Application of Tesla’s Battery Technology in Heating Applications

Tesla’s Battery technology has revolutionized the electric vehicle (EV) and brought EVs from being nascent technology to much sought-after vehicle technology in the modern world. The heart of Tesla’s EV technology which differentiates is no doubt its battery pack but how it differs from its competitors is how it is designed, cooled, and managed through the battery management system (BMS). 

Although still not price competitive to internal combustion engine vehicles the price is expected to drop to $94/KWh (from $100/KWh) by 2024. The Tesla Model S and Roadsters use Panasonic 18650 Battery Cells (18mm wide and 65 mm tall). The Model 3 uses stage 3 batteries which are Panasonic 21700 battery cells (21mm wide and 70mm tall). This is bringing the prices of the battery pack lower thanks to a reduction in the use of cobalt. Cobalt is the most expensive element in Li-ion battery construction. As well, the hybrid graphite-silicon anode increases the power density.

Tesla plans to keep the 21700 battery cells universal along its other product lines. The products use Tesla’s Battery technology, like Powerwall 2 and the much anticipated Smart Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. This will help Tesla achieve greater economies of scale thus driving the cost lower for its consumers who still think of Tesla as a luxury or premium brand due to higher price compared to its conventional competitors. 

In this article, we investigate the larger implications of Tesla’s smart battery technology in the HVAC industry and immersion heaters. 

Revolution is coming in HVAC Industry

Municipal governments and the private sector are striving to implement carbon neutral or carbon negative technology. As such, Tesla’s battery technology isa natural extension into HVAC applications. This was also confirmed in recent revelations from Elon Musk that the firm can release a “super-efficient” home energy system in conjunction with their high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. 

It might seem a far-fetched idea, but Tesla has the right bits of technology in place like Powerwall 2, HEPA filters, hardware, software, and solar roof. These are the technologies it can leverage to develop a smart HVAC system. The HVAC tech works in collaboration with the Tesla EV system in a way that the smart thermostat communicates with the user’s vehicle to regulate the temperature. The system detects their vehicle is on its way home and adjusts the HVAC remotely so that the temperature is comfortable when they arrive. This prevents having to leave the heater on all day, thus reducing power consumption.

Tesla’s Model Y Heat Pump 

One of the common questions asked is how the smart HVAC system will achieve the much publicized “super-efficiency.” The answer to that lies is found in the Model Y, the first Tesla vehicle to offer a heat pump solution. 

Before we dive into the possible implications and why Tesla went this way, it is imperative to understand what a heat pump is. A heat pump, as the name suggests, is a device which “pumps” heat against the gradient. That means it moves thermal energy in the opposite direction of the spontaneous heat transfer that means removing heat from colder space to less cold space. 

Early model Tesla vehicles use resistive heating, but this is a big battery hog. To improve the charging cycles and range of the vehicle it was important for Tesla to investigate other options. A heat pump was the solution to the problem which came standard on the crossover Model Y and is being offered as an add-on to the Model 3. It absorbs heat from the ambient environment, drive unit motor/inverter and battery, transferring it to the cabin. 

Although a considerably more expensive and complex system in comparison to resistive heating this has really come as a blessing. Especially to Tesla EVs operating in Norway and Canada (two big Tesla markets) thus improving battery performance in colder regions. One interesting aspect is that the heat pump can absorb heat from the cabin on a sunny day when cabin temperatures are higher and dissipate that heat to warm up the battery. 

HEPA Filters

One less talked about aspect of this “super-efficient” home energy system is the HEPA filters that were developed for Model 3 and Model S. Touted as the most advanced filters of their kind, they have proven to significantly improve the air quality by removing viruses, bacteria, pollen and neutralizing the silicon alkaline gases. This is one of the aspects that Tesla’s EVs have received a lot of traction in China some of its cities like Beijing are considered the most polluted cities in the world. These HEPA filters will be an integral part of the smart HVAC system. The system will be designed to work in conjunction with the Tesla Solar roof to act as the primary power generator with Tesla Powerwall 2 or a variant of it to provide backup power, load shifting, or solar self-consumption. 

A step change in Immersion Heaters Industry

Tesla’s EV technology is already heralded as industry-leading. Now it is providing cues to the advancement of immersion heater technology. One of the biggest requirements for immersion heaters is electrical power. This is either fulfilled by the power grid or the offsite gensets where the grid is not connected, or it is not feasible economically or geographically to lay the grid power. 

This, in some instances, hampers the utilization of electric heaters which have many unique benefits like compact size, ease of maintenance, and high efficiency. Tesla’s battery technology along with solar roof can be used to power immersion heaters, thus providing a sustainable source of power improving the economics and feasibility of application of immersion heaters thus removing the less efficient steam-based heating systems. Since Tesla’s Powerwall system is “infinitely scalable” with bigger systems (20 MWh+) can be achieved by connecting multiple Powerwall’s.  

Another aspect is the intelligent control system working in conjunction with the Powerwall to optimize the heat generated and reducing the energy consumption when demand is reduced due to higher ambient temperatures or reduced volume of the product to be heated. 

Conclusion

With Tesla’s battery technology receiving widespread usage in industries outside of EVs it is safe to conclude that more applications will jump to adapt it especially in the light of recent advancements to improve energy density and reduce the cobalt content without sacrificing the performance, making the technology accessible to the masses. 

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