Tesla buys Maxwell Technologies for its ultracapacitor secrets


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.

Electric car-maker Tesla is to bolster its energy storage capabilities with a deal to buy United States battery-maker Maxwell Technologies. That's perhaps unsurprising, since Maxwell's market capitalization, recently around $211 million, represents a tiny fraction of Tesla's, which is above $50 billion. Maxwell has been developing patented dry electrode technologies that can be used to create ultracapacitors that store large amounts of electrical charge without losing energy.

Tesla does not invest lightly, as can be seen with its acquisition of Grohmann Automation, which gave it a competitive advantage and a way to maximize automation in the Tesla Model 3 production lines to get the vehicle to scale faster.

"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", said Tesla in a statement sent to CNBC. Maxwell claims they can lengthen the life of a battery by up to two times, and function across a broader temperature range.

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Tesla has moved to acquire Maxwell Technologies, a company that specializes in supercapacitor technology.

Maxwell sells ultracapacitor cells to General Motors and Volkswagen AG subsidiary Lamborghini. That's considered fast charging, a hallmark of the Tesla brand. Maxwell shares rose to trade at $4.58. Panasonic Corporation of Japan is the exclusive lithium ion battery supplier for Tesla sedans. If those sound like pluses for electric vehicles, you'd be right - they're already used in certain hybrid buses, and Tesla fans have debated their potential benefits for Musk's cars for years now. In addition to buying SolarCity Corp., the solar panel installer that was partly owned by Musk and run by his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive, Tesla has bought small technology and engineering firms to improve its electric cars and manufacturing capabilities.

The companies expect the deal to close in the second quarter of the year, pending customary closing conditions.