What Happened: JB Straubel, Tesla Inc.’s (NASDAQ: TSLA) former Chief Technology Officer, has found a way to make electric cars cheaper by extracting batteries from old iPhones and other personal electronic items, The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.
Why It’s Important: All electronic vehicles require a powerful lithium-ion battery for proper functionalities. Mr Straubel was the man behind the powertrain design of Tesla’s lithium-ion battery.
Both Elon Musk and Straubel shared a similar passion for automobiles. However, Musk is more flamboyant, outgoing and a showbiz character whereas Straubel is the more reserved one and prefers to work-behind-scenes. After he left Tesla a year ago, Straubel committed himself to solve the material problem required to make the batteries for Tesla cars and other electric vehicles.
Along with lithium, the batteries of the electric cars require cobalt and nickel. All these elements are found in the earth’s crust and in very low concentrations. Cobalt and nickel are chemically found in a combined form making the extraction of these elements extremely difficult and costly.
Straubel aims to solve this problem by initiating a battery-recycling operation. He believes it to be a fast and efficient way to propel the EV industry forward. He also said the entire EV market is dictated by the commodity price of the raw materials (Li, Co, Ni).
“This is a chance to change that whole equation and to realize material cost savings in a way that short circuits that industry,” he said while speaking to WSJ. He also said that the high cost of the batteries is making the EVs unaffordable to the masses.
What Next: He believes the work that he’s doing is essential to keep up the production of electric cars. Regulatory pressures to lower emissions and falling battery prices is bound to initiate an upsurge in global demand for lithium-ion batteries in the next five years.
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