When Tesla unveiled its 4680 battery cells at the Battery Day event in 2020, the company announced a new, tab-less 4680 cell form factor which would increase energy density, maintain similar thermal characteristics of smaller cells, improve the power-to-weight ratio, streamline manufacturing, and lower cost.
At the Giga Texas opening ceremony, Tesla did not share the specs of the refreshed Model Y, and all the vehicles at the time went to Tesla employees. According to the Battery Day presentation, the 4680 cells and structural battery pack design were expected to increase vehicle range by as much as 54%, decrease the weight of the vehicle, improve acceleration, and be less expensive and more sustainable to produce.
In late 2020, Musk announced that Tesla aimed to halve the costs of the most expensive part of an EV by producing its own batteries. Tesla’s 4680 lithium-ion batteries — with 46-millimeter diameter and 80-millimeter length — hold about 5 times the energy of its current smaller 2170 cells. Tesla can use a smaller number of new cells for the same energy and driving range, reducing costs.
Since the Battery Day company event, updates on the 4680 battery innovations have been fairly hush-hush.
Instead, the 2170 cells used in the Model Y and produced in the Fremont Factory and Gigafactory Berlin have taken center stage. Tesla’s last-generation 2170 cells are in non-structural battery packs that offer a 318-mile EPA range, 4.8 0 to 60 mph time, and come at a starting price of $67,990 in the Model Y package.
In January, Panasonic announced its intention to invest $700 million to expand its battery factory in Wakayama prefecture, Japan, and bring in new equipment to manufacture the new 4680 battery cells developed by Tesla. When completed, the factory will be capable of producing about 10 gigawatt-hours per year of the new batteries, enough to power about 150,000 electric vehicles. That is about 20% of the company’s total battery manufacturing capacity from its factories in Japan, the US, and other countries.
At the beginning of this year, Tesla employees celebrated the milestone of one million 4680 cylindrical lithium-ion battery cells. The cells are part of the structural battery packs to be incorporated into the all-electric company’s catalog, beginning with the Model Y vehicles produced at Giga Texas.
At this writing, the Austin plant is Tesla’s sole plant that is building cars using structural batteries.
Samsung SDI is Preparing a Pilot for Tesla 4680 Batteries
Samsung SDI is configuring a pilot line at its Cheonan, South Korea, plant to test 4680 cylinder batteries it will supply to Tesla, according to information released by South Korea’s The Elec. The plant will prepare at least two versions of the battery, with the alternative version reported to be shorter than 80 mm in length. The actual mass production line will likely be built at Samsung SDI’s battery plant in Seremban, Malaysia.
Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong confirmed the production of the 4680 battery cells during a recent European visit.
The pilot line being prepared at Cheonan has an annual capacity slightly below 1 GWh with 20 ppm production speed. The aim is to increase production speed to between 200 to 300 ppm, which will equal between 8GWh to 12GWh of annual production capacity.
Samsung SDI added 2170 cylinder battery production there last year. The plant began making cylinder batteries back in 2012.
Really Fast Model Y Charging with 4680 Battery Cells
Meanwhile, a Tesla Model Y owner attests that a Texas-made Tesla Model Y with 4680 battery cells has been able to complete a charging session from 0% to 97% in 52 minutes.
Relating the view that “electric cars aren’t the future, they are here & now,” Ryan Levenson of The Kilowatts designed an experiment in which he drove the Model Y until its battery showed 0 miles of range. No limiters were revealed when Levenson reached 0 miles. Then Levenson plugged into a Supercharger V3 station. The entrepreneur noted that the Texas-made Model Y’s charging curve immediately jumped to 250 kW when it was plugged in, as compared to previous Tesla data that indicated a more gradual increase to 250 kW.
In under an hour, the Model Y gained 270 miles of range, consistent with the Dual Motor Model Y specs of 279 miles range per charge on a full battery.
In an email to Teslarati, Levenson mused about the yet unexplored possibilities of the 4680 battery cells.
“Collecting this data opens more questions for me rather than answering them. Like why was my regenerative braking not limited even when the pack was full, and why wasn’t my acceleration limited when I was near empty? For me, it’s indicating that there’s something big we don’t yet know or understand about the 4680 pack. Sure, it’s wishful thinking, but it absolutely could mean there’s more capacity to these new Austin-built Dual Motor Model Ys than Tesla is advertising or letting us access at this time.”
While not a peer-reviewed research study, Levenson’s experiment suggests that Tesla’s 4680-equipped electric cars have some capabilities and advantages that have not been fully revealed by Tesla.
The claim supports a statement from Munro & Associates, which purchased a Texas-based Model Y for research purposes.
Our Austin built @Tesla Model Y is here! We have had it for less than 24 hours and the teardown has already begun. #MunroLive #SandyMunro #TeardownTitan pic.twitter.com/nL37jxmzV9
— Munro Live (@live_munro) June 30, 2022
According to new sources, Tesla has begun selling a second variant of the refreshed Model Y with 4680 cells & structural battery pack. The new vehicle, produced in Giga Texas, is a Model Y Long Range and starts $9,500 cheaper than the Long Range Model Y produced at Tesla’s Fremont California plant.
The 4680 Battery Cells on the Production Line
The Tesla team didn’t just look at one angle but all the angles: cell design, manufacturing, vehicle integration, and materials. The Battery Day intended outcomes have the potential to increase Tesla vehicles’ range while being more economical; the plan is to halve the cost per kilowatt-hour.
Major Chinese battery firms including CATL, EVE, and BAK Battery plan to start mass production of the 4680 cylindrical battery model this year. So, too, are LG and others.
The growing demand for rechargeable batteries that are fully scalable and sustainable are leading researchers to a holistic, closed-loop infrastructure for materials discovery, manufacturing and battery testing. It will likely take common data infrastructure and autonomous workflows to bridge big data from all domains of the battery value chain in order to provide a transformative reduction in the required time to discovery.
Multi-sensory and self-healing capabilities in future battery technologies, as well as integration physics-aware machine learning models capable of predicting the spatio-temporal evolution of battery materials and interfaces, are quite sought after. Success in this R&D will make it possible to identify, predict, and prevent potential degradation and failure modes. The result will be enhanced battery quality, reliability, and life.
Such successes will have to be strong enough to match a specific cell design like the Tesla 4680 battery cell without compromising the quality, reliability, and life of the battery cell.
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