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Boston-Power Looking To “Compete With Elon Musk,” Scaling Battery Factories Up To GWh-Scale

Boston-Power, one of the more notable players in the lithium-ion battery market, is apparently now looking to “compete with Elon Musk” and will be scaling-up its battery factories to produce much higher quantities of batteries, as per recent reports.

The scaling-up process — which will be funded via $290 million in financing from various Chinese government agencies — will see production at the company’s Liyang facility increase 5-fold by 2016 (reportedly), and production capacity at its Tianjin facility increased to 4 gigawatt-hours by 2017 (and 8 gigwatt-hours by 2018).

Boston-Power

As the company’s CEO, Sonny Wu, stated recently in an interview, the motive behind the expansion is “competing with Elon Musk” in the field of electric vehicle (EV) batteries. So, no ambiguity to it — the aim is to match (or exceed) Tesla’s upcoming battery-pack cost reductions.

Wu noted that he expected the country to see “significant battery supply constraints over the next three to five years, which we aim to address.”

It should go without saying that the process of scaling up lithium-ion battery production in China could be considerably cheaper/easier than in the US. That said, calling the two companies potential competitors doesn’t seem quite right — the markets aren’t quite the same ones.

Speaking on the topic of other prominent battery manufacturers (LG Chem, Panasonic, and NEC, for example), Wu stated: “Our battery is at 200 watt-hours per kilogram, with a longer cycle-life than [comparable products from] Tesla and Panasonic.”


 

Here’s an interesting comparison of the gravimetric energy density of the Tesla and Boston-Power batteries (amongst others), coming to us via Greentech Media:

  • 117 watt-hours per kilogram: The level Tesla and Panasonic were achieving in 2008 for the Roadster
  • 200 watt-hours per kilogram: The level Sonny Wu, Boston-Power’s CEO, says the company is achieving today
  • 240 watt-hours per kilogram: The approximate energy density of the batteries in the Tesla S
  • 400 watt-hours per kilogram: According to Tesla’s Elon Musk, the concept of battery-powered transcontinental airplanes becomes “compelling” once batteries hit 400 watt-hours per kilogram (as per this interview)
  • 400 watt-hours per kilogram: The level that battery aspirant and ARPA-E grant recipient Envia claimed it could achieve (disingenuously, it turned out)

With regard to Boston-Power’s 200 watt-hours-per-kilogram battery packs, the company has already announced various partnerships with various Chinese auto manufacturers to produce four-seater electric cars with ranges of between 80–120 miles per charge — utilizing a 13-kW-hour battery pack — at a total cost of about ~$8,000.

So, not quite a competitor to Tesla — more a potential player in a completely different market. Not that that’s a bad thing — there are likely to be far more people in China interested in an EV like that than those interested in a Model S or even +$35,000 Model 3.

According to Wu, one of the main aims is to poach customers from electric scooter companies — thereby tapping a potentially lucrative and quite large market.

Image Credit: Boston-Power

 
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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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