Tesla is the Name on the Industry’s Lips at Battery Japan

Robert Gibbison, Global Director of Marketing
Ashland Specialty Ingredients

When British pop band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) sang of ‘Tesla Girls’ in 1984, the Toyota Prius was still some 13 years away and the automotive world seemingly in no hurry to move from the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE).

Roll the clock forward thirty years and Tesla’s bubble shows no signs of bursting, with many customers including George Clooney and ‘Tesla Girls’ Cameron Diaz and Eva Longoria only too happy to be snapped driving one of the company’s electric vehicles (EV).

Ashland, like many battery raw material suppliers, exhibited at February’s ‘Battery Japan’ tradeshow in Tokyo, attended by more than 67,000 industry representatives over the course of three days. Tesla, and in particular the company’s plans for a US-based ‘gigafactory’, were mentioned at virtually every meeting.

So how did it come to this? After all, Tesla did not exhibit at Battery Japan and their headquarters in Palo Alto, California, is some 5,000 miles from Tokyo.

Conventional wisdom has it that only the largest automotive companies will survive. Witness Nissan and Renault, Volkswagen and Porsche, Fiat’s alliance with Chrysler and even Tata’s acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover as the market has consolidated. Somehow Tesla has gone against the grain, yet delivered an environmentally-friendly, desirable and practical product whilst watching its share price rocket skywards.

Tesla is the poster child for EV’s. EVs are, however, at an embryonic stage and the onus is on batteries to deliver the key technology advances to move the EV market towards maturity, namely:

  • Increase energy density (to avoid range anxiety)
  • Improve safety
  • Reduce effective battery costs (to allow market expansion beyond niches)

And this is where the huge excitement around Tesla comes from within the battery industry; the path to EV success is being blazed. He who innovates wins. Tremendous optimism has returned, with UK-based IDTechEx forecasting that by 2024 over half of the world’s Li-ion Battery supply will be accounted for in Hybrid and Pure Electric Cars.

While all LiB suppliers, especially those of us based in the US, are hopeful of supplying their actives, separators, binders, graphenes etc to the Tesla gigafactory, we all agree that the future for EV’s looks better than at any point in the last 30 years. ‘Road to Nowhere’ has turned into ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop us Now’.