Telsa signs deal with celebrated Canadian battery researcher

By Jonny Wakefield

June 25, 2015

Tesla Motors has signed its first-ever research deal with a Canadian university, entering into a partnership that could drastically lower the cost of producing batteries for its electric vehicles.

Last week, the California electric car manufacturer announced it had signed a five-year partnership with Dalhousie University’s Dr. Jeff Dahn, a leading researcher on lithium-ion batteries.

It's part of the company's plan to halve the cost of its batteries, which currently cost between $20,000 and $25,000, in hopes of getting one million vehicles on the road by 2020. The company will support Dahn's research in Nova Scotia, 6,400 kilometres from Tesla headquarters, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Dahn’s work for Tesla is expected to begin in 2016 and a research lab that currently employs 25 people, according to Dalhousie. Meanwhile, Tesla is constructing a “Gigafactory” in Nevada, which aims to double the company’s battery production. CEO Elon Musk has called that project a bid to “change the fundamental energy infrastructure of the world.”

Dahn, who has studied batteries since 1978, said news of Tesla’s Gigafactory peaked his interest, leading him to contact Tesla battery boss Kurt Kelty. “We worked through the spring to get the agreement sorted out, and there you are,” he told the Financial Post.

In a release, Dahn said increasing the “energy density and lifetime” of lithium-ion batteries was the likeliest way to meet Tesla’s cost goals. He added that the batteries would have applications for storing renewable energy for use in electricity grids. He told the Post it was possible to store 30 to 40 times more energy in lithium-ion batteries without shortening life spans.

While this is the first research deal the high profile company has signed with a Canadian university, Tesla has already made several forays into Canada, notably British Columbia. In May 2014, the company opened its first Canadian showroom in downtown Vancouver, a strong market for vehicles like the Model S. Soon after, Tesla established its first “supercharger” in Squamish, a fast-recharging station that added to the company’s existing fleet of charging stations on the West Coast.  



Photo Credit: Eric Rosendahl