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What revelations can we expect at Tesla’s Battery Day?
Posted on April 13, 2020 by Charles Morris
Tesla will be holding a Battery and Powertrain Investor Day soon (the event has been postponed a couple of times, and is now tentatively scheduled for mid-May). What sort of news can we expect? Of course, we could just wait and see instead of idly speculating, but what fun would that be?
Above: Tesla battery (Image: Charged)
In a new video (scroll below), Steven, of Solving The Money Problem, considers some of the news items that may be in the offing. One thing seems certain—something momentous, or perhaps several things, will be revealed. As Steven puts it, “Tesla is only holding this event because they have news worth sharing.”
Tesla is continuously working in various areas having to do with batteries: testing new cell chemistries; exploring new sources of supply; devising easier and cheaper ways to assemble battery packs; and securing supplies of raw materials such as lithium. Over the past few months, we’ve seen hints and rumors that breakthroughs are imminent on several fronts.
Steven believes the crux of the event will be Tesla’s plan to scale battery production up to multiple terawatt-hours—orders of magnitude more than it’s producing today. That’s a lot of batteries, but Tesla’s going to need them, not only to ramp up production of Model Y and the Cybertruck, but to enable the expected expansion of Tesla Energy products (remember that Elon has said he thinks energy storage could become a higher-volume business for the company than vehicles).
Will Tesla reveal its new million-mile battery? Will the company divulge its hitherto top-secret battery costs? Conventional wisdom has it that $100 per kWh (at the pack level) is the “magic number” that will bring EVs to price parity with legacy vehicles, and we know that Tesla is getting close to this figure.
These are the sort of questions everyone is asking. More sophisticated observers understand that important advances on the battery front may have less to do with improving the performance of batteries than with new production processes that enable them to be produced more cheaply, or new business initiatives to secure supply chains and avoid future bottlenecks.
Above: Tesla will host its Battery and Powertrain Investor Day soon — some predictions about what's coming (YouTube: Solving the Money Problem)
In early 2019, Tesla acquired Maxwell Technologies, the developer of a “dry electrode” technology that could not only extend battery life, but simplify the manufacturing process. Maxwell said its process could deliver “a 10 to 20% cost reduction versus state-of-the-art wet electrodes.”
Later in 2019, Tesla acquired Hibar Systems, which specializes in battery cell manufacturing equipment. This brings us to another new initiative that appears to be in the pipeline—will Tesla announce that it’s going to start manufacturing its own battery cells? The company has a history of defying the typical auto industry practice of outsourcing—time and again, Tesla has gotten frustrated with the slow pace of suppliers, and brought production of key components in-house. It’s widely expected that this is about to happen with battery cells, and it’s even possible that the company will move even further up the supply chain and get into the lithium mining business.
At the other end of the battery life cycle, recycling is an important area (and it could quickly become critical if Tesla releases a new and improved battery that can be retrofitted to existing vehicles). Will the company announce a new initiative in this arena?
A major advance in any one of these fields (there are more) could be a huge boost to Tesla’s future prospects. What game-changing revelations does Steven think we’re likely to see on Battery Day? We won’t play the spoiler—watch the video already!
One thing seems certain—after Battery Day, Tesla’s already-substantial lead over every other automaker will be wider than ever.