All the talk about Tesla and Elon Musk since last week’s earnings call has focused on Elon’s behavior and his fulminations about short sellers. Suffice to say, when people bet against him, he takes it personally. But despite the conference call going off the rails at one point, there was quite a bit of news that Tesla fans may have overlooked among all the hubbub.
Supercharger V3 Versus Ionity
Back in the day, the number that got car enthusiasts all weak in the knees was cubic inches. More was better. Chevy had a 283 V-8 so Ford made a 289. Chevy had a 427 c.i. motor so Ford topped it with a 428. Today, the new magic metric is charging power. Ford, Daimler, Volkswagen, and BMW have come together with other partners like Shell to create the Ionity network for Europe, which will feature chargers with up to 350 kilowatts of power.
During last week’s earnings call, Teslarati reports Elon and CTO JB Straubel had some things to say about the Ionity network and the coming Version 3 of its Supercharger network.
“We’re definitely going to be improving our Supercharger’s technology. The thing about a 350 kW charger is that it doesn’t actually make a ton of sense, unless you got a monster battery pack or have like a crazy high C rating… We think 350 kW for a single car; you’re gonna frag the battery pack if you do that. You cannot charge a high-energy battery pack at that rate, unless it’s a very high kW battery pack. So, (for us), something along the coupleof hundred, 200-250 kW, maybe.”
JB Straubel weighed in on the technical aspects of the upgraded Superchargers, saying his company could boost power to as much as 400 kW but casting doubt on whether such a system would actually be beneficial to customers. This is what CleanTechnica Director Zach Shahan has been saying for a year or more as well, especially after talking with EV charging leaders in Europe about these matters.
“That’s definitely sort of the power level that we’ve discussed and explored. Some of it also comes down to an optimization around utility versus cost, and trade offs in the car itself. There is a trade off, fundamentally, between charge speed and essentially range, and cost of the battery. We look at that pretty carefully. We understand the trade off. We could design cells and a pack that could charge at, you know, faster than 300-400 kW, but it’s not a very useful trade off to the customer.”
Elon then put it all in perspective in his own unique way.
“Energy is range, and power is your peak acceleration, the rate in which you consume energy. It’s more important to have long range than it is to have a super fast charge time. You can sort of think about this in the devices that you use. Would you rather have a cellphone that charges in 5 minutes or 10 minutes, but only lasted 2 hours. Or, if you’d like a cellphone that can last two days, and maybe takes an hour to charge?”
The Tesla Network
Also during the earnings call, Musk clarified some aspects of the Tesla Network, which he says should be ready to begin operations by the end of 2019.
“For the whole sort of system to work, you need all the pieces in place. You need to have full autonomy, full 4 or 5, and obviously a lot of cars in the road, and then build the software infrastructure behind that to enable shared autonomy, so to help enable people to share their cars and be able to offer their cars as effectively, kind of a robo-Lyft or robo-Uber.
“It’s sort of like a combination of Uber, Lyft and Airbnb type of thing, where you can own your car and have a higher percent usage of an autonomous electric car. You can say it’s available generally to anyone who wants to use it when you’re not using it. You can recall it at will. You can restrict usage to only friends and family or only users who are 5 star.
In order for that to be in place, we have to obviously solve full autonomy, and we’re making a really good progress on that front. I believe…the vehicles that we are currently producing are capable of full autonomy, but the only thing that …might be needed…is a computer upgrade to have more processing power for the vision neural net. But that’s a plug-in replacement, a thing that can be done quite easily.”
Popping new computer components may be quite easy, but Elon did not say how much such an upgrade might cost. Don’t expect it to be cheap.
Tesla Semi Range
Back in February, Martin Daum, head of the trucking division at Daimler, had some unkind things to say about the Tesla Semi and the company’s claims about the range of its electric Class 8 tractor. “If Tesla really delivers on this promise, we’ll obviously buy two trucks — one to take apart and one to test because if that happens, something has passed us by,” Daum said. “But for now, the same laws of physics apply in Germany and in California.”
Musk had a few well chosen words for Herr Daum during the earnings call last Wednesday. “He does not know much about physics. I know him. I would be happy to engage in a physics discussion with him. I actually studied physics in college. Even if we didn’t improve our battery technology at all, we could achieve a 500 mile range truck. We’re gonna do better than 500 miles.”
For more on this topic, also see:
2170 Battery Cell Chemistry
Back in February, we brought you a video that explores what’s inside Tesla’s latest 2170 battery cell, which forms the basis of the battery packs used in the Model 3. In its newsletter to shareholders last week, Tesla revealed some interesting details about the chemistry used in those cells and how it differs from a conventional lithium ion battery cell.
“Cells used in Model 3 are the highest energy density cells used in any electric vehicle. We have achieved this by significantly reducing cobalt content per battery pack while increasing nickel content and still maintaining superior thermal stability. The cobalt content of our Nickel-Cobalt-Aluminum cathode chemistry is already lower than next generation cathodes that will be made other cell producers with a Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt ratio of 8:1:1. As a result, even with its battery, the gross weight of Model 3 is on par with its gasoline-powered counterparts.”
Elon added that they could get cobalt to “almost nothing.”
Here are some related stories on these topics, including one with a January/February response from Tesla about this topic:
The Wrap Up
The frenzy over last week’s earnings call continues as investors square off into warring camps, some betting Tesla is overburdened with debt and about to implode and others arguing we ain’t seen nothing yet and that the stock will be selling for $1000 per share soon enough.
Despite all the drama in the financial markets, Tesla continues to plunge headlong into the future. It seems that when it comes to planning how to move the transition away from fossil fuels forward, Musk and his merry band hardly ever stop to catch their breath.