When Benchmark Mineral Intelligence said Tesla would use LFP batteries on the Model 3 made at Giga Shanghai, that seemed like great news. LFP is cheaper and more resistant than lithium-ion cells despite the lower energy density. When the car was presented, it offered 468 km of range under the NEDC cycle – more than it had with Li-ion cells. The issue is that this range drops dramatically in cold weather, according to Sina Finance.
The Chinese website published an article with a Model 3 owner that claimed the range dropped from the 420 km it used to show to 241 km with only 5 percent of charge left. According to the same article, the reason for that is that Tesla did not test the cars with batteries long enough. Instead, it's relying on customers’ data to evaluate and improve the battery packs.
While testing for the 2170 battery pack took 23 months to complete, the LFP battery pack was put on sale in only 12 months, according to a Sina Finance source – a Tesla employee that recently left the company. CATL confirmed that it took only nine months between announcing the Model 3 with that battery pack and starting to supply LFP cells to Tesla.
Owners of the Model 3 with the LFP battery pack would have spread the information about the lower range to potential customers. That led them to search for units that still have the 2170 NMC cells for sale, but the stock would be increasingly smaller. That is something we never heard about: Tesla Service Centers having new car inventory. Tesla used to say it only produces a car that is already sold. These cars may be the ones rejected at a preliminary inspection, as it happens in the US, but we’ll probably never know.
Apart from the lower range, the article reports at least one case of severe battery degradation. A client from Shanghai who bought a Model 3 with LFP batteries at the end of October started to notice its range dropped from the 413 km it initially had to 353 km after a little more than two weeks.
When he took the car back to a Tesla Service Center to check his battery pack’s SOC (state of charge), it displayed only 46.2 kWh with a fully charged battery pack – a lot less than the 55 kWh it should hold.
Through a Weibo post after reducing the car prices on October 16, the company would have asked owners to fully charge at least once a week. Not only that: they should always charge to 100 percent whenever the car was plugged. That has led to longer lines at Superchargers.
A battery engineer interviewed by Sina Finance said that would eventually damage the battery packs. He even used a Chinese proverb that states that “eating too much reduces your lifespan.”
Apart from the Chinese clients affected by the issue, that also concerns us regarding the $25,000 Tesla, which will use the same LFP battery pack. Don't forget that Model 3 units with LFP batteries arrived in Europe on November 26.
They will be delivered very close to the beginning of the winter in some of the coldest European countries, such as Norway, Finland, and Sweden. If they are exactly like the ones sold in China, we’ll probably hear about these range issues in the Old Continent too.