What did we learn from Tesla's Gigafactory Berlin event?
Tesla’s Berlin Gigafactory is expected to begin production soon, and the company recently threw a party and welcomed locals for a factory tour. Kids of all ages dug the carnival rides and the giant Tesla coils shootin’ out sparks. Elon Musk spoke a few words of German during his speech and, as a further assurance that Tesla speaks the local language, introduced Gigabier, a Tesla beer that will come in a Cybertruck-inspired bottle. Why not? After all, Volkswagen sells a VW-branded bratwurst.
Above: Elon Musk takes the stage at the recent Giga Berlin event (Source: Tesla)
Several of the design and manufacturing innovations that will make their debuts at Giga Berlin were on display. For EV aficionados, however, the star of the show was Tesla’s new structural battery pack. A cutaway version was on display, clearly showing how the new 4680 cells are arranged in the pack.
Tesla says its 4680 cells will deliver higher energy density and greater thermal stability than the previous-generation 2170 cells. The company is currently producing them on a pilot line in California, and several suppliers are reportedly working on scaling them to mass production. The new battery pack features a “cell-to-pack” design, with no battery modules, which should make it simpler and cheaper to produce. Its structural strength enables it to be joined with Tesla’s massive single-piece front and rear underbody castings, further reducing weight, complexity and cost.
Above: Dave Lee showcases and discusses photos and key takeaways from Tesla's Giga Berlin event (YouTube: Dave Lee on Investing)
The vehicle’s seats will be mounted directly on the battery pack, and Tesla says the body will then be lowered onto the chassis around the seats, which will simplify the assembly process considerably.
Techie Tesla fans are poring over the pix from the party, and avidly analyzing the arcana of the new battery pack design. The new pack appears to have a slightly simplified cooling system—there are cooling channels snaking between the rows of cells, as in the 2170 packs, but it isn’t clear whether there will be top and bottom cooling as well. Some see signs that the new pack is designed to be more easily recyclable—a reasonable surmise considering Tesla’s growing emphasis on the battery end-of-life phase.
If all goes as planned, the Berlin Gigafactory will begin producing Model Ys in November, and customer deliveries will start in December.