The Energy Storage Report 2024

Now available to download, covering deployments, technology, policy and finance in the energy storage market

Tesla’s battery tech guru of 11 years leaves company

Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory under construction. Kelty took the lead in negotiations with Tesla’s Gigafactory partner, Panasonic. Image: Tesla.

Tesla’s senior director of battery technology since 2006 has quit the company seeking pastures new, a company spokeswoman confirmed this morning.

A Tesla representative informed Energy-Storage.News via an emailed statement that Kurt Kelty, an industry veteran with over 25 years of experience in battery technology – including more than 11 years at the California EV, energy and tech company – had “left the company to explore new opportunities”.

This article requires Premium SubscriptionBasic (FREE) Subscription

Enjoy 12 months of exclusive analysis

  • Regular insight and analysis of the industry’s biggest developments
  • In-depth interviews with the industry’s leading figures
  • Annual digital subscription to the PV Tech Power journal
  • Discounts on Solar Media’s portfolio of events, in-person and virtual

Or continue reading this article for free

Energy-Storage.News enquired if perhaps Tesla CTO JB Straubel, who has previously said that he is at least as enthusiastic about batteries as he is about cars, might take over some of Kelty’s responsibility’s, but the company spokeswoman was not prepared to go into specifics.

“We can confirm that Kurt Kelty has left the company to explore new opportunities and we want to thank him for everything he’s done for Tesla. Kurt’s responsibilities will be distributed among Tesla’s existing teams,” the statement read.

According to Kelty’s LinkedIn profile and resume, the now-former battery tech director has been in charge of a wide variety of areas of Tesla’s business. Apparently this included “cell qualification, to price negotiation, to co-development activities, to incoming quality control, to battery pack testing”.

Kelty also has a strong background in working with Japanese businesses. Claiming to be a competent speaker of business Japanese with six years of living in the Far-Eastern country under his belt, including a stint as interim manager for Tesla Japan, the experience may have set him up well for one of his most recent and biggest tasks – leading negotiations with Tesla’s battery manufacturing partner Panasonic. In fact, until joining Tesla in the mid-2000s, Kelty was director of Panasonic’s Energy Solutions Lab in Japan for almost 15 years.

Panasonic is Tesla’s main partner in the building of the Gigafactory plant in Nevada, but Kurt Kelty said he also negotiated deals with others such as “battery cell upstream material partners” as well as leading efforts to localize supply chains, wherever possible. Cell purchasing and quality control were also among his duties, Kelty said.

The Stanford graduate joins former SolarCity CTO Peter Rive among recent departures from Tesla, in the week the company began the first deliveries of its “affordable”, extended-range Model 3 EVs.

Sonnen hires new e-services director

Meanwhile, Tesla’s energy storage rival Sonnen announced via its German headquarters that it has hired a new managing director for e-services.

These include the company’s SonnenCommunity energy trading platform, where system owners and subscribers can access each other’s surplus PV-generated and battery-stored energy. Also on offer is SonnenFlat, where customers pay a flat rate for their electricity while Sonnen generates revenues by using those customer batteries to provide grid services.

New hire Jean-Baptiste Cornefert will take up the role on 18 September. Cornefert has a strong background in decentralised energy, Sonnen said. His previous job was in the virtual power plant and renewable energy marketing unit of European utility giant E.On.

Sonnen CEO Christoph Ostermann said Cornefert was an “experienced manager with unique know-how”. He said Cornefert was “convinced” by Sonnen’s “decentralised, clean and networked” energy “vision” for the future and would help to “radically” develop it further.  

Battery startup 24M hiring new technical staff

One company yet to be fully commercialised but trying to aggressively move forward is 24M, the lithium battery manufacturing startup targeting costs of under US$100 per kWh of energy storage by 2020.

The company, which signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NEC ES in 2015 to supply its semisolid lithium-ion cells for use in the latter's integrated energy storage systems, is seeking six hires at upper levels of tech and research: an advanced manager for R&D, senior battery cell designer, senior mechanical engineer, associate battery engineer, VP of operations and a senior process engineer with expertise in assembly processes. All hires will be based at the company’s Cambridge, Massachusetts campus.

Email Newsletter