and a bit over 400 on the NEDC.

      • Jouni Valkonen

        No way you are right

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