Although lithium-ion batteries have become the portable power source of choice for everything from cell phones to electric vehicles (EVs), two things they don’t do particularly well is to repeatedly store and discharge quick bursts of power. An EV requires just such performance when it is accelerating, or when slowing using regenerative braking that produces a large amount of energy which must be quickly stored.
Maxwell makes a range of ultracapacitors for electrostatic energy storage. The dry electrode technology it developed may have use in future solid-state lithium batteries. (Image source: Maxwell Technologies)
The rapid electrochemical reactions that must occur to allow fast storage aren’t easily accomplished in a battery. Ultracapacitors, on the other hand, store electrical energy electrostatically and are easily capable of storing and discharging energy quickly. Tesla’s electric vehicles exhibit extremely high performance requiring almost instantaneous energy output, so its recent announcement that it was buying California-based ultracapacitor specialist Maxwell should therefore come as no surprise.
Tesla is spending $218 million in an all stock deal to purchase Maxwell. “We are always looking for potential acquisitions that make sense for the business and support Tesla’s mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy,” a Tesla spokesperson told Design News in a written statement.
According to a Maxwell news release, “The Offer will value each share of Maxwell common stock at $4.75 per share.” This is a 55% premium over what Maxwell shares sold for before the announced acquisition by Tesla. Maxwell will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tesla.
Maxwell Laboratories was first incorporated in 1965, becoming Maxwell Technologies in 1996. In addition to producing ultracapacitors in a wide range of sizes and specifications, Maxwell has adapted its ultracapacitor dry electrode for use with lithium ion battery cells. Tesla, Toyota, BMW, and other carmakers are working on solid-state lithium-ion batteries which promise to be safer, cheaper, and higher performance than the current commercial cells that use a liquid electrolyte. The Maxwell dry electrode may provide Tesla with an advantage as work on solid-state cells progresses.
Frank Frinz, Maxwell’s president and chief executive officer, summed it up in a letter to his employees: “Maxwell has entered into a Merger Agreement to be acquired by Tesla, one of the most innovative global companies. We share Tesla’s vision to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy, and by working together, I am confident that we can build a better and cleaner world for us all.”
Senior Editor Kevin Clemens has been writing about energy, automotive, and transportation topics for more than 30 years. He has masters degrees in Materials Engineering and Environmental Education and a doctorate degree in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in aerodynamics. He has set several world land speed records on electric motorcycles that he built in his workshop.