By Jim Ringold
Don’t take all this as gospel, since it is not official, and lots of info “out there” turns out to be incorrect, but photos are fairly reliable if you can believe your eyes.
It is well understood that Tesla likes to make its own components to reduce dependence on others, a clear result of how Elon Musk sees and approaches work. This is quite the opposite of the big two (Ford and GM), which farm out every piece of the car they can. Tesla started making seats for its cars when availability and customization from existing manufacturers was limited. Tesla’s seats are now great! The same is also true of their electric motors and gearboxes and suspension components, made in house. So, it’s only consistent that it would be Musk’s desire for Tesla to make its own vehicle batteries as well, instead of having a vendor make batteries to their specification.
Tesla has plenty of battery demand to satisfy its original Gigafactory partner, Panasonic. There are the Powerwall batteries and the bigger battery packs for utilities, among other things that use the original battery size. However, better batteries for its cars and trucks were desired. And more production.
The “prototype” battery factory for the upcoming Tesla 4680 vehicle battery is known by Tesla as the “Kato Road Facility.” It is located in Fremont, quite close to the original Tesla car factory that was purchased from former associate Toyota. A Tesla battery factory is also under construction at Giga Berlin, originally designated as a warehouse to get the provisional building permit from the German, fax machine–using bureaucracy. Tesla says all the high-speed production equipment has been ordered for Germany and Giga Texas based on the designs perfected at the Kato Road prototype. The video below includes an arial image of the Tesla battery factory that is part of Giga Texas. Notice that it is further along than Giga Berlin.
The big news: The reliable yield in the Tesla Prototype Kato Road Battery Factory is now reported to be high enough for profitable production. Some manufacturing processes are being smoothed out as the battery output speed is increased. The current output is being used for battery testing, vehicle installation design, and inventory for upcoming and unnamed vehicles (Cybertruck, Semi, and others).
A battery cathode production factory at Giga Texas is just breaking ground. It will convert raw material to usable cathodes to support the starting capacity of 500,000 vehicles a year. Some raw cathode material will come from a new South Carolina mine.
For those not following the details, these factories will produce the Tesla 4680 battery that will likely become one of two standard batteries for Tesla vehicles. It is a steel jacket battery, and will become a structural component between the front and rear chassis castings — another Tesla, industry-first innovation. With initial production at each factory starting at batteries for half a million vehicles, that makes it a one-million-vehicle production capacity between the two factories for starters.
Mr. Musk has described the batteries coming out of these facilities “like bullets.” Indeed, and they are aiming at the competition. And we haven’t even discussed the performance of this 4680 battery!