Tesla buying battery firm for $218m to speed charging

Roman Schwartz
February 5, 2019

While there is a single problem with super- and ultra-capacitors - the sheer volume and the fact that a module of ultracaps will hold much less energy than a module of batteries of the same size - the best guess is that Tesla won't be replacing all their batteries with caps in the short-term.

The lure of improved lithium-ion batteries would be tempting for any electric vehicle company, but Maxwell's work with ultracapacitors may also provide hints at Tesla's future plans. That's perhaps unsurprising, since Maxwell's market capitalization, recently around $211 million, represents a tiny fraction of Tesla's, which is above $50 billion.

In a statement announcing the Maxwell Technologies acquisition, Tesla said it's always looking for potential acquisitions that make sense for the business and support Tesla's mission to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy. Analysts think that future Teslas may feature a "co-battery" of sorts, allowing for fast charging and discharging through a series of ultracapacitors, with the main energy storage in the auto still being the lithium battery modules.

Ultracapacitors, combined with the energy of batteries, can enable rapid response times, function across a broader temperature range and lengthen battery life by up to two times, according to a blog post on Maxwell's website.

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Maxwell Technologies' customers include General Motors and Lamborghini. Maxwell surged as much as 52 percent - a record jump - to the highest since August 1.

Aside from the technological innovations that Tesla hopes to gain from Maxwell, Elon Musk also has shown a personal interest in ultracapacitors. Currently, Tesla's exclusively buys auto batteries from Panasonic.

Tesla will buy the company's 45.9 million shares for $4.75 a share in an all-stock transaction.

Aside from producing electric cars, Tesla also sells power storage as part of its solar power business. During its fourth quarter, the company turned a small profit and expects to do so in each quarter this year.

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