Thomas Edison Would Have Admired Tesla’s Lithium-Ion Batteries

In the early 1900’s Thomas Edison was making and selling his Nickel-Iron storage battery for cars and other devices. Today, Elon Musk makes Lithium-ion batteries to power his Tesla Model S car.

Trays of original Nickel-Iron batteries for use in an electric vehicle. About 56 of these were needed to run an Edison era electric vehicle.

The diagram below shows how over 7,100 relatively small Lithium-ion batteries are connected to power a Telsa. Notice the size of the batteries are similar in size to a standard AA battery! Other car manufacturers may use a flat battery configuration, stacked in vertical sheets.

Diagram of Lithium-ion batteries in a Tesla Model 8 electric car

Today, lithium containing batteries are chosen for their high energy densities, that is their ability to store large amounts of energy per unit weight. For an electric vehicle, higher energy densities mean greater vehicle range. Typically, Lithium-ion batteries can store 100-260 watt hours per kilogram; a big improvement over Edison’s nickel-iron battery at 20-45 watt hours per kilogram or lead acid batteries at 30-50 watt hours per kilogram. Future improvements to Lithium-ion batteries, using a solid electrolyte, could double its current storage capacity.

Edison built his battery manufacturing plant way back in 1912, but 110 years later he would love to have spent time in Musk’s battery manufacturing facility.

If you’re just as intrigued, check out this great video about how Lithium-ion batteries are constructed:


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