Tesla buys Maxwell Technologies for $218 million
A slide from a January 16, 2019, investor presentation from Maxwell Technologies explains the potential for its dry electrode battery technology.
Courtesy of Maxwell Technologies

Tesla buys Maxwell Technologies for $218 million

Ultracapacitor, battery technology company could lower energy storage costs for the electric vehicle manufacturer.

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San Diego, California – Tesla Inc. is buying Maxwell Technologies for $218 million, gaining access to Maxwell’s ultracapacitor and battery technology portfolio.

Maxwell announced the news Monday, and Tesla officials did not offer any explanation for the purchase, but Maxwell is heavily involved in vehicle electrification, and several of its systems could be attractive to the electric vehicle (EV) maker.

Ultracapacitors are short-term, high-volume energy storage devices. As one developer notes, imagine the battery as a teapot and the ultracapacitor as a teacup – the tea pot can hold more volume but filling or emptying the pot is slow; the teacup holds less, but it can dump all its volume out at once.

In EV terms, that means ultracapacitors are good at discharging a lot of power into electric motors, giving EVs lots of power instantly; and they’re very good at storing power that comes in quickly, such as during regenerative braking. Most hybrids and EVs use lithium-ion batteries for power storage, but a handful use ultracapacitors for some functions.

Maxwell’s other major technology is fairly new and could lower the cost of EV batteries. The company developed a dry electrolyte process for its ultracapacitors, and it has been experimenting with that technology with lithium batteries. Eliminating liquid electrolytes could lighten batteries, allowing EV producers to put more storage power without adding prohibitive amounts of weight. And, the technology to remove material and manufacturing steps, making the systems more economically viable.

“Tesla is a well-respected and world-class innovator that shares a common goal of building a more sustainable future," said Dr. Franz Fink, president and CEO of Maxwell. "We believe this transaction is in the best interests of Maxwell stockholders and offers investors the opportunity to participate in Tesla's mission of accelerating the advent of sustainable transport and energy."