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Tesla Seeks Asian Partnerships To Tackle Concerns About The 4680 Battery

Tesla Seeks Asian Partnerships To Tackle Concerns About The 4680 Battery
It's decision time at Tesla Inc, where Elon Musk is trying to figure out how to make better, cheaper batteries.
According to people familiar with the plans, the electric-vehicle maker is recruiting Chinese and Korean materials suppliers to help lower the cost and increase the energy of its newest battery cells, even as the company struggles with battery-related performance and production issues that have helped delay the launch of its futuristic Cybertruck.
According to unnamed sources, Tesla has hired China's Ningbo Ronbay New Energy and Suzhou Dongshan Precision Manufacturing to help cut materials costs as it ramps up production of 4680 battery cells in the United States.
The specifics of these arrangements were not previously disclosed.
If the Austin, Texas-based EV manufacturer can iron out the performance and process kinks while meeting its aggressive production targets, the 4680 could become the linchpin - rather than the choke point - in CEO Musk's dream of producing 20 million vehicles per year by 2030.
There were n o comments from Tesla and Musk.
According to one of the sources, Tesla has also signed a deal with Korea's L&F Co to supply high-nickel cathodes that could increase the energy density of its 4680 cells as part of its efforts.
According to two sources, the automaker intends to supplement its own output with 4680 cells from Korea's LG Energy Solution and Japan's Panasonic as an insurance policy to secure future EV production. According to one of the sources, LG and Panasonic are expected to supply Cybertruck with cells.
A battery shortage means that "the factories stall," Musk told investors in early March.
The new battery is expected to play an important role in the launch of the edgy, stainless-steel Cybertruck, the company's first new model in more than three years, later this year.
Tesla considered three battery options to ensure that the launch is not delayed again: smaller 2170 cells used in other Tesla models, 4680 cells, and less-expensive lithium iron phosphate cells, according to sources, but the EV maker preferred waiting until the 4680 cells are ready.
Tesla's Cybertruck battery strategy, including the use of 4680 cells and the consideration of other options, has not been disclosed.
Musk stated in 2022 that he does not anticipate 4680 batteries being a "limiting factor for Cybertruck or anything else."
The Tesla-designed 4680 cell (named after its external dimensions of 46mm diameter and 80mm length) is critical to future production plans.
According to the sources, Tesla intends to produce versions at factories in Texas, California, Nevada, and Berlin for use in vehicles ranging from the Model Y to the Cybertruck.
However, Musk admitted at Tesla's investor day on March 1 that the company is still struggling to ramp up the first wave of production.
Despite the immediate issues, some analysts remain optimistic that Tesla will resolve them.
"While execution risk remains and many details are unknown, Tesla's impact on the global battery industry may still be underestimated," Morgan Stanley said after investor day.
Musk first revealed the new cell in September 2020 at Battery Day. At the time, he promised a 50% reduction in cell cost through a series of innovations ranging from larger cell size to a new "dry" electrode coating process that could drastically reduce the size and cost of a battery factory while improving cell performance.
Delays in moving the new cell from the prototype phase to full-scale production have also delayed the release of the long-awaited Cybertruck, which was designed to take advantage of the cell's potential improvements in energy density and power – advances that have yet to materialize.
However, suppliers will need time to ramp up production.
Panasonic is operating a pilot 4680 production line at its Wakayama plant in Japan, with plans to begin volume production later in the fiscal year, which ends in March 2024.
Panasonic Energy's chief technology officer, Shoichiro Watanabe, stated last month that the company's new Kansas battery plant will initially focus on 2170 cells, but will eventually shift 4680 production to North America.
LG announced last year that it would open a new 4680 production line at its Ochang plant in Korea in the second half of 2023.
According to those involved, Tesla's first-generation 4680 cells, built at its Fremont, California, factory, failed to meet an energy density target.
The automaker has so far been able to dry-coat the anode - the negative electrode - but is still having difficulties dry-coating the cathode, where the most significant gains are expected, according to the sources.
According to Musk and company executives, Tesla's attempt to ramp up production of the dry coating process has resulted in only enough batteries for about 50,000 vehicles per year.
Musk stated in 2020 that Tesla would have enough 4680 capacity in-house to supply 1.3 million Model Ys.
While executives believe Tesla will be able to increase 4680 output fivefold by the end of the year, the company is hedging.
Musk believes that if Tesla has too many batteries this year, it will be a good problem to have. These can be used in the energy storage systems that it sells to utilities and consumers.
In Texas-built Model Ys, Tesla has also installed first-generation 4680 cells with "wet" cathodes in so-called structural packs. The older 2170 cells are used in the majority of those vehicles.
According to two sources, Tesla intends to use a cathode containing more than 90% nickel in the next generation of 4680 cells. According to another source, L&F is expected to be one of the suppliers of that high-nickel cathode.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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