Samsung SDI's works on the all-new 46xx-type cylindrical battery cells progress toward series production.
According to The Elec's, Choi Hoon - Samsung SDI’s general manager of China - told Chinese media that the 46 mm diameter batteries "were in the research stages and the design will be finalized next year."
4680 is a cylindrical form factor with a diameter of 46 mm and a height of 80 mm, introduced by Tesla. The 46xx is a more general mark for version with different height.
Previous unofficial reports indicated that Samsung SDI is developing more than one 46xx battery - a 4680 and one shorter cell. The Elec notes also that taller cells (90 mm or 120 mm) are also under consideration.
Rumors say that a pilot line for the new round cells will be built at the company's Cheonan plant in South Korea. It's expected to have 1 GWh of annual manufacturing capacity. A production facility will be built in Seremban, Malaysia (8-12 GWh/year), at the Samsung SDI's existing plant, which makes 2170-type cells.
Probably the most interesting thing is that Samsung SDI intends to use a high-nickel cathode (over 90% content) and silicon anode, although the initial energy density might not be as high as the company's current top prismatic cells.
"Choi said they will use high-nickel cathode with over 90% nickel and silicon anode. The module will have an energy density of 520Wh/L, the manager said, which will be 78% of that of Samsung SDI’s Gen 5 prismatic batteries."
However, we must take into account that the new battery pack architecture (without modules and potentially structural cells), might be more energy dense anyway.
While nothing is officially confirmed, it seems that Samsung SDI is seriously interested in the 46xx form factor, which could result in supply agreements with Tesla or BMW, which recently announced the use of two 46xx types: two different heights: 95 and 120 mm.
Tesla already produces its own 4680 cells in the US, while Panasonic is expected to invest heavily in the production of 4680-type. We know that LG Energy Solution is also engaged in the development of the 4680-type.
BMW already has selected two manufacturing partners for its 46xx (4695 and 46120): CATL and EVE Energy. We guess that Samsung SDI is the favorite to become the third partner and build at least one gigafactory in North America.
That would bring us to a total of at least six battery manufacturers engaged in the 46xx round cells, but it might take a few more years to scale up the production.