Tesla has sealed the key purchase of battery storage technology developer Maxwell, just as CEO Elon Musk and new chief financial officer Zachary Kirkhorn embark on a major review the company’s expenses in an “hardcore” bid to ensure it will remain financially sustainable.
The news that Musk and Kirkhorn will personally review all expenses follows last month’s revelation that the EV maker suffered a significant loss for the first quarter of 2019 – blamed mostly to the logistical “insanity” of expanding the best-selling Model 3 into Europe and China.
Now, with deliveries of the Model 3 in Australia likely to commence within a month or so, Musk has told staff in an email that he would undertake the review with Kirkhorn, who recently replaced Deepak Ahuja, saying that they would “examine every expenditure at Tesla, no matter how small.”
“This is hardcore, but it is the only way for Tesla to become financially sustainable and succeed in our goal of helping make the world environmentally sustainable,” Musk wrote in an email obtained by Reuters.
In 2018, Tesla reported its first ever profitable quarter in Q3, but with a $US522 million ($A745 million) operating loss recorded for Q1, 2019, the pressure is now on for Musk to prove Tesla can deliver another profitable quarter by the end of next month.
Tesla was left with only $US2.2 billion ($A3.14 billion) cash on hand at the end of the first quarter, although it has since raised more than $3 billion in a fund raising, and revealed it will receive more than $2 billion from Fiat Chrysler to help that company meet its European emissions targets.
Alongside the decision to review the company’s expenditure, Tesla has also now announced that it has completed its acquisition battery and ultracapacitor maker Maxwell Technologies.
The $US235 million ($A341 million) takeover, which was first announced in February, could have one or more of several implications for the EV maker.
@yes_andre I’m a big fan of ultracapacitors. Was going to do my PhD at Stanford on them. But we need a breakthrough in energy density…
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 20, 2013
In essence, instead of storing energy in electrochemical form, ultracapacitors store energy in electrostatic form, and have the ability to recharge and discharge extremely quickly.
However, as noted by Musk the technology has been held back for small applications due to a much lower energy density than batteries.
But Maxwell Technologies have also been developing a solventless dry electrode that could replace the conventional wet electrodes in batteries, potentially increasing the energy density of battery cells.
Maxwell have claimed that this could increase battery cell density by as much as 20% – which would put Tesla EVs ahead of the game range-wise.
As noted by Quartz, this could also have some follow-on effects for cash flow, because without the need for drying environments for electrode solvents, it frees up floor space and further cuts production processes, with the added result of an improved bottom line.
In Australia, meanwhile, there was talk in chat groups from EV and Tesla enthusiasts that the long-awaited “configurator” would be made available in Australia this week, as it had in the first right hand market in the UK earlier this month.
The actual pricing is as keenly awaited as the original unveiling, and the first deliveries, mainly because it will reveal the exchange rate to be used for initial deliveries, along with the cost of transport and auto-pilot.
There’s a view now that even a standard-plus EV will be closer to $70,000 than original hopes of $50,000, partly due to the falling $A, and the addition of auto-pilot, the transport costs and other add-ons. The Tesla supporters group is now punting on early next week.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.