Tesla Considering 800-Volt Systems For Semi & Cybertruck

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Tesla is considering using 800 volt architecture for the Cybertruck and the Semi, Drew Baglino, senior vice president of powertrain and energy engineering said during the Q1 earning call lasts week. But the company probably will not adopt 800 volt architecture for existing models.

His statement came in response to a questioner asking why Tesla is not fully onboard with 800 volt architecture when it is the standard for the Porsche Taycan, Audi e-tron GT, Hyundai Ioniq 5, and Kia EV6. (The new Lucid Air uses 900 volt architecture.)

Baglino admitted Tesla is looking at 800 volt architecture but that it is not a magic solution for every use case. According to Baglino, the advantages of the 800 volt system include higher charging power at the same amperage or smaller cables for the same charging power, but those pluses are “massively outweighed” by the additional costs associated with those higher voltages.

Baglino said, “For the smaller platform vehicles like 3 and Y, there are some wins and losses with 800 volts. Not everything is better. And so, we look at that platform, and we’re not, like, ignoring the reality that you can go to a higher voltage, but there’s nothing really encouraging us to do so on that platform.”

Then Elon Musk jumped in to add that going from 400 to 800 volts might save the company $100 per car but would add huge costs since all 33,000 chargers in the Tesla Supercharger network would have to be converted to operate on 800 volts if the changeover was made. In other words, changing horses in midstream could be a poor — and expensive — idea.

Tesla with its 400 volt architecture achieves comparable peak charging performance to the 800 volt architecture Hyundai and Kia use, but can only maintain that level for a short time. As a result, the charging time is a few minutes longer.

Baglino added that he sees more advantages than disadvantages for vehicles that require higher charging power or more torque. “There’s a little bit more semiconductor and actual conductor savings from going to the higher voltage. And so, we do consider that for Semi and Cybertruck. But for the 3/Y platform, where we’ve got everything running, the benefit is questionably small.”

The remarks by Baglino and Musk hint that 800 volt architecture may be chosen for the Cybertruck and Semi, both of which are scheduled to go into production at the Tesla gigafactory in Austin relatively soon. However, parsing the words of both men, a good bet is that if it appears at all, it will be part of the Semi, which will likely have its own dedicated charging infrastructure due to the size of its battery and need for higher-power charging.

Nothing in Muskland is ever certain until it actually happens, so it is probably best to take a “wait and see” attitude on the question of whether Tesla will elect to incorporate 800 volt architecture in any of its vehicles.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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