HN Gopher Feed (2017-11-06) - page 1 of 10
Tesla's head of battery engineering exits
108 points by fmihailahttps://www.reuters.com/article/us-tesla-moves-jon-wagner/teslas...
draw_down - 30 minutes ago
It really seems like they are struggling lately. Hope they turn
free_everybody - 26 minutes ago
Can anyone explain what the rules are regarding the head of battery
engineering leaving Tesla to make similar batteries on his own?
Wouldn't it be IP theft if he tried copying the tech he developed
maxander - 58 minutes ago
So either he was "asked to leave" (fired) for somehow being
responsible for the battery issue that was the rate-limiting factor
for Model 3 production, OR he was being leaned on so hard by
management to fix the problem that he left for work-life-balance
reasons (ragequit.)Either way, he gets to put in his expertise to
found a new company in one of the hottest technologies there is in
2017, probably becoming rich by selling Tesla's own upgraded tech
back to it, as well as to everyone else in the electric car race.
All while not having Elon Musk looming over his shoulder. Not bad!
tankenmate - 29 minutes ago
Thomas Watson (founder of IBM) is quoted to have once said to an
employee who tried to resign after a big mistake, ?Fire you? I?ve
just invested one million dollars in your education, and you
think I?m going to fire you??
leggomylibro - 44 minutes ago
It sounds like the battery issues aren't even completely within
Tesla's control - you try sourcing that much
lithium!...seriously, I'm sorta worried about our continued
access to enough lithium for all this electric technology that's
rapidly emerging. Counterarguments?
Avshalom - 27 minutes ago
There's no shortage of lithium, just lithium at the current
price point. Like with oilsand it should get to a sufficient
price to encourage investment in extraction technology and then
price will drop.
mtgx - 21 minutes ago
Yes, the issue is being overblown. It's the "we're reaching
peak oil" debate of 30 years ago. We're still nowhere near peak
SubiculumCode - 16 minutes ago
If lithium prices get too high, then SpaceX will have a
financial incentive to get space-based lithium mining from
asteroids in production, probably using Boring tech. :)
mikeryan - 14 minutes ago
Does Tesla use European style "Director" designations for VP/Senior
Execs?For Tesla I'd be surprised if the "Head of Battery
Engineering" was only a "Director" level position in US style
dogruck - 1 hours ago
Let?s be real ? he was probably asked to leave.
elihu - 55 minutes ago
That's conjecture. There are many reasons why a person might
leave a company, and not all of them are because the person is
unhappy with the company or the company is unhappy with the
person. I'd rather we didn't jump to conclusions in the absence
r00fus - 1 hours ago
Real question is why.
ChuckMcM - 1 hours ago
The implication being of course that as the head of the
division responsible for making batteries, he took the fall for
not enough batteries available to sell product.What is
interesting about that implication though is that while to me
and others it seems "clearly" implied, there isn't any one
thing you would point to that says it is what it is. I have
seen so many cases where the message the company sent about
somebody leaving was really different that I no longer believe
anything except what the person says.
rohit2412 - 59 minutes ago
Does anybody else find it incredibly weird?They were able to
manufacture batteries for 50k+ Model S/X.But couldn't scale
the same batteries for Model 3?
slfnflctd - 38 minutes ago
The Model 3 batteries are a somewhat different form factor
from what Tesla has used in the past ('18650' are the old
ones, '2170' the new), and might have slightly different
chemistry as well.Here's one source on it, with a few more
jbob2000 - 1 hours ago
> he is launching a battery and powertrain startup in
CaliforniaI'm betting Tesla couldn't pay him enough and he's
starting his own shop to sell to the other major auto
beat - 1 hours ago
I doubt it's for the money. I'm sure he made a pretty penny on
his stock options, and stood to make more.But he could get
yelled at by Elon Musk every day, or he could walk into any VC
in Silicon Valley, drop his own name, and have a fat stack of
VC cash to gamble on something of his own design.
samstave - 1 hours ago
Plus didn?t Tesla state that all their patents were open
source, so there is no IP precluding him from doing such...
vkou - 1 hours ago
Without Tesla publishing a license that explicitly specifies
this, you'd be insane to use Tesla's patents in your own
product.That's the reason why nobody in the auto industry has
taken them up on it. It's not a demonstration of good faith -
it was a publicity stunt.
katastic - 1 hours ago
How about a non-compete agreement?
apendleton - 1 hours ago
Aren't they invalid in California?
apendleton - 1 hours ago
There might also be trade secrets he'd be precluded from
disclosing by an NDA. (No idea if there actually are, but
patents wouldn't be the only potential barrier.)
foota - 1 hours ago
Tesla likely has trade secrets that they do not release? And
I believe using such in a new company would not be legal
iMuzz - 1 hours ago
> According to Wagner?s LinkedIn page, he is launching a battery
and powertrain startup in California.It seems like he left to
start his own company?
dgritsko - 1 hours ago
Interesting, given last week's reports of Model 3 production being
bottlenecked due to battery supply issues. Is his departure the
result of him being held responsible for these issues? Or did he
decide to leave of his own accord, and if so, why? Either way, I'd
like to hear some more details.
djtriptych - 52 minutes ago
I've been describing Tesla as a "battery company" for a while now;
it's essential for their solar roof and electric car
businesses.This makes me nervous as an investor..
chmaynard - 16 minutes ago
Does that mean you weren't nervous before now? I got nervous a
long time ago. I sold my modest investment and got my Model 3
pre-order deposit back. I sleep much better now..
ballenf - 1 hours ago
If his pay was in any way tied to productivity, he was probably
taking a big hit. Regardless of fault.
supernovae - 1 hours ago
Didn't Toyota just announce their new battery tech due in 2022?
Solid state batteries with short/fast recharge time? Maybe this
engineer didn't have anything up his sleeve to get there before
kirykl - 1 hours ago
Toyota is heavily invested in lithium mining, their solid state
claim isn?t their only game
lovemenot - 26 minutes ago
Are you implying that Toyota's solid state battery will not be
lithium based?Dyson's (sakti3) solid state battery certainly
nihonde - 1 hours ago
Japanese automakers are circling their wagons. Toyota, Mazda, and
Denso are collaborating in a JV, with Suzuki expected to join.
Toyota leadership is demanding longer range and faster charging
batteries from the alliance engineers. The important markets in
play are US, China, and South Asia (including India).
avar - 1 hours ago
> [...] joined the company in January 2013, > was involved
in developing technology > for all of Tesla's cars [according
to > his LinkedIn profile] He joined after the Roadster went
out of production, which had a proprietary Tesla powertrain, so
this doesn't seem like an accurate summary, the Model S was also
introduced half a year before he started in mid-2012.
greglindahl - 1 hours ago
The Roadster had the 2.0 update after he joined.
djrogers - 45 minutes ago
3.0 - 2.0 was much earlier.
return0 - 1 hours ago
Was he discharged?
fsargent - 1 hours ago
I see what you did there.
agumonkey - 43 minutes ago
Some articles reported the Model 3 delays were about the Fremont
car assembly plant, but this hints at the Gigafactory being the
bottleneck. If both are stuck/dead it's gonna smell bad. I wish
Musk finds the help needed to at least "land" the project as smooth
as his rockets.
PascLeRasc - 41 minutes ago
I'm graduating with my BS in EE next month and I've been applying
to lots of places working on battery technology since it's
incredibly interesting to me, but I have no idea how anyone becomes
a "specialist" in that field. Everything I've learned has been
outside of class, and there aren't any offered in my department or
in Materials Science or Chemistry, and a few of my friends at top-
tier schools like CMU and Purdue have said the same thing. It seems
so critical for everything from energy grids during natural
disasters to environmentally friendly material sourcing/disposal. I
hope schools start focusing on it.
akgerber - 10 minutes ago
My sister's path was getting an unrelated Ph.D. in chemistry,
getting a postdoc at Lawrence Berkeley Lab in battery chemistry,
and then getting a job at a startup in the field that's
commercializing and extending its founder's university research.
That company appears to hire chemists, ChemEs, and
MechEs/industrial engineers right now.
dsfyu404ed - 39 minutes ago
>I hope schools start focusing on it.Be careful what you wish
for.Right now you stand to make a lot of money. If schools start
cranking out undergrads who know what you know you won't be very
valuable.edit: looks like I struck a nerve.
PascLeRasc - 20 minutes ago
1) I know nothing and 2) that's not the worst thing in the
world if we have genius engineers making batteries better.
swagasaurus-rex - 14 minutes ago
This advice isn't useful because you don't know the market
conditions of the future. It's like saying in 1992 "Don't
become a programmer, we just had an economic bust, it's
DigitalJack - 36 minutes ago
I?m an EE doing asic design. Everything I do for a living I
learned outside of school. Aside from the basics like
throwaway613834 - 17 minutes ago
Huh, this is hard to swallow. What digital EE courses did you
take in school?
pwinnski - 1 hours ago
It's hard not to see this as bad for Tesla.The one thing Tesla
supporters have pointed to more than anything is that Tesla had a
large head-start in battery tech over all of the competitors. So
Chevy is shipping many more Bolts than Tesla is shipping all models
combined, but Tesla's headstart in battery tech and manufacturing
would keep them a contender.Now their head of battery tech is gone
and they've missed model 3 targets by a very wide margin due to
problems with batteries.I'm not sure how reliable their lead in
batteries is right now.There's still that supercharger network,
though. I suspect we'll be hearing more about that now that other
points in Tesla's favor are dwindling.
Nokinside - 1 hours ago
The company behind lithium-ion battery technology in Tesla
Gigafactories is Panasonic. They own the core patents and IP.
Same is true for solar PV cells.
rohit2412 - 1 hours ago
I've never understood what their lead in batteries really is.
Isn't it well known that Panasonic manufacturers and supplies
battery cells to Tesla?And cost-wise LG Chem seems competitive
enough to Panasonic anyway, keeping in mind leaked figures for
mtgx - 24 minutes ago
1) Tesla likely secured a good deal for Panasonic batteries, as
I think some of them were co-designed, like the latest bigger
207000 battery cell. From what I've seen in past articles,
Tesla always had the cheapest battery packs per kWh.2) Tesla
also likely has a significant advantage in battery pack
architecture, from safety (they offered to teach Boeing how to
design battery packs so their EV planes don't catch fire a
couple of years back), to withstand more extreme weather
conditions (hot or cold), to having an industry-leading battery
degradation performance. I think I've seen reports of Tesla
batteries only losing 4-5% of charge capacity after 100,000
mschuster91 - 4 minutes ago
> I think I've seen reports of Tesla batteries only losing
4-5% of charge capacity after 100,000 miles.That one is easy
to do with overprovisioning - similar to SSDs and I believe
even HDDs do this to account for inevitable degradations
azernik - 50 minutes ago
The narrative I've heard is that the secret sauce is the
battery-pack that combines the cells, controls temperature,
balances loads, etc. Not sure if this is an accurate narrative.
rohit2412 - 47 minutes ago
That can only explain the performance or the ludicrous mode,
if really.I thought Tesla was always marketing that their
selling point is cheaper batteries, which cant be a USP, as
Panasonic can always manufacture the same for GM/Ford etc.
bradlys - 30 minutes ago
How can it explain the performance or the ludicrous
mode?Ludicrous mode being a software update could easily be
that you already have the performance innately but they cap
your output at 85%. Same as any game where you have to pay
to get the extra features/items (DLC) but every other
player in the game already has the item when you're around
them. All the players get it, it's just a flip of a bit to
enable the item for you. Just costs $10k in this case...
calvinbhai - 21 minutes ago
There a lot more electronic / electric circuit magic in
there with the battery for it to achieve the ludicrous
mode ability.Initially when I heard that, I thought Tesla
was bluffing. But the Ludicrous mode with P100D
performance, and the fact that no other electric car
maker is able to match that, leads me to believe that
they are not bluffing.
itengelhardt - 4 minutes ago
Initially ludicrous mode was not just a software update.
You could get it on your (already delivered) MS P90D, but
had to bring it into service. They changed a fuse and
activated ludicrous mode in software.Of course, today all
Tesla P100D get built with that fuse already in place -
so it's "just a software upgrade" today.There's quite a
bit of electrical magic going on for a fuse to be able
to handle insane current bursts while retaining a good
response time in case of a catastrophic fault.
r00fus - 48 minutes ago
It was that since they secured rights to a key resource for
it's products.It's essentially the Apple move - by
outmaneuvering competitors on key resources it allows higher
margin or products that others can't even create.
rohit2412 - 46 minutes ago
That is even more unbelievable. What are they implying,
nobody else will manufacture
r00fus - 4 minutes ago
It's more of a cost per kWh or total volume advantage they
were hoping to secure, I think.
VikingCoder - 48 minutes ago
My brain: "They're not lead batteries." "Oh, their LEAD in
batteries! Stupid homonyms!"
startupdiscuss - 1 hours ago
They might still have a lead in battery tech.For instance,
suppose Chevy needs to go through this retooling at some point in
the future and set back production at that point.A set back is
not proof that they don't have a lead in battery tech.However, it
should be asked: what is the nature of the lead? What is superior
about the batteries? How does this lead manifest?
rsynnott - 3 minutes ago
Is the supercharger network really all that big of a deal for the
average electric car user, though? As of 2016, there were about
13k charging stations with 30k chargers in the US. 613 of these,
with 3600 chargers, were Tesla. And the US is behind the curve
here; there are 5000 stations with 14k chargers in the UK. Even
most fast chargers are not Tesla, either in the US or worldwide.
In the US, Tesla?s network is arguably better distributed along
interstates, but this is mostly a US-specific problem.The
superchargers are arguably a big deal for model S and X users,
who I believe often have free charging. As I understand it, Model
3 users wont have this, though? So what?s so special about the
Tesla ones, especially outside the US?
djrogers - 47 minutes ago
> So Chevy is shipping many more Bolts than Tesla is shipping all
models combinedChevy shipped a few hundred more Bolts than Teslas
one month. Tesla is way ahead on the year, and October is always
a slow month for Tesla for whatever reason. It?s netiher a trend
(yet) not is it ?many?.Also, those are dealer shipments -
anecdotally, I see tons of them on dealership lots being
advertised way under list price. The exact opposite of the
situation Tesla is in.
calvinbhai - 27 minutes ago
This point about dealer shipments and number of vehicles in the
lots, is conveniently skipped by many reporters reporting to
feed the "Tesla is dead" hype cycle.In terms of whats happening
with the teams at Tesla, it certainly looks like a lot of
churn, but it's hard to know the real severity of it because of
the over reactions by the press.4 years at a company is a good
amount of time. I'd be worried if the Head of Battery at Tesla
was a super star engineer who joined with a lot of fanfare and
then left the company in less than a year or two (e.g. Chris
Lattner joining Tesla and leaving after a very short stint).
mikeash - 13 minutes ago
Wasn?t the ?Bolt outsells Tesla? thing also based only on US
shaneos - 1 hours ago
Do you have a reference for the statement that Chevy is selling
more Bolts than all Teslas combined? This sounds farfetched.
Klinky - 1 hours ago
Also supposedly Chevy is losing money on the Bolt.
latj - 1 hours ago
Lets play a game. How much would you have to be paid to drive
a Chevy Bolt? I would probably do it for 50% of the cost of
AYBABTME - 50 minutes ago
As much as I'm into Tesla, a friend of mine has a Bolt and
they're way fun to drive, for a Chevy and that kind of car.
They accelerate pretty well. Nowhere near what I'd expect
of a Tesla, but still pretty torque-ish.
Avshalom - 30 minutes ago
The advantage of electric engines, any electric engine,
over ICE is that something like 99% of the maximum torque
is available from 0rpm to redline.
semi-extrinsic - 39 minutes ago
I've not driven the Bolt, but a few of the other "cheap"
electric cars (Leaf, Kia Soul, NV200). They all feel
pretty torquey-ish. It never really made sense to me
compared to petrol cars I've driven based on the actual
torques.Then I figured: it's because you can floor it in
an EV and nobody notices, so you do it all the time.
Whereas in a similar class petrol car, if you floor it
from zero and keep it in the optimal rev band, you sound
and look like a huge idiot.
AYBABTME - 28 minutes ago
I don't think that's the case here. Electric engines have
more torque at 0 RPM and over their RPM curve, and it's
clearly observable/reproducible if you like, ~race with
someone else at a red light, where the other person in
their petrol car is also flooring.
mikestew - 1 minutes ago
I?ll answer your question after you tell me how many hours
you?ve spent behind the wheel of a Bolt.
pwinnski - 42 minutes ago
At the price of a Bolt, it's great fun to drive. It doesn't
compare to a $100k Tesla, obviously, but for a $30k car,
dsfyu404ed - 1 hours ago
Is Tesla shipping a compact?Margins get thinner (or in this
case negative) closer to the bottom of the market.Tesla
doesn't have the EPA slowly tightening the CAFE noose so
selling Bolts at a loss might still be a net profit for GM
over all because it offsets more profitable products.
tankenmate - 33 minutes ago
But if come Republicans have their way then all federal
subsidies will be gone, but Tesla's were going to start
tailing off shortly anyway (they're close to reaching their
subsidy cap); so it would hurt GM (and others) more than
dsfyu404ed - 8 minutes ago
So?Why is this a political discussion all of a sudden?
mikestew - 59 minutes ago
As a Tesla shareholder, I advise caution going down the
"profitability" line of argument when making comparisons.
olivermarks - 53 minutes ago
vehi...GM lose $9k on every Volt right now after subsidies
and are also having trouble selling
miguelrochefort - 46 minutes ago
Here in Quebec, they're sold out as soon as they're
semi-extrinsic - 29 minutes ago
Here in Northern Europe, where the Bolt is sold as the
Opel Ampera-E, if you order one today you're not getting
it until 2019 because of the huge waiting list.
PeachPlum - 1 minutes ago
But they make up for that with volume.
johntb86 - 1 hours ago
It's true for October, at least: