Tesla Battery Day: Elon Musk Touts New Advances

Elon Musk and Tesla have finally held their long awaited battery event on Tuesday, and made a number of announcements.

The announcements included a new Plaid powertrain for the Model S in late 2021 that will be capable of 200mph; a ‘tabless’ battery cells design for improved range and performance; a move towards eliminating cobalt in its batteries altogether; a new cathode plant to streamline its battery production; and finally Tesla is aiming to make a $25,000 (£19,600) car.

But the announcements fell flat of Musk’s earlier promise to investors that the technology revealed at the battery day “will blow your mind”, and that coupled with no announcement about the “million mile” battery, saw $50bn wiped off the car maker’s stock market value.

Battery production

As mentioned before, expectations had been high for the battery day event, which originally been scheduled for April.

However the Coronavirus pandemic pushed it back until May, and then September this year.

In order to comply with social distancing rules, Musk’s speech took place in front of 240 shareholders – each sitting in a Tesla Model 3.

So what exactly did Elon Musk and Tesla reveal to the world at the event?

Well for a long time now Tesla has been struggling with battery production issues, mostly because of the car maker’s dependence on materials such as lithium and cobalt, and the company’s lack of manufacturing capacity.

But in Tesla’s Battery Day announcement, the company may be about to overcome both of these bottlenecks.

Musk reportedly said Tesla will build a new cathode plant for its batteries in North America, and is also making improvements to its process that will make cathodes 76 percent cheaper, and produce zero wastewater.

The company also plans to diversify the cathodes it uses, because of low nickel supplies.

Tesla also plans to eliminate the use of cobalt in its cathodes, but Musk didn’t offer a timeline for when it will stop using cobalt. However Musk did say this move will make its batteries significantly cheaper.

Tabless batteries

Another announcement concerned so called ‘tabless’ batteries, which Tesla plans to manufacture on its own, which is not the news that current Tesla battery supplier Panasonic was hoping to hear.

These new ‘tabless’ batteries effectively eliminate the tab that connects the cell to what the battery is actually powering.

By bringing the manufacturing of these new types of batteries in house, Musk is hoping to reduce costs and close the price difference between electric vehicles (EVs) and petrol powered cars.

The new design is also expected to improve its vehicles’ range and power.

Indeed, Tesla believes removing the tab will make its batteries provide five times more energy, six times more power and 16 percent greater driving range.

Cheap and not so cheap

This ties into Musk’s comments about Tesla’s plan reduce the cost of its battery cells and packs, as part of its ultimate goal of building a $25,000 electric car.

Musk has promised this before, much will depend on whether the new ‘tabless’ design, coupled with removing cobalt, to allow Tesla to halve the price per kilowatt-hour.

And Musk also revealed the Plaid powertrain, which will appear in the Model S Plaid in late 2021 – a vehicle that will cost a hefty $139,990.

This new Plaid powertrain will effectively give this particular Model S a range of 520 miles, as well as a 0-60mph acceleration in under two seconds.

It will also give the Model S a top speed of 200mph.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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