Tesla’s Secret Weapon: Intense Focus On Batteries

Tesla

JAN 3 2019 BY EVANNEX 86

INSIDE TESLA’S SECRET, INTENSE FOCUS ON BATTERIES

By now, regular readers of this column are well aware that we (along with most other writers who focus on electric vehicles) consider the threat of the “Tesla killer” to be no threat at all. Yes, Big Auto is producing excellent EVs, some of which are in Tesla’s league, but they’ll never build more than they have to, and they’ll continue steering customers to their gas-guzzling, high-margin models. It’s what they do.

*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 one of Tesla’s lithium-ion battery cells (Instagram: @yancki87)

Even if the legacy automakers were to have a green epiphany and go all in on electrification, there’s another reason that they’ll struggle to catch up to the California carmaker. Tesla’s superior, cheaper battery packs give it a huge competitive advantage (just don’t call it a “moat”).

The US Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC), an industry group led by GM, Ford and Chrysler, has been working since 2013 to accelerate the development of EV battery technology. However, as Andrew Thomas points out in a recent Medium article, “Tesla’s battery is cheaper, higher capacity, more reliable, and more available than anything produced by USABC.”

“Tesla still uses commodity cylindrical cells, whereas other car manufacturers still use prismatic (Chevy Bolt) and pouch (Nissan LEAF) cells,” Thomas writes. In fact, Tesla is no longer using off-the-shelf “laptop batteries” – it has worked with partner Panasonic to develop new cells optimized for its vehicles. However, it has stuck with the strategy of assembling large numbers of small cylindrical cells into a pack.

The Chevy Bolt’s 60 kWh battery pack has 288 cells. The Nissan LEAF’s pack has 192. Tesla’s packs require many more cells – a Model 3 with a 50 kWh battery pack has 2,976 cells, and a Model S or X with a 100 kWh pack requires a whopping 8,256. Obviously the smaller cells are cheaper, but it stands to reason that it must be more difficult, and hence costlier, to assemble them into a pack.

Therein lies a mystery – Tesla is widely believed to have the lowest battery cost in the industry. But how does it manage to assemble all those tiny cells into a pack economically? As far as Thomas has been able to tell, no one outside the company knows.

“I can’t find a picture or video of the robots that assemble the cells into packs,” Thomas writes. “These robots would need to wire bond the batteries to the bus bars. For every battery cell there will be 2 wire bonds (positive and negative). So it’s a lot of work. The robots need to be very fast, otherwise Tesla would need a lot of them to mass produce battery packs and it would drive up their costs.”

One clue might be found in a 2017 Wired article by a former employee, who reports that the Model S and X battery packs are assembled on a “secret” second floor at Tesla’s Fremont factory.

Above: A Tesla battery pack sits in the floorpan of the vehicle (Source: Tesla)

Another clue comes from something Elon Musk said on the Q3 2017 earnings call: “We are pushing robots to the limit in terms of the speed that they can operate at, and asking our suppliers to make robots go way faster, and they are shocked because nobody has ever asked them that question. It’s like if you can see the robot move, it’s too slow. We should be caring about air friction like things moving so fast. You should need a strobe light to see it.”

So where are these speed demons? “There are some pictures from the Gigafactory, where the Model 3 battery pack is manufactured, but none where I see a robot wire bonding the battery cells,” writes Thomas. “I don’t see any machines that are close to moving so fast you would need a strobe light to see.”

Could those robots be doing their dizzying dance somewhere on the secret second floor in Fremont? And possibly in Nevada as well? Recent visitors from the media have found that the section of the Gigafactory where the cells are made is under heavy security – no photos or videos allowed – and also appears to be one of the most highly automated sections of the plant.

However, Tesla is pulling it off, there’s little doubt that its batteries are cheaper, and Thomas believes things will stay that way. “Even if incumbents decided to use cylindrical cells, it will be challenging to engineer a manufacturing process that is economical, and not time consuming. Packaging cylindrical cells is a process Tesla has been refining for over 10 years.”

Tesla’s industry-leading battery cost also has implications beyond the auto industry. Elon Musk has said in the past that the company’s stationary storage business could someday be bigger than its vehicles. Enrique Dans writes in Forbes that “battery manufacturing is set to become one of the most important industries on the planet, and whoever dominates it will occupy a privileged place in many ways, supplying a wide variety of industries from vehicles to household goods, as well of course as electricity generation.”

“Twelve years ago, when he described his company’s ‘secret master plan,’ Elon Musk spoke not only about making cheaper electric cars, but included a third point, which was providing the means to generate zero-emissions electricity, a point that many pundits missed amid the hullaballoo over Tesla cars,” Dans continues. “Today, with the company in the black, it turns out that battery production has been the key to its strategy: the reason why auto industry veterans like Bob Lutz could not understand Tesla’s road map was because Tesla isn’t a car company, it’s a battery company.”

“Tesla isn’t a car manufacturer competing with other automobile manufacturers…Tesla’s vehicles are consumers of the company’s main product: batteries,” Dans concludes. “Rethink your models and your spreadsheets: stop seeing Tesla as a carmaker and start understanding that the company has much more ambitious plans for the future.”

Above: A look inside Tesla’s Gigafactory (Youtube: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Dans foresees the battery industry growing ever more important, and eventually overtaking an auto industry faced with shrinking demand for private cars. If such a future comes to pass, we all know the name of the company most likely to benefit. As Andrew Thomas puts it: “Big Auto is screwed.”

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Written by: Charles Morris

*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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86 Comments on "Tesla’s Secret Weapon: Intense Focus On Batteries"

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This should be tagged as advertisement on the frontpage as well.

That would require payment.

Articles from EVANNEX should be on a site with a name like teslafanboyz.com. It reminds me of those bumper stickers on trucks where Calvin is peeing on another truck brand.

Again: Tesla is not a car company. It’s a battery company that also makes cares.

Given the role large capacity batteries must and will play in our energy future (vehicles, turning opportunistically harvested renewable energy into on-demand dispatchable energy), Tesla’s focus is the best sign possible that Musk “gets it”.

The cars get a lot of headlines and they’re sexy (no pun intended) and fun, but they’re not the big picture.

Hopefully, drivers will be allowed to share AV congested roads, with clean-car company cars.

Many are coming to resent all cars, like we do coal. In the big picture, it’s the next shoe to drop.

Oh Puleeeze! The cells are from Panasonic, just like GM’S are currently from LG. Yes, they work together. Just like GM, Tesla may own the chemistry recipe. Those recipes can change depending on battery characteristics required. GM has changed its battery recipes for each car. Hybrid batteries operate under different conditions than EV requirements, etc.

Right now the densest power pack of cells in an ev are in the Rivian truck with cylindrical cells made by LG.

I’ve watched this ‘story’ of how Tesla is unbeatable due to its battery recipe, and GM backed the wrong horse on that. Incorrect, as both companies both have changed their approaches. And battery technology changes every year.

As for assembly, this article, like others makes some assumptions and just goes with it. No verification. Hints of ‘magic’ and secrets. Keep in mind that not only did Tesla make mistakes putting together the assembly line but the battery operation failed so miserably that it almost sank the company as cars on the line waited for batteries.

So, yeah.The normal fluff pieces. But one must feed the monster with ‘content’. I get it.

“Right now the densest power pack of cells in an ev are in the Rivian truck with cylindrical cells made by LG.”

That’s only speculation by one InsideEVs writer. It’s not established fact.

And while I am certainly rooting for Rivian to succeed and grow, it isn’t making a production vehicle yet.

LG is catching up with cylindrical cells then..

Says who? Panasonic is kicking some butt. The LG mobile (Bolt) sold 1400 copies this December.

“Right now the densest power pack of cells in an ev are in the Rivian truck with cylindrical cells made by LG.”

A statement like that renders the rest of your comment unbelievable. Rivian do not make any electric vehicles and there is no timeline to when they will. They could make any claim they like about the batteries, we simply do not know how good the battery will be. But if the truck is coming out in a few years then of course batteries will be better then but the competition won’t have stood still either.
Right now the only thing we have to go on is current technology in current cars we can buy. And in that regard Tesla is still well ahead of the pack (pardon the pun).

The design and prototypes are out there. The explanation of how Rivian was packing the cells was described with a picture of how they were packing and cooling. It was mainly mechanics. Hard to doubt the application. As for the cells, cylindrical cells aren’t a mystery and freely available for many years. It’s the exact recipe that’s the deal. I have no reason to doubt LGs claims. They’ve built cylindrical cells for many applications. They didn’t begin with GM’S formulas. In any case, it will come out in the wash. Not a lot of doubt about that.

“Again: Tesla is not a car company. It’s a battery company that also makes cares.”

I’m sure it will come as a great surprise to Panasonic that Tesla makes its own battery cells. 🙄

95% of Tesla’s income, or more, comes from selling cars. Tesla isn’t an “energy company”, nor a “battery company”. It’s an automobile maker with a few minor sidelines.

These evannex puff pieces are hard to read. How’s about some actual details above and beyond the Tesla is great rah rah?
Ever seen beer can production? The machines need to be filmed with high speed cameras and then slowed down to see individual cans. So they’ve been at “air friction” level of concerns for many years.

Company secrets are just that, secrets. We see the results (lower price, higher efficiency, higher energy density, etc), we can comment and speculate on the why and how, but we don’t have insider info to provide details. And you want to compare battery cell and pack production to beer cans? Lol, ok.

It’s also important to note that production of the battery cells is done by Panasonic, which may be more privacy-conscious than Tesla. And as the previous poster said, all companies have trade secrets. Tesla and Panasonic clearly believe their battery production and assembly process is proprietary and they don’t want other companies copying it.

Yup. In tours of Gigafactory 1, the Panasonic areas are off-limits, and there are even reports of covers being put on Panasonic production line machines, to hide them from tours passing by one of the Panasonic areas.

Laugh all you want, but on this point, F150 Brian is almost certainly correct. Assembling battery packs out of small cells will be done in a manner much closer to how beer cans are made than any resemblance to using robot arms to assemble a car.

Try watching a few episodes of the “How It’s Made” documentary series. Pretty obviously, the Evannex writer who wrote this fluff piece hasn’t.

I’m sorry, but there is a lot more to battery production than the can.

Which episode of ‘How It’s Made’ covers assembling battery packs?

There is a “How Its Made” episode on Tesla cars, but it focuses on the auto assembly line, not the battery pack.

The point is that assembling a lot of small similar items quickly is something that is handled well by perfectly normal high-speed automated assembly machines, of the sort often seen in “How Its Made” episodes. It would be absurd (as well as slow) to use the large, expensive, programmable, multi-function robotic arms which are used on the automotive assembly line, to put together small cells into modules and then into a pack.

Why do you include lower price as one of the results? Please provide details to substantiate this.

That’s nice. Now put it in a mass produced car at a price comparable to Tesla and we can talk about battery lifetimes. The proof is in the pudding.

Tell me when they have a contract with a major cell phone maker and go into mass production. Until then, yawn.

Any new battery tech will first have to prove itself in relatively disposable mass consumer items, like cell phones, before going into cars that are supposed to last for well over a decade.

https://hackaday.com/2018/09/15/testing-lithium-ceramic-batteries-lcbs/

“Taiwan based Prologium sent [GreatScott] samples of their Lithium Ceramic batteries (LCBs) to test, and even though they’re not yet commercial products, who are we to refuse a peek at what they’ve been up to? They sent him two types, flexible ones (FLCBs) and higher capacity stiff ones (PLCBs).

Flexible lithium ceramic batteryThe FLCBs were rated at 100 mAh and just 2 C, both small values but still useful for wearables, especially given their flexibility. Doing some destructive testing, he managed to keep an LED lit while flexing the battery and cutting away at it with tin snips.

Switching to the thicker 7.31 Wh PLCB, he measured and weighed it to get an energy density of 258 Wh/L and a specific energy of 118 Wh/kg, only about 2/3rds and 1/2 that of his LiPo and lithium-ion batteries. ”

So in experimental testing by somebody else, the energy density isn’t competitive yet, contrary to claims.

High level of safety but not ready for cars.

It may be of interest to follow that, to see if it goes anywhere. But there have been literally hundreds of claims for breakthru battery tech over the last decade, and only one single one of them has resulted in a quantum jump improvement in EV battery cells. That one advancement came from LG Chem, not from some battery startup company or university research team.

Even if you can show off your battery tech in a lab demo, that’s still only getting to first base. It’s still a long way from commercial mass production at a price low enough to compete with existing battery cells, and it doesn’t demonstrate longevity or the ability to withstand operating in cold or hot weather.

And that quantum jump resulted in LG making inferior batteries to Panasonic. Lol

“there have been literally hundreds of claims for breakthru battery tech over the last decade”

And how many of those won the CES Innovation Award? I agree that this might not get commercially developed or get beaten out by something even better, but it is still worth sharing.

I think the point is that battery technology is really in its early stages and research is being done globally. There are completely new chemistries showing promise, some not even based on lithium. There’s not going to be ‘an answer’. There’s going to be continuing progress. There’s no telling how it’s going to shake out in 5-10 years. It may be drastic at times. Money is a huge magnet for quick development and venture capitalists.

And not explode in flames. You are right, no one would finance new battery tech in cars until it had been proven. That would take a decade.

What are the chances that Tesla already has some samples of Prologium batteries they are testing? One thing to keep in mind is that the shape of the battery is not fixed. This thin film design 0,38mm thick can be wound up and put in a cylindrical 2170 can, does not have to be a rectangular pack.

Where can I buy some for my own experiments?

I thought SS battery will threaten Tesla, but I was wrong.
First the Tech has to be in mass production for cars and they predict it will take 5 – 10 years.
Next is economy of scale, which would take another 5 years to reach today’s tesla cell cost.
But Tesla and Elon will never stand still, during the 10 – 15 years Tesla’s battery would already be way ahead, they might even be the leader of the next battery breakthrough.

Yup. Tesla is probably in the best position to take advantage of any new battery tech that comes along, including solid-state. That’s something that Tesla’s detractors will never admit.

This article really drives home the Tesla battery advantage which has always been their leading edge. Tesla is savvy in sharing many of their patents, but keeping the linchpin items like battery cell and pack production under close wraps to keep their edge. They can encourage the industry to move forward both by giving them valuable information to jump-start from but also by being a fierce competitor in the EV sector where it counts, a sector which is morphing into just the general transportation sector over time. This also highlights another key difference between Tesla and legacy automakers: While Tesla is pushing the envelope in technology while remaining a sustainable business to continue forward, legacy auto is doing everything feasible they can to cut corners and be as profitable as possible. Legacy auto just keeps pushing the easy button on battery and electronics tech while trying to not cannibalize their ICE sales too quickly, which is just so backwards at this point. Legacy auto is just that, old companies that traded bold entrepreneurship and innovation long ago for easy profits.

“Legacy auto is just that, old companies that traded bold entrepreneurship and innovation long ago for easy profits.”

If it was so easy, why is there only one new US car company in over 50 years? Why did GM go bankrupt?

I wouldn’t say that GM is lacking innovation and excellent engineering. They need more innovation in the rest of the company (like marketing and customer service and sales). Engineering is not their weakness.

Ron Swanson's Mustache

Regulatory capture, graft, and the initial capital outlay to bootstrap a mass-market car company would all be reasons for why the already established players have been able to coast along on minor upgrades for the better part of fifty years.

Well damn! How about that GM! How did a non motivated legacy company with no idea what they’re doing and completely missing the boat wind up timing out about the same time as Tesla on subsidies?

They really don’t care about EV, they went over the 200k on december, what a fool!

HAhahahaha! You’re killing me Elon! You’re handle explains everything.

So they (or you) are proud that they basically tied an upstart company on getting to the first 200k? Actually 5 months behind but who is counting.
Their 1000 dealerships (guessing) and billions of advertising dollars – tied a company with zero (ok but certainly not billions) and 125 stores?
The car they did it with – they are discontinuing?
And Tesla sold more of a single model in December in the US than GM has ever sold of an EV in a year?

You’re making judgments on GM dropping the Volt? Why would they keep it? It’s the most complex car to build and design software for. And you’re missing the most important point – on purpose, and rationalizing being a hater.

Why keep the Volt when EVS are the goal? Let the Japanese and Koreans battle it out over hybrids. GM has already said what they’re going to do. They’ve done everything they’ve said so far.

And they’re still about to hit the limit on the good tax credit. So you don’t have a case yet. GM may be legacy but my impression is they aren’t running scared like Tesla has, by Musk’s own admission. And they may take a while winding up while stepping on all the bases.

I’ll give Tesla kudos on inspiration (at least until it got weird) but Tesla will never turn it’s back on GM. Five years from now the story will be more clear. I know, I know – fanboys need adreneline hits all the time. Just breath deeply. There’s time yet.

Not ever part is esembled in a serial fashion the plus and minus posts are tig welled and in order to increase cost effective I would have the robot arm do a whole row or even a whole side of a pack in parallel, so if I was the lead enginer. Most reporters and wallstreet analyst who tours are not engineers.

“Most reporters and wallstreet analyst who tours are not engineers.” Maybe not, but they do know how to spell and write correctly, which is helpful.

Tesla uses thin nickel wire to connect the cells to a bus bar. A high speed machine “welds” it using ultrasonic vibrations; it doesn’t use any kind form of heat. (Heat welding is bad for lithium batteries)

Getting some Doom (the 2016 reboot) vibes from this story.

To the outside world, it’s some miracle energy source – Argent!
Those inside know that it’s a cult summoning demonic energy from hell.

Just me? Anybody else?

Just you. Most have to fall for it for the demon cult to work.

Definitely just you… and whatever you’re smokin’.

With consumer reports spewing hates towards Tesla, it is refreshing to hear articles like this one.

I don’t think an Evannex fluff piece based on the ridiculous notion that battery packs are assembled using the type of robotic arms used to assemble cars, is any improvement.

Since the credits are being reduced states should add a .50 cent tax on fuel and eliminate the sales tax on EV’s to speed up the transition to EV’s.

The only problem with that is you have to raise taxes elsewhere to maintain the roads.

I’m not sure I would think. 50 cents would be enough for the states portion of road infrastructure and not having a sales tax on EV’s.

The only problem with a fuel tax is that it targets low-income people. A greater portion of their income is spent for fuel than middle- or high-income brackets. Because the US doesn’t have a great public transport infrastructure outside of major cities, personal vehicles are still almost necessary for daily life.

Even in major metropolitan areas, personal vehicles can be necessary, depending on mass transit coverage and schedule.

Carbon/fuel tax can be revenue neutral to address inequalities and costs. See BC, Canada.

Yet, not every poor person needs to drive a 9 year old Suburban, as a commuter vehicle! An even older (2002) 2 seat Honda Insight, that still gets 65-70 Mpg, would work OK too!

Punishment taxes are only effective when the vast majority of people who have to pay the tax actually have a viable alternative to paying the taxes.

Right now the majority of people who own and drive cars and must pay fuel taxes buy their cars used. There simply are not enough used EV’s for everyone to decide to buy a used EV in order to avoid paying the tax. There are well over a hundred million drivers in this situation, and well less than 1 million EV’s available for sale in the used car market.

So the vast majority of the tax collected just reduces how much money someone with a used car can save up to buy a new EV or used EV, with statistically worse than a 100 to 1 ability to actually buy a used EV on a macroeconomic level. There simply aren’t enough used EV’s to go around to meaningfully allow enough drivers to avoid paying the punishment tax. New car buyers are the LEAST economically impacted by a gas tax

So, do these same poor folk spend their money on Cigarettes, & Beer? Maybe those costs, if removed, could help them out, financially? My own Brother was just telling me he spends about $300 a Month on Smokes! More than I spend on Gasoline! Sometimes, bad habits cost more than necessities!

There are several ways to make it better for poor folks.
There are also several ways to reduce fuel use without getting an EV.
The best plan (IMHO) is a gradual phase in with a corresponding decrease in SS tax rate. The best politically is to use the entire taxation haul to go to SS. That way the poor do not spend any more. SS is not hurt in any way. And gradual so that people can spend some time making decisions that will reduce their burden.
$.10 every 6 months per gallon is modest enough to be minimally disruptive and would give even companies like GM time to change.
By 2029, the $2 is still not that bad and EVs will be the only thing left to buy.
This is politically possible (although may have to wait until 2021).
Personally, I would rather see $.10 a month increase – but the big three would go bankrupt very quickly. And we all know that the Midwest can flip political parties on a dime.

Shhhh…. Don’t tell everyone the secret Master Plan!

To twist a phrase made famous by James Carville, “It’s the batteries, stupid!”

“I don’t see any machines that are close to moving so fast you would need a strobe light to see.”

Well, its not surprising that you are not seeing them since the requirement is that they move too fast to be seen.

LOL!!!

“secret” second floor at Tesla’s Fremont factory – is under vacuum!

Interesting, if true. Source?

And utterly fictitious. The completed packs are shipped from Sparks to Fremont; there is no need to do module or pack assembly there.

It is reported that battery packs were assembled on the second floor of the Fremont assembly plant, before Gigafactory 1 was built. Now of course they are assembled at Gf1.

But assembled in a vacuum chamber? That’s a rumor I hadn’t heard, and I’m sure the entire floor was never under vacuum!

This article reminds me of something I encountered years ago. My business partner and I were doing some custom programming for a big engineering and manufacturing firm (which everyone here has heard of, I’d guess). When we got a tour of one of their facilities, big sections were behind tall curtains. We asked what that was all about, and we were told that many of their manufacturing processes were trade secrets that were not covered by patents so the company would never have to worry about them expiring and becoming public.

I always thought it was incredible that any company would take that risk. And now I have to wonder if something similar is going on at Tesla with battery pack assembly.

I think that is far more common than you realize. Elon has stated that this policy applies to his companies. These companies will patent things that they think the competition will discover on their own, but hold back the more advanced stuff.

I agree with Roy that it seems likely this practice is widespread. Patents are public, so in order to get one, you have to share your information and that allows other companies to copy it. Even if they have to wait a while for the patent to expire, corporate rivals can use that time to determine how to best use those techniques in their business. But trade secrets can be far more secure than patents, and they never expire.

“…trade secrets can be far more secure than patents…”

Can they, really? Patents last 20 years. Has any company ever protected a trade secret that long?

Maybe they can be, but generally speaking, any secret held by more than two people tends to leak out within a few years. The U.S. military did keep the SR-71 Blackbird a secret for many years, but that’s the only exception I know about.

Yes, Cola-Cola kept their formula a lot longer. The early claimed copies were not the original formula that is why it took so long for companies to compete.

That’s a myth promoted by Coca-Cola marketing… successfully!

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/coca-cola-fomula/

There are a number of other reasons this could be done too:

1) The company would rather spend their money on keeping their process secret than spending their money on lawyers in IP court battles.

2) The company doesn’t want patent trolls literally hunting for a patent to buy that they think they could use to file an IP suit against the company. If they keep their process secret, the trolls can’t do electronic searches for patents related to their process. Buying/trading patents to use against other companies has become out of control in the last decade.

3) The process isn’t patent-able. It might be unique to that industry, but the process itself might not be unique enough to earn a patent.

4) The process might use an ALREADY expired patent. This is very common.

Panasonic is protecting against Chinese espionage on battery manufacturing. Patents won’t work there. Chinese companies would patent a trivial (or no) variation inside China and with the help of government, sue Panasonic against their own invention.

The USABC is nothing more than a slick way the Central Government subsidies the auto industry; the USABC hasn’t produced anything of value since day one. The car makers are too dependent on fossil fuel to even think about producing a better battery.

“Could those robots be doing their dizzying dance somewhere on the secret second floor in Fremont?”

Oh, what cabbage! This entire concept is probably nonsense. Anyone who has watched a few episodes of “How It’s Made” knows you don’t need robot arms for high-speed manufacturing, especially when it comes to working with small parts like 18650 or 2170 battery cells. There will be assembly line machines made specially for the purpose which fit those parts, not a general-purpose robot arm which can be programmed to move in any direction for many different tasks. And yeah, a lot of those high-speed automated assembly processes seen on “How It’s Made” do run at eye-blurring speed. No robot arms required!

As far as Tesla robots running so fast that you’d need a strobe light to see them: Let’s remember that that concept was part of Elon’s now-abandoned vision of touchless auto assembly lines running at 5x or even 10x the speed at which they move now. That proved to be completely unrealistic, and Elon isn’t talking about that any more.

I guess this Evannex writer didn’t get the memo? O_o

In fact, the assembly line machine seen in the photo at the top of this article, showing Panasonic battery cells being made, is exactly the sort of machine seen in many or most episodes of “How It’s Made”. You will note the complete lack of any robotic arms there.

Thanks, Captain Obvious!

Seriously, it is the most expensive part of the car. Tesla just did what any good engineer does…determine the most significant part of the product and optimize it as much as possible.

If Tesla focused on batteries only, they could make more batteries and become a battery supplier for all other other car companies who want to buy Tesla batteries.
If Tesla is not a car company, they are admitting they are not the most efficient at manufacturing cars.
Instead of pumping billions of dollars into Gigafactories that build cars, just sell the batteries and make billions.
Instead of trying to sell expensive cars, supply batteries to car companies who can build cheaper EV’s with Tesla batteries.

The title suggests a joke: Three big guys with secrets walk into a bar. One is Elon Musk; the other an old mobster and the third a retired FBI agent. Each agree to share a secret, but only if others go first. The mobster says: You tell me how you guys set up JFK and I will show you where we planted Jimmy Hoffa. The FBI agent says I will tell you if Johnson set up secret shooters, if you tell us the big secret to Tesla. Musk says: “Easy. We have the best batteries.” The mobster and agents both groan in disbelief and walk out. 🙂

I wish that Tesla would do a lithium based UPS for computers. In fact, I am guessing they use modules (packs of batteries) that would be ideal for doing this with.

The battery cells that Tesla uses in its PowerWalls and PowerPacks might be close to what’s needed for a UPS, but certainly not the type of cells that Tesla uses for its cars. What’s in an EV car is the wrong optimization for a UPS stationary storage battery pack.

It is amusing to see all of the analysts in wonder at the problem Tesla has wiring up ‘all those cells’ to make a battery. What Tesla does is completely obvious. Cells are connected with ultrasonic wire bonding – lots of little wires ultrasonically welded to the cells and to the bus bars. This is 40 year old semiconductor packaging technology. For decades every integrated circuit lead was connected by this process to the external package leads. Wire bonding machines are completely robotic and they do move so fast that they can’t be seen without using a strobe. The wires used to connect Tesla’s battery cells are comparable in size to wire used for large power transistors. And, wire bonding is incredibly cheap! Connecting integrated circuits with wire bonding costs around 1/10 cent per wire. Three thousand cells in a Model 3 battery requiring 6,000 wires should cost around $6 to ‘wire up’. No doubt Tesla does use ‘custom made’ wire bonders because the battery packs are large compared to an integrated circuit package, making the wires to be installed farther apart and the mechanism to move the wire bonding ‘head’ larger. But this is the same old process that… Read more »

The amount of current/energy used to power modern computer chips is quite tiny compared to the amount of current/energy used to power a Tesla car. Still, perhaps the technique you describe could be scaled up to use the much heavier wires needed for a Tesla battery pack.

We do know that Tesla Motors was founded by a couple of Silicon Valley computer guys, who intended to use Silicon Valley manufacturing techniques to make cars. That didn’t work out so well — making cars are heavy industry, and contrariwise making computers is light industry — but I suppose it’s possible that Tesla is using some techniques from the computer chip industry.