Tesla to buy battery-tech firm Maxwell for US$218M in stock

A Tesla car is seen in Santa Monica

Maxwell executives told investors in January that it had developed and patented a "dry electrode" technology that could significantly increase the driving range and reduce the cost of electric vehicle batteries.

On Monday, Musk took a huge gamble to make the very big leap forward that will see supercaps replace batteries in future EVs.

Tesla will purchase Maxwell Technologies, a battery-tech company based in San Diego, the company said on Monday. The deal will allow Maxwell shareholders "to participate in Tesla's mission of accelerating the advent of sustainable transport and energy". Tesla moving in so boldly with a full acquisition deal hints at the prospect of a breakthrough in battery technology that has Tesla excited enough to dive in.

Currently, Japan's Panasonic Corp is the exclusive battery cell supplier for Tesla cars.

More news: Goff, Rams' electric offense shorts out in Super Bowl defeat

Maxwell Technologies' customers include General Motors and Lamborghini. Where a supercapacitor can be used to weld metal by simply shorting the terminals (don't do that, by the way), battery technology hasn't yet caught up. Supercaps are also used to store massive amounts of electricity in national power grids.

Ultracapacitors, combined with the energy of batteries, can enable rapid response times, function across a broader temperature range and lengthen battery life by up to two times, according to a blog post on Maxwell's website. The only problem with supercaps is they can hold a tiny electric charge, and this for only a few minutes. Maxwell's lithium-ion capacitors may assist with faster charging capability, said Theo O'Neill, an analyst at Ascendiant Capital Markets. Tesla already can get their cars quickly off the line, but an even quicker burst of power could push even greater limits. Musk has spoken about his interest in the technology application in EVs and that they could be a better breakthrough in technology than batteries.

Indeed, Musk - who at one point was lined up to do a PhD on the technology at Stanford - said back in 2011 that it would be super-capacitors, and not batteries, that would power the electric vehicles of the future.

Maxwell Technologies was founded in 1965, offering its research and development efforts to the government as an outside contractor.

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