Skeleton takes on Tesla after $218m Maxwell ultracapacitor buy

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

The deal, pitched as a merger, values Maxwell Technologies at $218m and will see the company as a subsidiary of Tesla. This follows Maxwell selling off its high voltage line in Switzerland last month in preparation for the deal. 

Skeleton has a high volume ultracapacitor manufacturing plant in Germany based on a 3D graphene structure. “Tesla has made the right move – the ultracapacitor manufacturer acquisition highlights the evident limits of Li-ion batteries in terms of fast charging and thermal management, whereas ultracapacitors offer fast charging in seconds and ultra-high efficiency, allowing for better thermal management and much longer life-time,” said Taavi Madiberk, the CEO of Skeleton Technologies.

Madiberk laid down a clear challenge to Tesla and cheif executive Elon Musk having taken on staff from Maxwell.

“We are expanding our manufacturing and R&D capabilities in Germany and have a clear road-map of hitting 60 Wh/kg, while retaining charging times measured in seconds and a cost point lower than high power batteries – we do not see Tesla closing the gap any time soon. In fact, key engineering people from Maxwell/Tesla have joined Skeleton recently.”

“Mr. Musk has previously stated that he is a big fan of ultracapacitors, but we need a breakthrough of in terms energy density. Tesla has a huge innovation gap: Maxwell Technologies has an energy density of 7Wh/kg, as opposed to Skeleton Technologies’ curved graphene ultracapacitors that offer today around 20 Wh/kg. Tesla/Maxwell is currently in a leading market position in the automotive industry, but without closing the innovation gap, they will not stay there for long. Mr. Musk studied ultracapacitors in Stanford during his PhD, but he is underestimating the ‘R&D hell’ to get to higher energy density ultracapacitors.”

The deal is not just about the technology, though. Maxwell supplies Tesla’s main US rival in electric cars, General Motors, as well as Geely, which own Volvo. This gives Tesla significant commercial advantage, but also opens up opportunities for other suppliers such as Skeleton. The deal also gives Tesla access to the ultracapacitor technology for renewable energy systems such as solar and wind power where the company has been expanding with its large scale battery systems to make electricity grids more sustainable and reliable.

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