Many rumors on the internet can best be ignored. That is especially true for rumors about electric cars and Tesla. To base this article on a rumor is because of the source, and because it is logical and more or less expected to happen.
First, there’s the rumor of standard range Model 3 & Y vehicles getting LFP batteries in Fremont. Tesla already has experience with this configuration in China. It is not such a big shock for those who follow the Tesla news closely. It creates room for lower prices or a bit more range.
The rumor is,
• Fremont will start using LFP cells from China for Standard Range Model 3/Y from Oct 1st, 2021 and
• Model Y production in Texas/Berlin will start with 2170 cells instead of 4680.
— Troy Teslike (@TroyTeslike) August 21, 2021
Confusing? Not really, the LFP batteries are cheaper. A battery that is a bit larger than the current NCA batteries can still be cheaper. LFP batteries are heavier and need more room, but the battery space is big enough for the normal Long Range battery — it will fit. The Model Y Standard Range was not being produced, because the same NCA battery as is in the Model 3 could not give enough range for Elon’s standards. Tesla does not sell short-range vehicles, or slow vehicles, or dull vehicles. A bigger NCA battery would make the Model Y too expensive. A bigger LFP battery, however, can give the extra range while keeping the production costs the same or even lower. Looking at it this way, the real question is, what took Tesla so long?
The other rumor is that Giga Austin and Giga Brandenburg will start by using 2170 batteries. This is also very logical. The battery factories at these new sites will likely not be ready before the second half of next year.
There was the expectation that Cato Road would be the supplier for the first vehicles produced in the two new gigafactories. But Cato Road is an R&D facility with a pilot line. To optimize the production process for the new battery factories, the Cato Road facility needs the freedom to stop and start the line when they alter it, to experiment.
There is a fundamental difference between the mindsets of people working in R&D and people working in production. In R&D, it is all about experiments and improving the process. In production, it is all about not disturbing the production process flow. In all the software shops I have worked in (many), R&D can’t cooperate with production. And for production, nothing is as scary as a developer trying to “update” their process.
Making Cato Road responsible for the supply of 4680 cells to Austin and Brandenburg would essentially halt the development. But the development has to shift to high gear to get the production process for the new factories optimized.
With Fremont switching to LFP for the standard range versions of the Models 3 & Model Y, there is capacity in Sparks to produce 2170 cells for Austin and Brandenburg.
That makes this a believable rumor, and even expected in private speculation.
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