The internet is a strange and mysterious place. Once upon a time, if a company had a new product, it would issue a press release and trumpet the news to the heavens and beyond. Tesla, as we all know, does things differently. It shuns sharing any news beyond what is incorporated into a tweet by Elon Musk. Fortunately, there are people online like Reddit user u/space_s3x who spotted a change on the Tesla Megapack webpage.
Until recently, each Megapack was listed as having 2.6 MWh of energy storage capacity. Now, with no fanfare, that page says each Megapack is rated at 3.9 MWh of storage capacity — a nearly 50% increase. How did that happen? According to Tesmanian, the new Megapack units are bigger and heavier than before. At 33,000 pounds, they weigh 64% more. They are also 6 feet longer, 2 inches wider, and 1 foot taller than their predecessors.
Last year, Tesla broke ground for a new Megapack factory in Lathrop, California. At that time, the speculation on the internet was that the units produced there would be larger and utilize LFP battery cells supplied by CATL. At that time, Musk said, “However, stationary storage, the energy density is not as important because it’s just staying on the ground, and so I think the vast majority of stationary storage will be iron-based lithium-ion cells with an iron-phosphate cathode, technically. But the phosphate part is unnecessary. It’s really just the iron or lithium.”
With the cost of nickel skyrocketing today, it is likely the emphasis now is on iron, which is still abundant and readily obtainable. In fact, the best source may be all the old iron engine blocks and cylinder heads of internal combustion engines discarded in auto recycling yards around the world.
Lithium-ion battery cells made with nickel, manganese, and/or cobalt have higher energy densities than iron-based batteries, so more LFP cells are needed to get the same energy storage ability. If a battery pack is going into a truck or a car, that is a problem. Heavier vehicles need heavier frames, heavier suspension and steering components, and heavier brakes. If it is going into a grid-scale energy storage system, though, all that is needed is to make sure the concrete foundation it rests on is engineered to handle the extra weight.
With the newly passed Inflation Reduction Act going into effect, the renewable energy sector in the United States is likely to see a significant increase in the number of wind and solar farms installed. Battery storage is often a major component of those installations, which means the demand for Tesla Megapacks is likely to enjoy an increase as well. Elon Musk has said the company’s energy storage business could equal or exceed its vehicle manufacturing business some day. Thanks to the new tax credits that are part of the IRA, that day may be closer than ever.
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