Tesla rumoured to gain access to cleaner cathode production
Tesla has apparently acquired a small Canadian company called Springpower International as part of the plan announced at Battery Day to greatly reduce water consumption in cathode production.
As is now revealed by media reports, Tesla had initially bought a number of patent applications from the company for a total of just three US dollars two weeks before their ‘Battery Day‘. One of these applications describes an innovative process similar to the one Drew Baglino, Tesla’s senior vice president of engineering, had described on stage at Battery Day. The production of cathodes for electric car batteries generates large amounts of contaminated water – with ammonia, metal particles and other chemicals. Springpower’s process cleverly circulates the chemical solution so that no expensive water treatment is required.
This means that no wastewater is produced; instead, the water purified in the recirculation process can be directly reused. This is said to reduce operating costs by more than 75 per cent, according to Baglino’s appearance at Battery Day. “Using the same process, we can also directly consume the metal powder that comes from recycled electric vehicle and grid storage batteries,” Tesla’s engineering VP said at the time.
The price for the developments was probably so low because at the time they were only applications and not granted patents. When the patents were actually granted in January 2021, it was in the name of Tesla – Springpower International was no longer mentioned.
Meanwhile, it looks like Tesla has bought more than just Springpower’s intellectual property, but the entire company. Several Springpower researchers have changed their LinkedIn profiles to indicate that they now work at Tesla.
The US portal Techcrunch has tried to get confirmation of this. Springpower CEO Michael Wang did not answer, and calls to the company were not returned, according to the report. When an executive of Springpower was reached by phone, he neither wanted to confirm nor deny the purchase by Tesla, but referred to Tesla’s PR department. However, this department has been dissolved.
Springpower was founded in 2010 as a research offshoot of the Chinese battery company Highpower International. Only six months later, however, Highpower sold its shares and wrote off the investment of 100,000 US dollars, because the technologies were too far away from commercialisation.
With reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.