Home Automotive Tesla taps Asian partners to address 4680 battery concerns

Tesla taps Asian partners to address 4680 battery concerns

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It’s a critical time at Tesla, where Elon Musk is trying to crack the code to make better, cheaper batteries.

An electric car maker is looking to material suppliers from China and South Korea to lower the cost and boost energy of its latest battery cells, but the company is struggling with battery-related performance and production issues. It helped delay the launch of future Cybertrucks, according to people familiar with the plans.

Tesla is using China’s Ningbo Longbei New Energy and Suzhou Dongshan Precision Manufacturing to ramp up production of 4,680 battery cells in the U.S., thus reducing material costs, the sources said, asking not to be named. Told the conditions.

Details of these arrangements have not been previously reported.

If the Austin, Texas-based EV maker can figure out performance and process issues and meet ambitious production targets, the 4680 will eventually build CEO Musk’s dream of 20 million cars a year. It’s not a choke point, it could be a cornerstone. 2030.

Neither Tesla nor Musk could be reached for comment.

As part of that effort, Tesla also signed a deal with South Korea’s L&F Co to supply high-nickel cathodes that could boost the energy density of the company’s 4680 cells, one of the sources said.

The automaker aims to boost its output with 4680 cells from South Korea’s LG Energy Solutions and Japan’s Panasonic. This is insurance to secure his EV production in the future. LG and Panasonic will supply cells for Cybertruck, one of the sources said.

A battery shortage would mean “factories shut down,” Musk told investors in early March.

The new battery is expected to play a key role in the edgy stainless steel Cybertruck’s launch later this year, the company’s first new model in over three years.

Tesla was looking at three battery options to avoid delaying the launch again. The smaller He 2170 cells, 4680 cells, and cheaper lithium iron phosphate cells that are widely used in other Tesla models. a source said.

No details were reported about Tesla’s Cybertruck battery strategy, including the use of 4680 cells and consideration of other options.

In 2022, Musk said he didn’t expect 4,680 batteries to be “the limiting factor for things like Cybertruck.”

The Tesla-designed 4680 cell — named for its external dimensions (46mm diameter, 80mm length) — is important to future production plans. Tesla plans to build versions for use in vehicles ranging from the Model Y to the Cybertruck at factories in Texas, California, Nevada and Berlin, sources said.

But Tesla is still struggling to launch its first wave of production, Musk admitted at Tesla’s Investor Day on March 1.

‘Tesla’s influence is underestimated’

Despite the pressing problems, some analysts are optimistic that Tesla will solve these problems.

Morgan Stanley said after Investor Day, “While execution risks remain and many details are unknown, Tesla’s impact on the global battery industry may still be underestimated.

Musk first unveiled the new cells at Battery Day in September 2020. At that event, he will reduce the size and cost of battery factories by increasing cell size, while dramatically improving cell performance.

Repeated delays in moving new cells from the initial prototype stage into full-scale production have led to the highly anticipated introduction of the Cybertruck, designed to take advantage of potential improvements in cell energy density and power output. has also been postponed. Embody.

But it takes time for suppliers to start production.

Panasonic is running a pilot production line for the 4680 at its Wakayama factory in Japan, and plans to begin mass production in the second half of the fiscal year ending March 2024.

Shoichiro Watanabe, chief technology officer at Panasonic Energy, said last month that the company’s new Kansas battery plant will initially focus on 2,170 cells, but will eventually shift production to North America for 4,680 cells.

Last year, LG plans to open a new 4680 production line at its Ochang factory in South Korea in late 2023.

Tesla’s first-generation 4680 cells, built at its Fremont, Calif., factory, failed to meet energy density targets, officials say.

So far, automakers have been able to dry coat the anode (negative electrode), but there are still problems with dry coating the cathode, where the biggest gains are expected, sources said.

Tesla’s attempts to scale up production of the dry-paint process have so far yielded only enough batteries for about 50,000 cars a year, Musk and company executives said.

Musk said in 2020 Tesla will have 4680 in-house capacity, enough to supply 1.3 million Model Ys.

Management says Tesla could likely increase 4680 production by a factor of five by the end of the year, but the company is hedging.

Musk is betting if Tesla has too many batteries this year, which is a good thing. They could be used in energy storage systems that it sells to utilities and consumers.

Tesla is also installing first-generation 4680 cells with “wet” cathodes in so-called structural packs in its Texas-built Model Y. Most of these vehicles use older 2170 cells.

Tesla plans to use cathodes with more than 90% nickel in its next-generation 4680 cell, two sources said. L&F is expected to become one of its high-nickel cathode suppliers, another source said.

(Reporting by Zoey Zhang, China and Hyunjoo Jin, San Francisco. Additional reporting by Norihiko Shiratsu, Austin, TX, and Daniel Leussink, Tokyo. Additional reporting by Paul Lienert, Detroit. Editing by Ben Klayman and Matthew Lewis.)

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