Tesla’s breakthrough 4680 battery rollout slower than predicted
Two years ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took the stage during the automaker’s “battery day” presentation to unveil a breakthrough battery cell designed to significantly increase range, reduce production costs and enable power-hungry future products like the Cybertruck pickup and Semi cargo hauler.
But despite Musk’s 2020 prediction that Tesla would be producing enough of the new batteries for 1 million or more vehicles this year, the production ramp is still in its early stages.
Tesla is now forecasting significant output by the end of the year in anticipation of a mid-2023 Cybertruck launch.
“We are making a decent number every week and I think we’ll be in high-volume production by the end of the year,” Musk said at the company shareholders’ meeting last week.
The 4680 cylindrical battery debuted in a small number of Model Y crossovers built at a new plant in Austin, Texas, during the second quarter, Tesla said.
The automaker said the 4680 cell design will deliver an immediate 16 percent improvement in vehicle range compared with 2170 battery packs. And future improvements in battery materials and vehicle design will result in a net 56 percent gain in range and a 54 percent drop in production costs.
But 4680 output thus far has been so constrained that Tesla is mostly continuing to use 2170 cells at its new Texas plant. Tesla had been expected to use the larger new cells with a new “structural pack” that incorporates cells into body structure to reduce size and weight.
“To be clear, we are currently making the cars with the 2170 cells,” Musk said on Tesla’s second-quarter earnings call. “But it is worth emphasizing that we have enough 2170 cells to satisfy all vehicle production for the remainder of the year. So we’re not dependent on 4680. 4680 will be important next year.”
— Laurence Iliff
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