Tesla to acquire ultracapacitor developer Maxwell Technologies

Tesla plans to to acquire Maxwell Technologies at a price of $4.75 per share, or approximately $218 million. The merger, which was unanimously approved by Maxwell’s board of directors, is to be finalized around the second quarter of 2019.

Maxwell is based in San Diego and has about 380 employees. The company will be familiar to Charged readers mainly because of its innovations in the realm of ultracapacitors, and the astute will recall that Elon Musk was planning to study ultracapacitors when he arrived at Stanford in the 1990s.

However, Electrek’s Fred Lambert surmises that Tesla’s acquisition of Maxwell may have little to do with ultracapacitors, and much to do with a “dry electrode” technology that the company has recently been discussing. “We have developed our patented, proprietary and fundamental dry electrode manufacturing technology that we have historically used to make ultracapacitors to create a breakthrough technology that can be applied to the manufacturing of batteries,” says the company’s latest press release.

Maxwell claims to have demonstrated that its electrode can enable an energy density of over 300 Wh/kg, and predicts that it can achieve over 500 Wh/kg. This would be a significant improvement over the density of current battery cells, but other benefits could be even more important. Maxwell says its technology can simplify the manufacturing process and result in a “10 to 20% cost reduction versus state-of-the-art wet electrodes,” while also “extending battery life [by] up to a factor of two.”

Of course, companies regularly announce advances in battery tech, but Elon Musk and JB Straubel have repeatedly said that, while they keep a close eye on new developments, they haven’t yet seen a cell that’s proven to be better than those produced by Tesla and partner Panasonic. Tesla’s acquisition of Maxwell indicates that they’ve finally found a firm that can deliver the goods.

 

MORE: Elon Musk says Tesla is tracking 60 battery development efforts around the world (2015)

 

“Tesla is a well-respected and world-class innovator that shares a common goal of building a more sustainable future,” said Maxwell CEO Dr. Franz Fink. “We believe this transaction is in the best interests of Maxwell stockholders and offers investors the opportunity to participate in Tesla’s mission of accelerating the advent of sustainable transport and energy.”

 

Source: Maxwell Technologies, Electrek

  • freedomev

    Well it certainly isn’t for UCs as they suck with 30x the weight, space, cost of lithium
    cells/kwh.
    Checking another article 17 days ago here they sold the UC line to someone else for $50mm so I guess this was all that was left.

    • joelado

      UCs are much lighter than batteries. 30x the weight? The problem with UCs is typically the volume they take up. Their cost is also relatively low. Problems with UCs is typically the volume, like I said, and that they deliver their electricity in a burst. To get around that engineers typically use a lot of smaller capacitors and time their energy release to slow the process down. UCs have another advantage over batteries in that they can receive electricity much faster than batteries without any problems. If you could solve the volume (the space capacitors take up) problem they would be a great way to capture and then redeliver regenerative braking energy, leaving the batteries to handle energy losses and cruising. Other advantages UCs and regular capacitors have over batteries are they can be cycled hundreds of thousands of times and can be used at 100% of charge and discharged to 0% without degradation. One drawback of UCs is that if they are not manufactured to exact standards they can explode in heavy use, however, this is less than lithium batteries catching fire, which both are very rare occurrences.

      Would you happen to know who Maxwell sold its UC production to?

      • freedomev

        For the weight, space, cost lithium beats the cra- out of UCs at anything. Why do you think they only got $57mm for the whole UC line?
        Vs $200mm for the dry battery electrode patents?
        Go to Maxwell’s UC spec page and do the math for 1kwh for it’s space, weight an see if it isn’t 30x each.
        The discharge to 0 is a huge problem, not an asset. How does one get power at 20% of the voltage? Very expensive electronics is how. And they need since they are about 2.5vdc each max and if they get over that, they blow up, need more electronics for that.
        lithium can be designed to take far more kwh cycles that UC could only dream about as lithium doesn’t degrade with shallow cycles vs UC do because they have to.
        If cycling fast, their cycle life is used up fast.
        There is a reason almost no one uses them and why Maxwell sold them so cheap.

        • joelado

          I think that the improved discharge rates of Lithium batteries and the onset of solid state batteries may have closed the space in the market for UCs. Maxwell was a very well regarded company. You probably are right that something changed in the market that didn’t leave space for them to sell their product. However, capacitors and ultracapacitors are very useful in high power electronics. Any time you have a need for a surge of electricity during a continuous draw there is a place for a capacitor or a UC. For example, powering a large subwoofer for a theater speaker system an ultracapacitor can handle that short electrical draw when deep tones are needed. Ultracapacitors are an electronic component used for many things and are not specifically designed for electric vehicles and they were rarely used to replace batteries. Before manufacturiers and EV drag racers started looking at Maxwell UCs for EVs, Maxwell did quite well selling its capacitors into the electronic components market. What I don’t understand is why Maxwell can’t go back to doing what they did before people started using UCs in EVs. What is the company that bought Maxwell’s UC division going to use the UCs for?

          • freedomev

            Apparently not that useful sense that division only got $57mm. These are exotic creatures that other regular caps can do for a fraction of the price in power electronics.
            I got it from this site or insideevs IIRC 18 days ago.

          • joelado

            Thank you.

          • joelado

            Since all you provided for me to look up the article that you said you were referencing was “insideevs IIRC” that occured you said about 18 days ago, I had to Google it. What I discovered from my Google search was article after article in Insideevs talking about how capacitors and ultracapacitors were the future of energy storage. In those articles they said the same things that I was saying above.
            Check them out.
            https://insideevs.com/geelyvolvo-to-use-maxwell-ultracapacitors-in-phevs/
            https://insideevs.com/skeleton-technologies-presents-ultracapacitors-in-fully-charged-video/
            https://insideevs.com/ultra-capacitor-tech-again-touted-as-ev-game-changer/
            All the articles were recent, all written just last year, and all of them were positive about the future of capacitors and ultracapacitors. Just so you understand, an ultracapacitor is a really big capacitor that carries a lot more energy, it isn’t something different than a capacitor. I couldn’t find your Insideevs IIRC article.

          • freedomev

            Not my problem. What do they all have in common? Hype with few products that few want, if at all.
            They have been saying the same things for 50 yrs and all Maxwell got was $57mm.
            And only proves how much BS is out there. Fighting physics is a losing battle I found out 50 yrs ago.

          • joelado

            You know that there is an expression in EVs, when it comes to battery claims there are liars, damn liars and then there are battery manufacturers claims about their batteries. I guess we should change it to there are liars, damn liars and then there are ultracapacitor manufacturers claims.

          • freedomev

            I agree with that. The number of claims that turn out real is tiny. Fact is most of them are just claiming things for research grants or trolling for investors.
            Real battery progress comes fairly slow, incremental because it is so hard to keep all that energy stable. We can and do make lithium/air at 5x the capacity, just only once.
            Personally I think they should make metal air as 1 shot and design them to be easily charged by reforming them. And with efficiency include, as dense as diesel in energy.
            But they are all fired up to recharge them, they let this go by. You could store up alum, zinc, etc plates for backup power, heat.

  • mipak

    A good move if it can result in a solid state battery minus the cobalt.

    • joelado

      It is an interesting move. I have been following the development of ultracapacitors for EV use for some time now. I have even seen EV dragsters equipped with them that have done very well. There is a lot of promise with them. Maxwell is a very well respected company in capacitors with a very bright future. I hope Tesla does something good with them, since all that goodwill the company has built over the years with its stellar reputation will largely disappear as they are folded into Tesla. If they can produce a working solid state battery together with what Maxwell stated above, the EV transportation paradigm change will be inevitable.