The current state of play

As of September 2020, Tesla has been the single most active car manufacturer on the planet moving us towards sustainable mobility.

  • They have delivered 1,000,000+ Electric vehicles globally.
  • 26 billion miles driven in these cars.
  • Deployed 5GWh of stationary storage globally with much more on the way.
  • 17TWh of solar generated from Tesla solar installations globally.

Many electrical grids are deploying new generation, in the US alone in 2020 76% of new generation added to the grid was renewable in the form of either wind or solar. Coal as a fuel for the US grid has dropped 50% between 2010 to 2020 and is somewhere around 20-22%. This appears to be similar in many western countries.

At the time of writing, the Irish grid was comprised of only 6.85% coal, 52% natural gas and 31.46% renewables. This needs to improve, obviously, and will do as we move forward as a nation towards fully renewable energy.

Tesla’s path to 20TWh

They have a 5 point plan to get them to this goal:

 

5 point plan

 

Here’s what the plan looks like

  1. Cell Design – doing this in house.
  2. Design and built their own cell production lines, currently on revision 1.4 (4th iteration)
  3. Take the raw anode materials and avoid expensive, time consuming conversions of state which they believe are unnecessary.
  4. Take the raw cathode materials and do the same as point 3 with them.
  5. Make the battery pack an integral structural part of the car.

Cell Design points of note

They have come up with a new 4680 cell. This relates to their tab-less architecture which removes heat dissipation issues, lowers the cost per kWh, simplified manufacturing. The reduced the electrical path length from 250mm to 50mm, this is a huge deal. The shorter the electrical path the less heat is generated during charge and discharge.

  • 5x energy density
  • 6x power output
  • 16% range increase (keep in mind, they are reducing the cost by more than 50% at the same time!)
  • manufacturing has begun, it’s not a concept. They have a pilot 10GWh production plant built already and they have produced 1000s of cells already during testing.
  • This single change i.e. form factor change will reduce the cost per kWh by 14%

4680cell

 

Tesla believe that they can build the factories and the production lines together for better use of space. Better economics over all and up to 70% less investment in capex compared to traditional factory builds.

The production lines

 

They want to revolutionise the entire process of cell production and want to skip the solvent step. The wet electrode process takes 4 steps currently which takes a lot of time and consumes a lot of space.

  1. Solvents / water are mixed with the materials
  2. They have huge ovens which dry the slurry.
  3. The solvents are recovered.
  4. They compress the slurry

They want to reduce those 4 steps to just 2:

  1. Mix
  2. Dry coat

Outcomes of this are huge:

  1. 10x footprint reduction
  2. 10x energy consumption reduction

My own opinion here on point 2 is massive. If we look at the total CO2 for a Model S/3/X/Y it takes around 2-3 years before it becomes CO2 neutral due to the manufacturing process and the CO2 released during all aspects of production, mining, battery manufacture etc. This is absolutely huge.

They want the assembly aspect to be a high-speed continuous motion production line. 7x increase in output per line of existing production lines. Vertical integration is integral to all of this as entire production processes are designed and built by in house teams.

For testing the cells during formation, each cell was traditionally tested individually. i.e. it was charged and discharged. They’re leveraging the power electronics from the cars and they can now test 10s of thousands of cells at the same time. This has resulted in an 86% decrease in the cost of the formation process all the while reducing the footprint by 75%.

All of this translates to being able to produce 1 TWh in the same space as Giga Nevada. That is 10x increase in capacity in the same footprint and potentially in a smaller footprint.

‘The Plan” per Elon Musk

 

They want to product 100GWh of tells by 2022 under their own steam. Currently it is rumoured that Panasonic produce around 56GWh for Tesla. Within 1-2 years from September 2020 they believe they can produce 100GWh on their own using their own production lines.

Silicon Anode

You can store 9x more lithium into Silicon compared to graphite but it expands 4x when fully charged with lithium ions. Tesla plan to use the raw materials rather than using expensive highly engineered materials. In addition, they’re designing for expansion. This will means the anode will cost 1.2$ per kWh.

 

This single change can increase the range of Tesla’s vehicles by 20% and reduce the cost of the pack by 5%.

Nickel Cathode

They intend to remove cobalt completely and use way more nickel than technologies allowed for and this results in a 15% reduction in cathode $/kWh.

But it’s not just about nickel. They believe by diversifying their approach to cathode materials they can come up with multiple use cases which apply to current and future products. The picture below shows what their current thinking is.

 

The cathode process is currently overly complex. The metal is turned into a sulphate. Then water and other chemicals are added along with some proprietary actions and you’re left with excess waste water and other chemical by-products. Tesla want to remove waste water from the equation and avoid the sulphate process completely.

Depiction of the legacy cathode production process

 

Tesla Cathode production method results in zero waste water

The outcome of all this work on the cathode production processes results in 66% less capex required,  76% less process cost and 0ltr of waste water. The water is fully recycled.

Reducing the miles travelled by the cathode materials is paramount.

They also intend to bring the lithium processing in house as this makes a lot of sense. This will mean a 33% cost reduction in raw lithium. According to Elon Musk there is enough Lithium in the US (Apparently Nevada alone) to convert all existing ICE vehicles in the USA to fully Electric. So deposits are extensive.

The removal of Lithium from the ore can be done using table salt. They have rights to 10K acres in Nevada. The process is so friendly to the planet that they can remove the earth, remove the lithium from it and then return the earth back where it was found with minimal environmental impacts.

Battery recycling can be much more specific. You’re recycling the same thing you produce, therefore it’s targeted and easier to achieve.

The results of all of this are as follows:

With stages 1-4 combined Tesla will see a combined 49% in $/kWh cost reduction

Cell Vehicle Integration

They plan to make the Model Y in 2 parts for the front and rear body parts using high pressure die-cast aluminium. Tesla have developed their own alloy for this. The two parts interface with the structural battery. Elon compares this to the early days of fuel tanks on aircraft. The tank evolved to become a structural part of the wing. The cells can be packed more densely. Instead of having a filler that is flame retardant. They will now have a structural adhesive which will be flame retardant in itself but it gives you incredible stiffness. It is believed that this will make the car stiffer than a regular car. The big take away is that it’ll improve a mass efficiency of the battery.

The single piece front and back under-body pieces join with the battery to make a 3 piece underbody. Reducing the part count by 370 pieces.

The footprint of future car production lines will be reduced by 35% and require 55% less capex per GWH.

  • All together all 5 facets will bring the cost down by 56% $/kWh in the future.
  • 54 % increase in range for future vehicles
  • 69% less capex spend per GWh

Stacking up the benefits of teslas vertical integration

Elon and Drew believe that within the next 4 years they can reduce the cost per kWh in the pack, not just the cell level, by 50%. They are changing the course of their own destiny as it didn’t appear like the battery, mining and other industries were on target to reduce it fast enough.

A 25,000$ or less vehicle

Tesla believe that they trajectory that they’re now on will allow them to sell / produce a compelling fully autonomous electric car by 2024.

Plaid Model S

  • 0-60 Mph <2s ( 0-100 km/h: <2.1 s )
  • Top speed 200Mph (320Km/h)
  • Quarter mile < 9.0s
  • >520Miles of range (800Km+)
  • >1100 HP
  • Tri-motor all wheel drive (like Cybertruck)
  • 140,000 euro (I don’t believe this for a second lol!)
  • Available Late 2021, read that as 2022 for Europe.