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Tesla acquires ultracapacitor and battery manufacturer for over $200 million

Tesla hasn’t been known for making many acquisitions, but we’ve now learned that it has reached an agreement to acquire ultracapacitor and battery component manufacturer Maxwell based in California.

It’s the automaker’s 5th important acquisition to date.

The all-stock transaction worth over $200 million was announced by Maxwell this morning and we reached out to Tesla to confirm the news.

Tesla confirmed that they reached an agreement with the company and commented:

“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.”

Maxwell is best-known as an ultracapacitor manufacturer and it has also recently been talking about a dry electrode technology for batteries.

Dr. Franz Fink, President and Chief Executive Officer of Maxwell, commented on today’s announcement:

“We are very excited with today’s announcement that Tesla has agreed to acquire Maxwell. Tesla is a well-respected and world-class innovator that shares a common goal of building a more sustainable future. 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.”

Maxwell’s stock traded at just over $3.00 per share at market close last week for a valuation of $140 million.

Tesla has agreed to acquire them for $4.75 per share – making the transaction worth over $200 million.

The company is based in San Diego and it has about 380 employees.

Maxwell had been talking about a potential “strategic partnership” in the works for a few months regarding its dry electrode technology.

Aside from the new technology, the company also has its ultracapacitor business. They reported $91 million in revenue during the first 9 months of 2018.

Here’s their investor presentation:

[scribd id=398883457 key=key-OhydWXZDN9w0i7ZuT6II mode=scroll]

Electrek’s Take

Tesla CEO Elon Musk first moved to California in the 90s in order to do a PhD on ultracapacitors, but he quickly stopped to start an internet company.

The technology has never been adopted by electric vehicle manufacturers who favored Li-ion batteries.

But Tesla’s acquisition of Maxwell might have little to do with ultracapacitors.

The automaker might be more interested with Maxwell’s dry electrode technology that they have been hyping recently.

Maxwell claims that its electrode enables an energy density of over 300 Wh/kg in current demonstration cells and they see a path to over 500 Wh/kg.

This would represent a significant improvement over current battery cells used by Tesla and enable longer range or lighter weight, but that’s not even the most attractive benefit of Maxwell’s dry electrode.

They claim that it should simplify the manufacturing process and result in a “10 to 20% cost reduction versus state-of-the-art wet electrodes” while “extending battery Life up to a factor of 2.”

I think this is really exciting.

Many companies have been making similar claims about batteries. Tesla, specifically Elon and JB, have often complained that they couldn’t verify those claims.

If Tesla is willing to pay $200 million for Maxwell, I have to assume that they verified the claims and they believe the technology is applicable to their batteries.

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