Tesla Model S, Model X and Gen 3: 2 Billion Lithium-Ion Battery Cells Deployment Graph

OCT 31 2013 BY MARK KANE 15

Panasonic's 18650 lithium-ion cell for Tesla Model S

Panasonic’s 18650 lithium-ion cell for Tesla Model S

Yesterday, the EV world was electrified by news of the Tesla-Panasonic deal, which calls for Panasonic to supply nearly 2 billion automotive-grade lithium-ion battery cells to Tesla over the course of four years.

Lets think of how many vehicles Tesla could produce by end of 2017 to fully utilize those cells.

First off, we know that by the end of June 2013, Panasonic delivered over 100 million cells for Tesla Model S sedans:

“Panasonic Corporation today announced [Jun 12, 2013] that shipments of its automotive-grade lithium-ion battery cells for Tesla Motors’ premium, all-electric Model S sedan will surpass 100 million units by the end of this month.”

We understand that this figure does not account for battery cells used in the 2,500 Roadster and other projects, which easily could amount to 20 million additional cells.

As the end of June, Tesla delivered over 13,000 Model S, so on average there are roughly 7,700 cells per one car – probably less because of the unknown number of vehicles that were produced but not yet delivered.

Perhaps the average is closer to 7,000?  Let’s assume this number is close to correct.

There will probably be similar average of cells used in the Tesla Model X, but the Gen 3 Tesla (aka Model E) will likely use 6,000 or less – especially since that cells potentially could store more energy by the time that vehicle is released.

Anyways. let’s now look on aq basic linear progress graph (unlikely to happen) in which Tesla must increase production rate by approximately 140 million of cells every year:

Scenario 1

Scenario 1

On the second graph we see a scenario in which the ramp-up of Gen 3 come on in 2017 (half of the ordered cells must be utilized then):

Scenario 2

Scenario 2

In this case, 2014 production of the Model S and X would be at around 35,000 units and by 2015, at maybe 50,000.  The year after (2016) that will see a mix of vehicles, including Model S, Model X and Gen 3, but the total production figure will have to be somewhere in the 100,000-unit range.

In 2017, all hell breaks loose.  900 million cells would be enough for 60,000 Model S and Model X vehicles and almost 100,000 Gen 3s.  Again, these guesses are based on the assumption of cells per vehicle, which is not a set-in-stone figure.

How it will all work out, we don’t know, but this deal announcement basically states that sales will exceed 100,000 units annually in 2017.  Sales will hit that level if Tesla actually makes use of every cell included in the deal.

Is these targets possible? Or maybe you see it working out in a different way?

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15 Comments on "Tesla Model S, Model X and Gen 3: 2 Billion Lithium-Ion Battery Cells Deployment Graph"

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I’m really surprised that Tesla is still using 18650 cells when the rest of the industry is not. Even the laptop manufacturers have moved away from that design because they are space inefficient. After all, no matter how you put them together there is always going to be empty space between them. So unless you need that space for liquid cooling or something, it seems like flat cells would be more desirable to make the battery pack smaller.

Don’t get me wrong. I see an obvious benefit of buying a used Tesla. It virtually guarantees Tesla battery packs can be refurbished by just about anyone with some skill by replacing the cells with off-the-shelf 18650 cells. Replacing cells in a Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf would require new parts from the manufacturer.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

What other, more efficient formfactor has the production capacity and economies of scale of the 18650? Which offers the highest energy density and lowest cost per kWh?

Tesla has huge advantage on the choice of EV batteries as the price is significantly cheaper per kWh and it is getting down rapidly due to economy of scale. Also Tesla’s choice scales well to the larger battery packs. Only BYD has managed to bring on markets 60 kWh EV but it is priced almost as high as Model S and it lacks all the luxury performance of Model S. BYD e6 weights 2.4 tons! Mercedes will bring new €300k electric supercar into market in 2014 and that has also 60 kWh battery. But this two seater weights as much as seven seater Model S. No traditional car manufacturer can match the 85 kWh Model S in several years.

Flat Notebook cells are lightweight, but mechanical unstable.

Space isn’t a problem for well designed EVs, especially the Model S. All that matters is cost per kWh, provided cycle life is good enough (500 cycles is all Tesla needs, and Panasonic has published data that their EV-tuned cells can do much better).

Pouch cells will probably be cheaper eventually, but not yet, and Tesla doesn’t mind doing some re-engineering down the line for big savings today. GM and Nissan seem to have different views.

You can’t simply drop a standard 18650 cell into a Tesla pack – while the size of Tesla cells is the same, there are significant differences in endcap design.

David Space inefficiency is exactly the reason Tesla use 18650 cells. It’s less likely to have chain reaction if one cell ignites when you have isolated cells.

This is all based on the assumption that the individual cells wont become more power dense between now and 2017. I don’t think there will be revolutionary jumps (2x, 4x or 8x energy capacity) before 2017, but 3-5%/year doesn’t seem entirely unlikely. If this happens we have two options – packs can increase in total energy storage capacity (likely for the Model S and X), or the pack can use less cells for the same capacity (likely for the Gen 3 vehicles). This would mean Model S/X vehicles use the same number of cells per car, and the Gen 3 car would use less. So in the second scenario of 100K Gen 3 cars, we could see that number increase by 5-10% overall.

3-5% is a reasonable guess. However, I would prefer to see a reduction in weight for a given kWh target. Weight reduction is a virtuous cycle in that decreasing the weight, decreases the energy needed. A 250-275 mile battery is good enough for about 95% of all driving so I’d rather haul less weight than get more miles. Consider the extreme case – would you want to haul around a 1000 mile battery pack for your daily commute?

What would be really good is the ability to have a “booster” pack that doubled your miles for trips. Maybe even on a rental basis. Say the base car has a 200 mile pack and you can add on another 200 mile pack.

I’m less concerned about range in good conditions (I think 250-300 miles is fine), and more concerned about range in adverse conditions (cold NE winters).

How many cells will be used for replacements? 1%, 5%, 10%, 20%?

Tesla will sell 35,000-40,000 Model S next year. I believe the release said fr S & X. I expect with the X will also come a higher capacity pack, perhaps not from day 1 and with higher energy cells.

Don’t forget some of these cells will go into grid storage for Supercharger sites and others too. There is a joint pilot project with Solar City that uses a Tesla battery system. So, not all the cells have to go into cars.

There are also the potential deals with other battery suppliers that could go through. These other suppliers could even supply batteries of a different form factor if Tesla goes a different route for Gen 3.

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