Tesla Gigafactory & Battery Improvements Could Cut Battery Costs 50%

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Update: Title updated to 50% rather than 70%.

Originally published on EV Obsession.

Tesla will drive down battery-pack-level costs by 70% (down to around $38/kilowatt-hour) once the Gigafactory hits peak production via economies of scale, improved chemistry, supply chain optimization, and other factors, according to Jefferies analyst Dan Dolev.

As part of his recent appraisal of the company, the analyst increased his price target for Tesla’s stock up to $365 a share — largely owing to his analysis of the company’s battery business. As company executives have previously forecast a cost reduction of around 30%, the new analysis seems to suggest that that was a very “conservative” estimate (perhaps meant to be greatly exceeded for PR purposes, or simply because so many factors were/are still in the air).

Tesla Gigafactory new 2
Tesla Gigafactory under construction, by Bob Tregilus (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)


The analyst in question is basing this prediction around an estimation that current Model S battery-pack costs hover somewhere around $250/kWh (kilowatt-hour) — and that the company “can bring the cost of the battery cells down to ~$88/kWh and the pack-level cost to ~$38/kWh.”

Here’s a clip from that:

We believe that Tesla’s use of an efficient nickel cobalt aluminum (NCA) cathode (ie the positive electrode), use of a silicon synthetic graphene anode (ie the negative electrode) that has 2-6x the lithium-ion storage capacity of today’s standard graphite anode, and a possible use of water-based anode solvent, are key advantages. […] Our analysis details a potential path to a 30% cell-level cost reduction to ~$88/kWh by using a more efficient lithium-rich nickel cobalt manganese cathode (vs. NCA), doubling the percentage of silicon in the synthetic graphene anode, replacing the liquid electrolyte with an ionic gel electrolyte which eliminates the need for a separator, and using a water-based electrode solvent for the cathode. The Gigafactory, which is expected to begin production in early ’16, should drive down pack-level costs by 70% to ~$38/kWh via economies of scale, supply chain optimization, increased automation, and production domestication.

As noted by Electrek, that puts things in the sorts of ranges that would probably allow for a very affordable electric vehicle (EV) with a 200–300 mile plus range.

With regard to the estimation that Tesla Model S battery packs cost around $250/kWh at the moment, it should probably be noted here that the company’s Powerpacks are currently selling for around that price — so, presumably it’s a bit lower, but that’s just a guess. Other estimates put Tesla’s battery packs at a cost of ~$200/kWh right now.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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