Recent Tesla Gigafactory Tour Suggests Continual Battery Improvement


NOV 29 2018 BY EVANNEX 48


Even Tesla’s detractors concede that, when it comes to battery technology, the California carmaker has a lead of at least a couple of years over its theoretical rivals. The legacy brands are taking various approaches to try to close that gap, but Tesla is far from standing still. CNBC recently toured Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory, and talked with President of Automotive Jerome Guillen.

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs.

Above: A look at a Tesla battery cell produced in collaboration with Panasonic at the company’s Gigafctory (Instagram: @yancki87)

“The Gigafactory is critical to Tesla,” said Guillen. “There [are] more batteries produced here for electric vehicles than in the rest of the planet combined. We would not be able to make all the vehicles we are making now if we didn’t have the Gigafactory.”

Gigafactory 1 runs 24/7, and churns out about two battery packs per minute – not quite as fast as “bullets from a machine gun,” but already faster than “Grandma with a walker.” However, even as Tesla begins work on a new Gigafactory in Shanghai, and talks about building another in Europe, there’s still plenty of room to improve both the quantity and quality of the batteries produced in Nevada.

EV industry analyst Sam Jaffe, of Cairn Energy Research Advisors, estimates Tesla’s cost to manufacture a battery cell at $116 per kilowatt-hour, which he says is “far ahead of the industry.” Other EV-makers cell-level costs are around $146 per kWh, Jaffe says. “Tesla has shown an ability and a drive to reduce both cell costs and battery pack costs. They have been planning for this moment, with this tremendous cost advantage, for a long time, and in general they have executed well on it.”

Above: CNBC’s Phil LeBeau talks with Tesla President Jerome Guillen inside Tesla’s growing Gigafactory (Source: Yahoo Finance via CNBC)

As CleanTechnica reports, Tesla has a three-pronged strategy to produce ever more and better batteries.

The first of Tesla’s three pillars of battery creation: building more battery cell manufacturing lines at the Gigafactory. In close cooperation with cell manufacturing partner Panasonic, Tesla is steadily building out more production capacity at the Nevada facility. This not only increases the quantity of cells produced, but also gradually brings the per-cell cost down by spreading fixed costs over a larger volume of batteries.

The second pillar: improving the design of the battery cell manufacturing lines. Everything at Tesla undergoes a continual process of analysis and incremental improvement, and the Gigafactory assembly lines are no exception. Jerome Guillen told CNBC that the company is working to improve the yield, throughput and capacity of each production line. Again, this not only increases the quantity of cells produced, but also improves the company’s financial picture. Making more batteries from the same line translates to a better return on the capital invested in each line.

Above: From Tesla’s original design of its Model S battery pack, modules, and cells, the company has already shown significant improvement/changes with the Model 3; and these changes will continue (Infographic: South China Morning Post)

The third pillar: improving the design of the 2170 battery cell. When Tesla created its proprietary 2170 cylindrical cell, it aimed to achieve the perfect balance between energy density and the amount of surface area for cooling, which has a direct effect on battery performance and longevity. However, there is still room for improvement. “The design of the cell is not frozen,” says Guillen. “It evolves, and we have a very nice roadmap of technology improvements for the coming years.”

Guillen believes the Gigafactory is just beginning to reach its potential. “The costs have come down and continue to come down a lot, and that has enabled us to reach profitability in the last quarter and positive cash flow as well,” he said.


Written by: Charles Morris; Source: CNBCCleanTechnica 

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers, free of charge. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX. Check out the site here.

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48 Comments on "Recent Tesla Gigafactory Tour Suggests Continual Battery Improvement"

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Something doesn’t add up. 2 battery packs a minute means about 2880 per day in a factory running round the clock. Tesla currently makes about 6000 TM3s a week. About 2 days worth of battery packs.

Correct. Two per minute is 20k per week. That’s probably modules, not packs.

The battery graphic is also messed up. 18650s are 65 mm high. They always repeat the “more than half” lie.

If it takes 16 modules per pack then those numbers don’t support current weekly production at 126 per week.

They are talking about the GF1, and it makes 2170 Cells, Modules, and Batteries for the Model 3: 4 Modules per Car Battery Pack; then, they drop in a Graphic of Model S Cells, Modules, and Battery Packs, and say the “18650” cell is 50 mm (instead if 65 mm) Tall! Misinformation & Confusion! Why?

I think both of you are limiting your view to just cars. You are forgetting the battery banks they build and third party distribution they do as well. The two complete packs per minute is accurate having been on a tour about 3 months ago. I suggest you both go take a tour and revise your ‘ass’umptions.

The overwhelming majority of battery packs built at Gf1 are for Tesla’s cars. Only a relatively small number go to PowerWalls and PowerPacks. The percentage that don’t go to cars might not be mathematically insignificant, but it can’t be a very large percentage, and can probably be ignored for purposes of “napkin math”.

That may have been in the past but not anymore. Tesla has a ton of projects in that space. Like for example those 50,000 powerwalls for Australia. That is 50,000 packs right there.

It absolutely is not in the past. Installations of PowerWalls have been and still are nothing more than a trickle, and you can easily find articles about would-be customers who have been waiting for many months for a planned installation.

For example:

Elon recently mentioned that Tesla has usually, throughout its history, been production constrained due to limited cell supply. The shortage is severe enough that Tesla has used non-Panasonic cells in some or most of its larger PowerPack installations.

It probably is one battery pack every 2 minutes.
The reference to batteries from a machinegun was about the cells, not the complete packs.
The infographic is about the Model S from 2012, not the much newer Model 3 with 2170 cells.

Confusing, I know.

The article also says 700 cells to power the car; for the s100d that number is low by about a factor of 10. These articles need to be edited (or written) by someone who is knowledgeable of the subject and numerate so as to detect things that are off by an order of magnitude

Maybe includes batteries for powerpacks

Also have to consider the volume is closer to 1 pack per second, because all the Power wall models come from the same lines, no one seems to account for that fact, this is why the stock is worth 10 times the amount over the next 10 years.

Since Tesla Semi shares most of it’s parts with TM3, Tesla could build out several Semis in the GF and none would be any wiser.

That was a pretty wild exaggeration. Perhaps several or even “most” of the powertrain components (including the battery packs) and the interior (including touchscreens) come from the Model 3, but most of the rest of the Semi Truck — certainly including the body and the larger wheels and the suspension — don’t.

Are the large body panels for prototypes made on those giant stamping machines, or are they shaped by hand in some metal working shop somewhere? Tesla watchers are pretty sure that none of those giant stamping machines have yet been installed at Gf1. If it takes such stamping machines to form the body panels for the Semi Truck, then they’d have to do that at the Fremont plant and ship them in. Certainly that’s possible for a very low-volume production, but assuming Tesla is planning on mass production at some point, then they had better install some of those giant stamping machines there.

The prototypes are carbon fibre as mentioned in many articles on the Semi.

Hi, I do not think Tesla makes a 50mm cell. The 18650 cells are 65mm tall. The 2170 cells are 70mm tall.

yep they’re 18650 not 18500’s

18650’s are used in the Mdoel S/X cars.
2170’s are used in the Model 3

However, 18500’s do exist, so maybe they just blinked, and messed that up, Royally!

Do you have proof to counteract the article writer?

Reportedly, Tesla is switching to a new slightly larger cell format 2170 (21mm diameter, 70mm length) for their upcoming Model 3 and powerwall products.

In other news, Ford is reported to put a 2.9 l engine in their upcoming Model T. 😀

There is noting “Upcoming” with the Model 3. The 2170 battery has been manufactured since summer of last year.

You are right comrade!

The 2170 cell is 21mm wide and 70mm tall. There are 4416 cells in a model 3 in four modules, the picture above with more modules is from model S. Assuming 6000 TM3s a week, that is 44 cells per second, Close to the speed of a machine gun (50-100 per second).

It’s already faster than a M249.

Good analysis. Sounds quite doable.
The world is coming to grips with Tesla’s strategy….which has been a great secret (TFIC), and is described here:

Manufacturing is boring to many….but for those of us from the high volume manufacturing world, it is all very exciting!

Actually, machine guns fire 900-1200 round per minute.

50-100 rounds per second is the rate of fire for modern Gatling guns.

By “modern Gatling gun”, I presume you mean multi-barrel machine gun (or “electric cannon”). But the rate of fire from various modern single-barreled machine guns is surprisingly disparate.

“The ShKAS machine gun is probably the fastest machine gun in the world (as traditionally defined, i.e, single barrel) with a maximum rate of about 3,000 rounds per minute.”

3000 rounds/minute would be 50 rounds per second.

Is that a mini gun that were used on Cobra helicopters

Some WW II era heavy machine guns fired as slow as ~5 rounds/second. So 50-100 per second is already far, far faster than some machine guns.

I believe the battery count per module count in the article is not correct. There are more than 44 cells per module. More like 444 cells per module and 16 modules per battery pack. For a total of 7,104 individual cells. But this count is only for a certain pack in the model S. Others have different counts. But none as low as the counts shown in the picture.

The Long Range Model 3 battery pack is composed of 2 modules of 23 x 46 (=2116) cells plus 2 modules of 25 x 46 (=2300) cells, for a total of 4416 cells.

But Tesla is now making a large number of Mid Range Model 3’s, so the daily/ weekly output is likely to be lower than that figure indicates.

Two packs a minute means around 1400 batteries a minute. 1400 bullets a minute is a sick machine gun. The claim is sound IMHO.

That’s not a sick machine gun. This is a sick machine gun.

Love that diagram there “ENGINE” lol

So the battery cost has come down from $700 (2013 level) to $100 (2019 level). Since battery cost is the biggest cost in an Electric car, the Cost of Model S and X should now be down by (some large percentage number). But we all know that their costs have been reduced by a grand total of $0. So much for Battery cost improvements

Did you forget that free super charger national and global network you enjoy?
That costs real money.

How’s the weather in Moscow?

“But we all know that their costs have been reduced by a grand total of $0.”

…in the same way we all know that the Earth is flat. 😆

How many 100kWh packs were manufactured back in 2013?

Hint: It’s a round number.

Bigger pack, lower cost per cell. Price does not change.

Free-market enterprise 101 dictates that you ask a price that your customer is willing to pay.

Have you seen the gross margin Tesla makes on the Model S/X? Everyone in the auto industry is eyeing that number, green with envy.

Have you noticed they used that to fund the Model 3 development/production?

Have patience, once Tesla exits from their extreme growth phase and stabilises, they will lower prices.

Model S/X uses 18650 cells manufactured in Japan and shipped to US. I doubt they are down to $100 per KWH. Only the Model 3 uses the 2170 cells manufactured at Gigafactory 1

Where did you get that number? From the graph? The graph shows cost in 2013 of ~$700/kWHr for other manufacturers and about $150/kWHr for Tesla.

Excellent they can make their own batteries with better chemistry than the 18650 batteries they had settled on. Model 3 owners will enjoy longer battery life too lets hope.

I’m surprised they let CNBC in considering their track record of FUD lately.

That is precisely the reason to invite them in!

Once they can see first-hand what Tesla is doing, they’ll be less likely to disseminate FUD. Like they say: “To know someone is to love someone”.

not quite as fast as “bullets from a machine gun ???
2 packs per minute would be something like 200 cells per second.
200 per seconds beats even the fastest MGs in service.