Tesla's Veteran Battery Technology Director Unexpectedly Quits

Tyler Durden's picture

Stormy weather was unleashed in Tesla longsville today when the company's veteran director of battery technology, Kurt Kelty, unexpectedly resigned to "explore new opportunities", abruptly ending a tenure with the company that stretched for more than a decade, and comes at a critical time for Elon Musk: just as Tesla enters "production hell" after it delivered its first Model 3 electric car to the general public with a dramatic production ramp up expected in the coming weeks. Kelty joined Tesla in 2006 and was one of the longest-serving executives at Tesla after Elon Musk.

Kurt Kelty is seen at the company's new sales outlet in Osaka, Japan's in August 2015

“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,” the company told Bloomberg in an emailed statement, adding that his responsibilities will be “distributed among Tesla’s existing teams.”

Ominously, Kelty previously worked for 14 years at Panasonic, Tesla’s critical partner on the battery-producing gigafactory in Reno, Nevada. Kelty was the Tesla point man in negotiations with Panasonic on the plant, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Tesla remains so reliant on its battery technology, or lack thereof, that last month when Tesla failed to meet expected Q2 deliveries of its Model S and Model X cars, it blamed a "temporary shortage of 100 kWh battery packs."

Tesla and Kelty’s previous employer Panasonic have had a close partnership, with the two in a supply agreement for 1.8 billion battery cells through 2017 for the Model S and Model X. For the Model 3, the companies jointly developed new, slightly larger cylindrical battery cells than those used in Tesla’s existing models.

Adding to Tesla's headache, Tesla hopes to make 20,000 Model 3 cars per month by December, a ramp-up phase that Musk described to employees as “production hell.”

Kelty is the latest in a long-list of Tesla executives to have departed the company, with at least 20 names counted in just the past 12 months in the following list of TSLA executive departures compiled by @WallStCynic. While the real reason for Kelty's departure remains unknown, judging by the list below, shortsville may just end up having the final laugh.

Tesla reports Q2 earnings tomorrow after the bell: the circumstances around Kelty's departure will be one of the key questions asked.

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True Contrarian's picture

Lose the top guy of your core business element. Whoops.

True Contrarian's picture

This is true.

A lot better in fact.

I still can't wait til Model 3 batteries start exploding.

Put option time.

Looney's picture


He quit, because he couldn’t afford a replacement battery for his Model 3.   ;-)


NoPension's picture

Been in the car business since I was 15. I'm out now, but I've got I lot of experience.
I find it IMPOSSIBLE to believe this numbnut can build a car...at a profit...that Toyota, GM or Honda can't.
My sense is...the big boys are standing back...waiting for this whole fiasco of a fucking ponzi.governtment fuel experiment to implode.

You have to admire the balls on this cat, though.

TheRedScourge's picture

You can't conceive of how a guy smart enough to put together a team of people behind a vision and end up landing a fucking lower stage of a rocket on a fucking barge in the fucking ocean after having launched its upper stage, something no nation on Earth has done before or since he did it, could possibly do something that the other automakers themselves can't do?


Cool story bro.


Yes, the stock is a bit insane, and their growth goals are overly optimistic, and they will likely have a few more serious hurdles to clear, but this thing is here to stay.

NoPension's picture

Give ME a government budget, and no government employees mandated...and I'LL do it.

He's smart. No doubt. The stock is "Tulip Mania".... goody for him. But if Uncle Sam wasn't backstopping him...he'd be broker than shit, right now.

remain calm's picture

Rats jumping off a sinking ship, it obvious to him they have no proprietary advantage nor will they be able to compete when the pack decides to take the lead.

NoPension's picture

Toyota could build 400,000 a month, if it needed to.

They are sitting back....letting him work the kinks out....and use his " Popularity " to get the infrastructure in. Then....he's our modern version of Tucker. A man and his dream. If this battery shit ever works out. I don't think it will...not for many years..if not decades.

BaBaBouy's picture

NO they couldn't, nobody can right now.

Theres a huge l-ion battery shortage.

The world needs battery 20 giga factories and theres only 1 so far thats PARTIALLY complete!

Thats Musks problem. He'll probably miss his MOD 3 targets...

Also COBALT shortage for batteries, miners are scrambling to find new deposits.

It will be huge news where Kelty goes, BMW, Toyota, Volvo? Big rampup in Battery production...


not dead yet's picture

The Musk factory is not yet producing cells. They using imported cells in the areas that are finished. You claim the world needs all these giga factories now as if the sales of electrics will immediately skyrocket.  Tesla has squat for battery tech, except for packaging the cells in a case, it's all Panasonic. Tesla imports cells for it's batteries from Panasonic. It's Panasonic that is overseeing the construction of the Tesla plant and has invested millions of it's own. The plant that the State of New York built and gave to Solar City for free is now going to be used for Tesla and Panasonic to make lion cells. There are quite a few factories around the world producing cells for autos. China plans to build at least 6 mega plants. If the Chinese do to the battery industry what they did to the solar panel mfgs, running most out of business and more going under every year, those giga factories that Musk claims Tesla will build will never see the light of dayy.

python_snake's picture

I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it.!pa63d: Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do... http://bit.ly/2f0fLIz !pa64d:

jcaz's picture

Key guy resigning the day before earnings,  while the CEO is wandering around babbling about his own mental stability-

Yeah, this is gonna end well.

land_of_the_few's picture

Perhaps he simply burned out. Vented with flame :D

Mr 9x19's picture

they finaly understood  there is not enough raw material on earth to make billions batteries for they shit cars that cannot stand for 900km autonomy and the war in congo and such for rare materias will lead ww3 and they prefer to quit instead of be sat by force on a bench in a nuremberg tribunal style ?

land_of_the_few's picture

They should ask the Asians in London about battery acid technology, they are totally in yer face about it :D

TuPhat's picture

Some people can't talk without cussing.  You can't type without cussing.  That shows a lack of language skills and a poor vocabulary.  Please don't every give me a good recommendation I can do without the blowback.

not dead yet's picture

Cussing is an American tradition. The worst is when those with "superior intellect" use big often complicated words when little ones will do to make themselves feel superior as they think they have put down their "inferiors." They revel in how much better they are than those who use "gutter language." For example you superior people would say fornicating the canine instead of the readily recognizable fuck the dog. Fuck off and take your attitude with you. Instead of memorizing all those big words to try and impress other "superior" people and put down others you could have learned something worthwhile.

not dead yet's picture

In an article from Space.com dated June 16, 2016, yes 2016, Jeff "Amazon" Bezos rocket venture Blue Origin landed it's FOURTH rocket on LAND. The last one only a short distance from where it launched. With the press fawning all over Musk as some kind of god not much makes the news of others accomplishing things especially if it tarnishes the Cult of Musk. Let's not forget that the industries that supply these "pioneers" with their equipment are in business due to the US government spending the money to create a space program and the technology to make it work. Equipment, tech, scientists, engineers, and others learning their trade on the government dole working for Musk as the Muskinator gets credit for being a rocket genius. Odds are if NASA had stuck to space instead of branching out into crapola like climate change there would be no private rocket companies like Space X or Blue Origin.

Space X was turned down for government contracts then Elon had a temper tantrum and got the press and his bought and paid for political friends involved and bingo nice fat contracts.

energywonk's picture

well said. the automakers are dinosaurs. the model 3 proves that. combine cost of running and low service costs with autonomy and ability to earn revenue while you sleep and 35k car quickly becomes a 20k after a couple of years. 

True Contrarian's picture

Saw a cat spay itself running across a barb wire fence once.


Yen Cross's picture

      I started around the same age.  Dealers license after building carwash business.

 Tesla is a fad, and the story doesn't end well.


Lumberjack's picture

Here comes more subsidized failures...

Offshore U.S. wind farm proposal uses Tesla batteries to store power


Where fire brigades have to stand back and let them burn on a weekly basis.


POTUS needs to fire Rick Perry and stop this horse shit now!

True Contrarian's picture

And at least one dead eagle at the base of each of the monstrosities.

But, but, capacity.

Fuckin tree huggers.

peddling-fiction's picture

The rats are scurrying out of the sinking, bi-polar led ship.

Utopia Planitia's picture

I love the smell of a burning wind turbine in the morning (or in the afternoon for that matter)!  :-)

junction's picture

Before leaving, did Kelty do a Scaramucci, unleashing a string of profanity at everyone?  Is the Tesla Ponzi scheme in trouble or is this departure just a bump in the road for Musk's plan of world auto domination.  I am waiting for the Tesla lithium batteries to start auto-igniting into fireballs due to a manufacturing flaw.

Utopia Planitia's picture

Sometimes that is the best thing that can happen.  (Perhaps not this time.)  However, if this causes Fresca to crash and burn at least the taxpayer will have a small reduction in the degree to which their pocketbook is raped daily.

charlewar's picture

when tesla implodes as did Enron, he doesn't want to go to prison.

ali-ali-al-qomfri's picture

He quit 12 hours ago......,

but is waiting for his battery to be fully charged so he can peal out of there and make a statement.

Oh regional Indian's picture

Ahhhahaaaahaaa....... that vision you painted was a snort raiser....

land_of_the_few's picture

He will be wolfing down enormous qualtities of latte and macaroons until the right LEDs light up but by then he will develop a serious caffeine tic and had to pretend several times to be the printer repair guy with the Tourette's problem

RedDwarf's picture

Looks like they are abandoning ship.  The battery tech they need to take Tesla to the next level just isn't there yet.  It needs to be better, cheaper, and less reliant on rare materials.

Winston Churchill's picture

The battery tweaks they use is fine for trophy vehicles, but was never going to work in a mass market

work horse setting.He knows it and is getting out while the going is still good.

TheRedScourge's picture

If anything, it should work better for mass market vehicles, as people in those cars are not flooring it and slamming on the brakes as often as some guy in a high-end sports car trying to put it through its paces for fun. Flooring it is actually extremely hard on battery life, and using it as a basic commuter vehicle is actually way more suited to electric car batteries.

NoPension's picture

Fucking fancy golf carts.

Gas engines today are exhausting cleaner air than goes in.
If anything...we should be pushing to get vehicles running on natural gas/propane. We can't find places to store the shit...and it burns clean as hell.

Oh, btw....in response to folks driving reasonably...haha! Get on ANY beltway at 7:00 to 9:00 am...such as 695, 97, Rt50 or 495 around D.C.!
It's like dropping the green flag at the Indy 500 every morning. Try doing 70 mph in the right lane....go ahead...try. These motherfuckers will tailgate you and all but run you over....in the SLOW lane. The hammer lane is suicidal. Oh yeah....folks take it easy in the real world.

So....what color Tesla did you get?

In five years I'm starting a business to put 440 hemis and 396 big blocks in Teslas.

roddy6667's picture

I live in China in a city of 9 million. We have about 6500 city buses (not a typo). About 25% of them now are CNG. Almost all of the taxis are CNG. It can be done. It's old tech. It's clean. It's cheap. It works.

energywonk's picture

perspective is an interesting thing isnt it. you could argue with the successful development of the 2170 cell and the first handovers of the model 3 his job is done and now he wants to start his own EV business or someone has tapped him on the shoulder and offered more dollars (Tesla pay quite poorly). your shortsville line is getting boring. 

TheRedScourge's picture

Many of the employees, particularly the earlier ones like him, get one hell of a stock incentive though, and they try to keep them there by giving more options over time in such a way that they are constantly part way towards unlocking a new batch, or an existing batch is getting to the point where they are allowed to sell them.

He's probably so ridiculously rich now that they couldn't keep him any longer, as the allure of more money no longer made up for his urge to look for something new after ten years.

Clowns on Acid's picture

Nice. Now he can sell his TSLA shares liike any civilian. Should be a block order line up at the Open.

Ballin D's picture

I've been thinking the same thing with all these high profile exits. Good way to dump shares at the top. 

TheRedScourge's picture

That's not how it works. They are constantly giving their key employees a stream of shares, in an attempt to keep them, because they'll always be wanting to stay to get the next batch that's coming. They're not locked in until they leave or anything.

Cash Is King's picture

Elon let it slip out last week that he suffers bi-polar issues. With this guy leaving I'm now wondering if he (Tesla) is setting up a defense as the Implosion of this cash burning low production heavily subsidized POS starts to take shape. I'm buying deep outta the money puts (leaps) cause I think this is gonna destroy its stock price.

TheRedScourge's picture

Except that it's no longer running on subsidies...

Cash Is King's picture

Well, as I understand the situation, the subsidies are about to expire after selling a predetermined number of cars which should be met by year end. Maybe I read it wrong.

not dead yet's picture

After a company produces it's 200,000th electric the BUYER subsidies get gradually phased out over the next year. Thus part of the reason Musk is in such a hurry to produce large numbers of cars so fast. It's possible CONgress can extend the subsidies like they did for solar and others awhile back in a REPUBLICAN controlled CONgress. Tesla itself still gets plenty of subsidies in the hundreds of millions from the state of California. Not too long ago the state was going to cut back those subsidies and Musk went wild and made a few calls and bingo no cuts.

roddy6667's picture

That's only one of many subsidies keeping the doors open at Tesla. The other is the Tulip-Madness price of the stock.