Tesla Unveils 5 Part Battery Cell Master Plan to Increase Production and Decrease Cost at Battery Day 2020

On September 22, 2020 Tesla unveiled their master plan to increase production capacity to manufacture their new tabless 4680 battery cells while decreasing cost by more than 50% during their Shareholder Meeting and Battery Day presentation.

Battery Day 2020

Tesla has once again innovated on a otherwise stagnant technology. 

During their Battery Day presentation Tesla unveiled the company’s master plan to increase production capacity to manufacture their new tabless 4680 battery cells while simultaneously decreasing the overall cost by an estimated 56%.

The main speakers during the event on September 22, 2020 were Elon Musk (CEO) and Drew Baglino (Senior Vice President, Powertrain and Energy Engineering).

The plan includes 5 key elements which all aim to decrease the total cost to produce battery cells:

Let’s take a look into each of these key elements.

Master Plan Element #1 – Cell Design

Savings = 14% $/KWh Cost Reduction

Tesla will continue to purchase battery cells from their suppliers, but has now entered the battery manufacturing business.

To optimize their future cells, Tesla enhanced the form-factor by making them larger, but decreasing the resistance. 

The new battery cells have a diameter of 46mm and a height of 80mm (hence the name 4680).

Theoretically these battery cells should be able to store 5x more energy, with 6x more power, and provide an additional 16% range to vehicles.

To combat the thermal issues that arise with larger cylindrical battery cells, Tesla has designed a new cell architecture with a tabless form-factor that has significantly less electrical resistance (and therefore less heat generation). 

The new 4680 cell is expected to be both simpler to manufacture and require less capital investment to produce. 

Master Plan Element #2 – Cell Factory

Savings = 18% $/KWh Cost Reduction

In order to produce massive quantities of battery cells, Tesla has designed a layout for a high speed, continuous motion cell assembly line.

The assembly process has been simplified to a single line capable of producing parts 7x faster at a rate of 20GWh of output per line. 

By eliminating the “transition” steps found in many other manufacturing processes, Tesla has streamlined the cell production assembly.

In addition to more assembly line output, the new manufacturing machines will decrease the required footprint of the facility by a factor of 10x. 

Master Plan Element #3 – Anode Materials

Savings = 5% $/KWh Cost Reduction

Tesla has also made a significant improvement in the chemistry behind a battery cell. 

The company plans to use “Tesla Silicon” as it Anode source.

Tesla Silicon is raw metallurgical Silicon which eliminates the need for time and cost intensive pre-processing of the material.

To achieve the ability to use a raw form of Silicon, Tesla has been working to develop a “dry coating electrode manufacturing” process which transforms powderized Silicon into a film. 

Tesla estimates that Tesla Silicon anode film will be produced at cost of $1.20/kWh and estimates that the material is capable of improving vehicle range by 20%.

Master Plan Element #4 – Cathode Materials

Savings = 12% $/KWh Cost Reduction

Tesla will also produce an in-house Cathode. 

The process they have developed to produce their Cathode is simplified compared to standard manufacturing processes and is expected to reduce necessary capital expenditures by 66% and process cost by 76%.

In addition, the new process is environmentally friendly and produces zero waste water.

Tesla will manufacture their Lithium Cathodes in Nevada.

By localizing the production of Lithium Cathode production the distance the material travels during processing is reduced by 80%.

Master Plan Element #5 – Cell Vehicle Integration

Savings = 7% $/KWh Cost Reduction

Tesla has developed a revolution in the body of their vehicles to accommodate their new battery cells. Future Tesla vehicles will be built from single-piece castings for the front & rear body.

In addition, they have developed a new chassis architecture that utilizes the structure of the body as the battery pack. The battery cells will be able to be more efficiently and tightly packed closer to the center of the vehicle. 

This clever battery pack combines energy storage with structural improvements to the car, all while reducing the mass by 10% and increasing the vehicle range by 14%. 

This new battery pack design eliminates 270 parts from the existing assembly. 

Summary

To speed up the evolution of battery cells, Tesla has taken matters into their own hands. 

The company still has a long way to go if they plan on achieving their goals of producing 100GWh of battery cells by 2023 and 3TWh by 2030. 

By bringing battery cell production in-house, Tesla is able to optimize the manufacturing processes to rapidly scale to higher volumes. 

Tesla’s new 4680 cell unleashes additional storage capability and ultimately increased range for Tesla vehicles. 

Elon Musk loves to promote the First Principles approach to problem solving, and it appears it has helped him drive innovation once again. 

What excites you most about Tesla’s master plan? Do you think Tesla’s new battery cells will become the industry standard? Will their new manufacturing machines and processes become ubiquitous in all battery cell assembly lines? Will these advancements in material, manufacturing, and design increase Tesla’s jump-start on their competition?

 Leave a comment below and join the conversation!

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