Tesla's new 4680 cylindrical lithium-ion battery cells were officially outlined during the Tesla Battery Day in September. They are not only bigger than the 2170-type used currently, but also built differently, with the shingle spiral approach.
This new cell design is one of the key solutions to improve EV battery systems in basically all aspects, including the most important energy density and cost.
Tesla already has a pilot plant for the 4680 batteries in California and a plan to produce there the cells at rate of 10 GWh annually, in late 2021.
The broader plan is for 100 GWh annually at some point in 2022. That would mean that somewhere there must be a new plant for at least 90 GWh annually, which would be the world's largest EV battery plant.
We know that Tesla intends to produce lithium-ion batteries at the Giga Austin plant (currently under construction), thanks to filings to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), reported by Austin Business Journal.
"TCEQ spokesman Brian McGovern confirmed to Austin Business Journal that the filings from Tesla indicate it is "planning to manufacture cells.""
"...documents filed with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reference plans for cell production, including an air quality analysis and a permit-by-rule registration."
It would be an obvious choice as Tesla will need a lot of batteries for new EVs at the site. However, battery production is probably not envisioned in the initial stage.
According to Kevin Tynan, senior automotive analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence:
“What it looks like from what I've seen of the building plans and the permits … is the cell manufacturing isn't the first stage. I think they would more grow into that as they get the Cybertruck or Model Y production up, and they can see that the demand is legitimately there to have that battery or cell manufacturing facility."
If the company will start in 2021, will it be ready by the end of 2022? The Full 90 GWh? Or just part of the capacity?
By the way, the question is what will be the role of Panasonic in the switch to 4680? The Japanese company is also working on this type of battery now, specifically developing the manufacturing line. Does this mean that we will see 4680 production at the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada or rather a new joint project in Texas (or both)?
As there are more questions than answers, let's take a look at the progress of construction of the Giga Austin:
Tesla Gigafactory 5 in Austin, Texas:
- started on July 17, 2020, and announced on July 23, 2020
- Cybertruck: in development, unveiled in late 2019, production from late 2021
- Model Y: an additional production site in the U.S. (no word about the Model 3)
- Semi: in development. To be launched in 2021, but (not yet confirmed for Texas)
2,481 acres of land (2,100 acres initially plus additional 381 acres acquired in September 2020)