In the large plans of Tesla for the production of battery cells on a terawatt-hour scale, the early and long time will play an important role with only battery partners Panasonic, as is becoming increasingly clear. This June, the two companies extended their contract for the joint cell and battery gigafactory in the US state of Nevada until at least 2030 after having previously negotiated more capacity. And soon, according to a high manager, Panasonic plans to produce battery cells with a higher energy density and without cobalt for Tesla.
Tesla cells are said to be far ahead
The energy density of the cells in 2170 format produced for Tesla Model 3 and Model Y in the Gigafactory Nevada has already been increased by 5 percent, said the electric car boss at Panasonic for the USA to the news agency Reuters. Within the next five years, it should increase by a further 20 percent and a version without cobalt should be produced in two or three years. The current cobalt content in the Panasonic cells for Tesla is less than 5 percent and will be gradually reduced.
Exactly how the energy density is to be increased cannot be gathered from Panasonic’s statements quoted by Reuters. However, an increase of 20 percent within five years is not spectacular, even if there are already no denser battery cells on the market than that for Tesla from Nevada. The Panasonic manager gave no absolute value for it, but said that the density of its own NCA cells was more than twice that of average LFP cells. Reuters quotes researchers quoting more than 700 watt-hours per liter at Tesla, which only refers to density by volume, not weight.
No statements about Tesla models
According to Reuters, the Panasonic manager did not want to say for which Tesla models the improved cells should be used. It was also unclear when Tesla would turn it into larger batteries for one of its electric cars or stationary storage products for the first time (or at all). Observers speculate both on a battery with 100 kilowatt hours for Tesla Model 3 and Model Y and on more capacity for Model S and Model X; CEO Elon Musk has already confirmed them for new plaid versions of the two Premium Teslas.
Regardless of this, more energy density is desirable because it should also mean more capacity on existing systems with lower costs – exactly what Musk says he needs for an all-round sustainable energy future with Tesla.
CEO Musk relies on cell diversity
The increasing waiver of cobalt, which is also obtained under sometimes questionable conditions, should also save money. According to reports, Tesla had secured up to 6,000 tons of it a year from the raw material giant Glencore, from controlled mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – some of which is intended for cell production in the emerging Tesla gigafactory near Berlin be.
According to the Tesla environmental report from this year, the long-term plan is still to do without cobalt altogether. As the statements of the Panasonic manager show, this also seems to be possible with cell chemicals that have previously relied on the raw material. In China, Tesla can now be supplied with CATL LFP cells for the smallest Model 3; these have a lower density than the cell family referred to as lithium ions, but are cheaper and do not require cobalt from the outset. From the Panasonic side, it was similar to what the Tesla boss recently said that different electric cars have different battery requirements.