Report: German Model Y starts with China cells from LG Chem – Revolution postponed?

In view of the prevailing scarcity, one of the most important questions about electric cars is always where the battery cells should come from – and this also applies to Tesla, although the pioneer dealt with this core aspect earlier and more intensively than any other manufacturer. For the Tesla Model Y from the Gigafactory near Berlin, it was said in between that it would initially be equipped with cells from a pilot production next to the Fremont plant in the USA – the company’s own 4680 format is a prerequisite for integrating the batteries as an integral part of the vehicle structure to be able to. But now it is reported that German Model Y will initially receive cells from LG Chem in China; this should mean a more conventional construction for the time being.

LG Chem plans to double production in China

The news agency Reuters reported on Tesla’s new battery plans together with LG Chem on Tuesday – and they are otherwise tough. According to this, the South Korean company’s cell production capacity for Tesla in China is to be more than doubled in the coming year. And some of these cells, like others from South Korea, are to be exported not only to Model Y to Germany, but also to Tesla in the USA, Reuters writes, citing two informed people.

“Tesla just doesn’t have enough cells,” one of them is quoted, “so LG Chem will more than double its production in China.” At Battery Day at the end of September, CEO Elon Musk presented an internally developed cell in XL format 4680, the is designed for high performance together with efficient production. Tesla wants to produce these itself by the terawatt hour, but Musk also made it clear that the cooperation with the previous suppliers LG Chem, CATL and Panasonic will be continued and expanded. All three then showed interest in the production of the large Tesla cells as well.

According to Musk, their own batteries have another special feature: They are large and stable enough to be part of the supporting structure of electric cars in a sandwich construction with panels above and below. He presented this principle at the Battery Day and later added that it would also be used in the Tesla Model Y from the German Gigafactory. It is now also known that cell production in the factory in Grünheide will be the largest in the world. But that has not even been applied for, and at the end of October, head of technology Drew Baglino mentioned that Tesla could initially use 4680 cells from the pilot production facility in Fremont, which is also slowly ramping up, for the beginning production of the batteries in the German Model Y.

Normal cells for German Tesla Model Y

That made two things seem clear: The cells for the Tesla Model Y from Giga Berlin will initially come from the USA (expected in mid-2021), and they will be installed as part of the “revolutionary” sandwich structure described by Musk. But if the current Reuters report is correct, then this revolution has probably been postponed for the time being: LG Chem should not succeed in getting the mass production of the new cell under control before Tesla itself, which Musk has described as extremely difficult. And if the German factory is initially supplied with conventional cells (or finished batteries from them), the floor of the Model Y could not initially be built as a battery sandwich.

That in turn would mean that Tesla would have to fundamentally change production in Germany after the start if the battery format changes. But Musk now seems to prefer that to waiting with the Gigafactory launch until Tesla itself or another company can supply enough 4680 cells for the Model Y.


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