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Deal inks first Canadian university collaboration with Tesla Motors


Halifax, NS – Tesla Motor’s co-founder and chief technology officer JB Straubel has signed a research agreement with Dalhousie University’s Jeff Dahn, a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery researcher with the Faculty of Science and his group of students, postdoctoral researchers and technical staff. The work is set to begin in June next year.

“Dalhousie is a national and international leader in advanced materials and clean technology research,” said Martha Crago, vice-president, research at the university. “Jeff Dahn is helping to develop Li-ion batteries with improved lifetime, increased energy density and lower cost. This collaboration is a natural fit.”

The state-of-art Li-ion battery that powers Tesla’s Model S allows it to accelerate to 100 km/h in under five seconds. Tesla Motors wants to use its technology to push the transition to sustainable transportation around the world. To do so, it plans to expand beyond a niche market and produce hundreds of thousands of cars a year and change the entire automotive industry.

To drive this change, Tesla is building a Gigafactory in Nevada that aims to double world production of Li-ion batteries by 2020. In an effort to bring down the price of Tesla vehicles for the mass market, Tesla will manufacture Li-ion batteries with longer lifespans that cost less to create and be sourced with more materials from North America.

Currently, 3M Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) fund Dahn’s industrial research chair in materials for advanced batteries. The agreement, long-standing since 1996, is set to end in June 2016.

“I’m so thankful for 3M Canada and NSERC’s support over the years. We’ve had many successes together that have created products for 3M, which are key milestones in my career and in my students’ careers,” says Dahn. He references the development of the nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) positive electrode material – now used in the vast majority of electric vehicles and power tools around the world – as the most notable success of the partnership.

The new collaboration – a first between the leading American electric vehicle company and a Canadian university – will bring together the teams of Dahn and Tesla’s director of battery technology, Kurt Kelty.

Dahn, recognized as one of the pioneering developers of the Li-ion battery, explains that increasing the energy density of batteries through improved materials is the best way to achieve lower cost.

“Our research group’s goal is to increase the energy density and lifetime of Li-ion batteries, so we can drive down costs in automotive and grid energy storage applications,” he says.

Dahn has 25 researchers in his lab, including graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and technical staff.  All of them will be involved in the partnership and will receive invaluable exposure to a leading industry partner committed to the worldwide benefits of electrifying the world through innovative batteries.

For now, Dahn continues to work with 3M Canada until their current research agreement ends in June 2016. Then, Dahn and his research group will begin their exclusive five-year partnership with Tesla.

Reported by Nikki Comeau, Dalhousie University