When Elon Musk talked about a future $25,000 EV at Tesla Battery Day, he gave us the impression the new electric car would have the new 4680 cells. The truth is it will not, according to a Tesla slide shown at the event. The 4680 batteries will be exclusive to mass-sensitive vehicles, such as the Cybertruck and Semi, at least initially. Current Tesla vehicles will remain with the 2170 cells. For the $25,000 Tesla, there’s LFP.
Have a look at the image below. It clearly presents the future entry-level Tesla beside the most affordable Tesla Model 3, which will use LFP (lithium iron phosphate) batteries. Not only have we told you about that with the help of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, Tesla also confirmed that at the time and in the slide we brought back to your attention.
In that image, you can see Tesla reports “iron-based” batteries will aim for long cycle life, something LFP batteries are known for. Apart from the $25,000 Tesla and the Chinese Model 3 with these batteries, it seems Tesla Megapacks will also use them.
In the middle, you see that nickel and manganese batteries have the goal to offer long ranges. They are the NMC 2170 cells that are in all current Tesla cars and on Powerwalls.
The same slide shows that the 4680 cells are called “high nickel” and are destined to the Cybertruck and the Semi. Both of them are vehicles meant for work and transportation: the lighter they are, the further they can carry stuff around. In the Semi’s case, that’s its very reason for existing.
If the $25,000 Tesla can use LFP, why not start producing them in China tomorrow? That’s simple: although the car will not use the 4680 cells, it will have mega castings and its battery pack as part of its body structure.
Those changes alone count for 7 percent of the 56 percent reduction on the price of batteries per kWh. Applied to a much cheaper battery chemistry, those savings can bring the car price to the target Tesla has.
That said, the LFP Tesla Model 3 will tell us much more about the future entry-level Tesla than the 4680 batteries will at this point. Things can change until it is finally revealed and wherever it will be produced, but either Tesla's plan is clear at this point or the slide is wrong. Let’s see how the Chinese market reacts to the new chemistry when finally put for sale there in a Tesla.