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Tesla Energy Group to Supply Think Global with Li-Ion Battery Packs

The second-generation TH!NK.

Tesla Energy Group, a newly-formed division of Tesla Motors,  announced an agreement to supply Think Global with lithium-ion battery packs for their line of “TH!NK city” electric cars. (Earlier post.)  Tesla CEO Martin Eberhard had alluded to the pending deal at the Clean-Tech Investor Summit in January.

The supply agreement covers the development and delivery of battery packs starting in December 2007 and continuing through 2008. The supply agreement represents up to $43 million in revenues, of which approximately $3 million is expected to be realized in 2007 with the remainder in 2008.

Tesla formed its Energy Group in December 2006 to develop and market custom designed battery packs for customers in a wide range of industries, utilizing Tesla’s patent-pending technology for the development of high-power, high-capacity battery packs with superior performance and safety characteristics. Tesla Motors created Tesla Energy Group in response to demand from outside companies for advanced lithium-ion battery pack technology for automotive and other industrial use.

The establishment of the Tesla Energy Group adds a significant new dimension to the business of Tesla Motors. Tesla Energy Group will provide additional sources of operating income for Tesla Motors while accelerating our competitive advantage in battery pack design and manufacturing. Both of these support our core business of developing and marketing extraordinary electric cars such as the Tesla Roadster.

—Martin Eberhard, CEO of Tesla Motors

The second generation TH!NK city vehicle is expected to be launched in Norway in 2007, and selected international markets in 2008. Currently, the new TH!NK is designed using a Zebra battery and a 180 km (112 mile) range and a top speed of 100 kph (62 mph).

The Tesla Energy Group is being led by Bernard Tse (the former founder and CEO of Wyse Technology),  a Tesla Motors board member who stepped off the board to lead the Energy Group.

Tesla builds its large Energy Storage System packs from small commercial cells, rather than larger-format cells—the 56 kWh ESS for the Roadster contains more than 6,800 18650 cells. According to Think, their new pack will contain around 3,000 cells. To deliver a safe and reliable high power pack, Tesla focused on developing a high level of redundancy and multiple layers of protection.

The commodity cells Tesla uses in its pack all have an internal positive temperature coefficient (PTC) current limiting device, which limits short circuit current on an individual cell level. The device is completely passive.

The cells also have an internal Current Interrupt Device (CID) that will break and electrically disconnect the cell in the event of excessive internal pressure caused by over-temperature or other failures resulting in over-temperature. Tesla selected cells with packaging, materials and chemical factors that further augment the safety profile.

The Roadster pack comprises 11 battery modules, a main control and logic board, and a 12V DC-DC power supply. Each of the 11 modules carries a monitoring circuit board that communicates with the rest of the vehicle microcontrollers, broadcasting the voltage and temperature measurements of its module over a standard CAN bus.

Each of the cells has two fuses (one each for the cell’s anode and cathode). This allows the cell to become electrically separated from the rest of the pack if either of its fuses blow. In addition to cell fuses, each of the 11 battery modules has its own main fuse that guards against a short circuit across the complete module.

Tesla uses a 50/50 mix of water and glycol for cooling.

The microprocessors, logic circuitry and sensors continually monitor voltages, currents and temperatures within the pack, as well as inertia acceleration and vehicle orientation. The packs also include smoke, humidity, and moisture sensors.

Should any threshold be exceeded, high voltage contactors immediately disconnect the high voltage of the battery pack from the car. The pack design also incorporates an array of passive safety features as well as the active protection systems, which could fail in the event of severe damage, such as a collision.



greg woulf

I feel like the weakest link of the Tesla is the battery system. I'm a huge fan of the company, but this is a little surprising to me.

It's almost betting against any technology improvements.


Does anyone know what the MSRP is going to be on the Th!nk Global?


Let's see the battery pack works out to around $16,000.00 so the rest must cost at least $10k. Not quite the price for "the rest of us."


Yes, its a shame that the cost of admission into the world of EVs is so high because the operating costs are a small fraction of the running cost of an ICE car. I hope that Banks will take that into account when determining eligibility for loans.

gr: How much did you fork out in repairs/maintenance and gas last year?

Gerald Shields

I don't see what's so suprising about this. Telsa is looking to make some money and sooner or later, they want to to design make cheaper electric cars (Maybe a little more powerful that Th!nk's though) hence what happened.

Gerald Shields

To comment further. This makes me wonder: Is Telsa th!ning about using that unpainted composite bodywork that Th!nk develops to use as a basis for a inexpensive electric car?


was said :
>>Let's see the battery pack works out to around $16,000.00 so the rest must cost at least $10k. Not quite the price for "the rest of us."<<

OK so if the price was around 26k for the car in US I would be very interested. The fact that I would never have to change spark plugs, oil filters, fuel filters, and all the other ICE maintenance items is a big plus.

I am also OK with the size of the Think city car. The small size looks like an advantage to me. When gas gets into the 4 to 5 dollar a gallon range, more people may see this as a car for "the rest of us".

By the way my EV cost me 12 cents to fill up with electricity after going to work today.


>operating costs are a small fraction of the running cost of an ICE car<

At today's gasoline prices, most people spend $1,000 to $2,000 per year on fuel. If you keep your vehicle for 5 years that means $5,000 to $10,000 just for fuel. I'd hardly call that a small fraction.

Max Reid

The vehicles used in Golf Clubs and National Parks dont even travel 50 miles / day and if the vehicle costs 10 K with the battery at 5 K, it should be quite affordable.

After all National Parks are meant to be pollution free and Golf Clubs are used by the richest of the folks who can afford to take the extra cost.


VaPrius: I should have made my wording clearer. What I meant to say was that an EVs "operating costs are a small fraction of the running cost of an ICE car". Thanks for the heads up. I like your numbers, at that rate I'll have paid for my lithium batteries in only a few years.


From the perspective of a technophile, this frustrates me because Tesla's pack technology is entirely predicated on the intensive thermal and electrical management demands of conventional lithium ion batteries. Alternative battery technologies have emerged and been independently verified - ones that do not require this kind of intensive management. As an example, both Firefly and Altairnano's batteries have been independently verified, and both have competitive performance to the cells that Tesla uses.

Now, in fairness, those breakthroughs weren't around while Tesla was in the development phase, and business complications definitely prevent them from suddenly switching to another technology. But it frustrates me to no end that Martin Eberhard has gone on record as defending the continued use of the conventional cells, and even using misinformation to disparage other technologies. As an example, he has repeatedly dissed the Altair cells for both cost and for energy density - if you follow Altair, you know that they are a research company, not a factory, and that the nanosafe cells will be much much cheaper once proper manufacturing is put in place. And with energy density, the data from the cells shows that yes, at room temperature they have less energy density than conventional cells, but this improves dramatically at high and low temperatures. Altair hasn't spoken of this specifically, but a relatively simple (compared to Tesla's ESS) thermal manager would probably push a nanosafe pack beyond the Tesla's by leaps and bounds.

As for Martin Eberhard - I think it's crucial for the EV industry for Tesla to stay in business, but for them to do so successfully I think they need to have a much more open mind and a more honest mouth. I wish them, Phoenix, and Th!nk the the best.


I am not impressed with the "Tesla" company. It's not their name for a start - every time I see them using the name in vain of the greatest scientist of the 20th century I feel my opinion lowering of Mr Eberhard and his pop, trendy fashion company. Inexcusable disinformation at best on their website. And using consumer oriented 18650 cells, Lithium Cobaltite cathodes is just unbelievable - everyone knows they are far too dangerous for the EV application. Cell level Passive and active thermal management has not precented laptop fires. And you cannot match that level of monitoring with 6,800 cells - out of the question.

Why are the regulatory authorities even allowing them to promote this rubbish? As soon as the car is produced, it will be banned for being too unsafe and they will have to change battery technologies. There is no certification standard yet for LiIon of any type, not even LifePO4 or LiMnO4. How can it be marketed when Federal/ SAE standards do not even exist? It smacks of a Who Killed the Electric car front.


Addendum to previous comment - the case may very well be that Tesla defends their pack technology because it's their most distinguishing piece of intellectual property. Everything else on their cars is licensed from other groups (examples: modified Lotus Elise chassis, AC propulsion motor, etc). In all honesty, I don't blame them for trying their best, but the sooner they speak realistically about alternate battery solutions, the easier and more successful the transition will be.


I actually think it would be difficult for Tesla to design a clean sheet battery system that is less safe than a gasoline car. There are about 1000 automotive fires in the US every day, whereas there were just 100 laptop fires in all of 2005.

The auto fires just don't get hyped up in the media as much because they are considered routine.


When some other company makes a beautiful, fast, cool, all electric car(s) with available equipment instead of just talking about it, then I might understand criticizing Tesla. Until then it's just a bunch of dreamers criticizing someone who has transcended dreaming and become a doer.

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