Tesla Reportedly Talking With CATL For China Battery Order

MAR 11 2019 BY STEVEN LOVEDAY 51

Tesla must secure batteries for China market explosion.

There’s little doubt Tesla is going to explode in China, but there’s a lot the company needs to put in place. For starters, finishing construction of its Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai. But also, assuring there are battery suppliers in the area that intend to work with it.

We always take these Automotive News announcements with a grain of salt. This is because Tesla CEO Elon Musk usually comes forth on Twitter saying these announcements aren’t true.

Sad but true, but still, we must share what’s reported, and in this case it’s positive once again. As reported by Automotive News:

CATL has been discussing the required specifications for the batteries with Tesla officials, the people said, asking not to be named because the talks are private. Still, there’s no guarantee that an agreement will be reached, according to the people.

Tesla Inc. is in talks about ordering rechargeable batteries from top Chinese producer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. to power Model 3 cars the U.S. electric automaker plans to start assembling at its new factory near Shanghai, people familiar with the matter said.

According to the reports, Tesla has been discussing this potential partnership for some time.

Source: Automotive News

Categories: Battery Tech, Tesla

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51 Comments on "Tesla Reportedly Talking With CATL For China Battery Order"

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China views batteries as a core technology. They lean hard on carmakers to use Chinese cells.

It’s not a choice you have to use China’s cells.

no, you can use the battery from overseas, but then there is don’t get incentive. China is basically subsiding the battery, not the EV.

Maybe USA should do the same?

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

+1 I agree.

I’ll get slammed for this but this administration is only interested in subsidizing fossil fuels not EVs or renewable energy.

Even Europe. “Cough! Cought!”

“There’s little doubt Tesla is going to explode in China” – yes, but only figuratively!

Maybe literally – it depends on how good the Chinese cells are. After reading about Jaguar’s quality control issues with their “joint venture” in China, I would be concerned.

Did Jaguar use CATL cells?

Seems strange to me. The battery cell/pack is Tesla’s secret sauce. Though I guess as soon as you set up shop in China your chance of holding onto your IP is pretty much hopeless. So I guess as long as it supports the primary mission it’s OK…

I’m guessing they only sourcing the cells from Chinese manufacturers and will be assembling the packs themselves. There is no secret sauce in the cells, they are simply standard cells in the larger format. Even the packs contain no secrets that can’t be uncovered by simply taking them apart, which I’m sure the Chinese did long ago…

That’s not really true. The recipe and manufacturing procedure for the anode and cathode were jointly developed and jointly patented by both Tesla and Panasonic. They can’t just take their jointly patented cell to CATL and give it to them unless Panasonic gets royalties for each cell produced. Maybe the cells made by CATL will be so cheap that they can afford to pay royalties to Panasonic.

That’s a myth. The most recent teardown of a Model S cell revealed off-the-shelf NCA. They might have tweaked it a little since then, but overall performance has not really changed.

China has chosen NMC, anyway. If Tesla wants the incentives, they’ll use the approved chemistry from an approved vendor.

I facepalm when people like you see a standard form factor and assume that it is “off the shelf”, that is like calling a 15 inch laptop from 2000 same thing as a 15 inch laptop from 2019, they are both off the shelf 15 inch form factor right? Both of them are made of silicon right? So same thing?

That isn’t how things work.

They use NCA chemistry, but that is only the cathode, there is also the anode and electrolyte and even in the cathode. The tweaking can have a huge difference in energy density, lifespan and etc.

Please stop spreading more ignorance.

PS CATL makes NMC and LFP, China overall has seen more focus on LFP than NMC.

Thank you! Now here is someone who has been paying attention. Tesla hasn’t used off-the-shelf cells since the original Roadster.

Altho, gotta say, if Tesla can source batteries from various vendors for building cars in China, then that makes me wonder if whatever proprietary tech Panasonic has in their cells is all that important. On the other hand, I suppose that Tesla might simply accept lower capacity battery packs (and thus lower range) for its Chinese-built cars, or else add more cells to make up the difference.

That’s correct. Tesla will add more cells to compensate for loss of capacity. This is why only the SR model 3 will be made in China, there’s no space to add more cells in the LR packs.

Tesla will have performance criteria that the batteries from their Chinese suppliers would be required to meet. The suppliers will be responsible for their components meeting that specification.

I wasn’t talking about form factor. A Journal of Electrochemical Society paper details results from testing and analyzing cells from a Model S. Standard 80/15/5 NCA cathode, standard graphite anode with no silicon and standard 5 part electrolyte. They were off the shelf cells. I know Dahn has tested and even patented other stuff, but the key specs for Tesla’s vehicle cells are still roughly the same as they were then..

Tesla’s real secret sauce is marketing.

I looked up A Journal of Electrochemical Society paper and here is what it said: “Even more complex coatings are becoming common as for example, the Sumitomo separator used by Panasonic and Tesla Motors involves a coating with ceramic particles as well as an aromatic polyamide (aramid polymer) to increase the penetration strength of the coating.30 While it is difficult to get confirmation from the battery industry, it seems clear that silicon in small amounts is now added to the graphite based negative electrode.31 The extremely high specific capacity of lithium silicon alloy anodes (over 3000 mAh/g compared to the maximum of 372 mAh/g for graphite) means that even a small amount of silicon incorporated into graphite particles has a marked effect on the specific capacity of the negative electrode.32 There are many ways already investigated to include a small amount of silicon micro or nano particles onto the surface of graphite particles and each graphite supplier uses their own proprietary process. For example, 400 to 500 mAh/g materials are commonly available now and are no doubt used in the premium lithium ion batteries providing over 3 Ah capacity in 18650 cells. These cells have high cycle life as well… Read more »

I agree Panasonic may have tweaked the chemistry since the ECS paper. That’s why I said “They might have tweaked it a little since then”. Any changes made are minor, though, not enough to affect their major metrics like energy density.

The secret sauce myth needs to die. Panasonic does not make these cells from scratch. They buy powders from Sumitomo Metal Mining and others. The Sumitomo separator you mention is off the shelf. The electrolyte ingredients you list are the standard five used in many cells. It wasn’t Dahn’s patented two ingredient mix. Why would you think the percentages are different? Anything is possible, of course. But if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and has the same energy density as a duck, it’s probably not a rooster.

Tesla uses NCA. Nobody else does. NCA has historically had higher energy density than NMC. That gives a range/weight advantage. NCA is also more prone to thermal runaway and tends to have lower cycle life. Tesla worked around these downsides and captured the upside. The rest is just marketing fluff.

The fact that they are using the same basic ingredients rather than some secret substance, does not mean they must be off-the-shelf. The exact mixture of the ingredients (and additives, which aren’t mentioned here) has a huge effect on lifetime. It’s among the cell makers’ best kept secrets.

China *used* to focus on LFP; but they shifted focus to “trivalent” cells (NMC and NCA) a while back. Most passenger EVs seem to have undergone the transition already — though commercial vehicles take longer.

China hasn’t chosen NMC. China has chosen “trivalent” materials, which includes both NMC and NCA. While much of the production is NMC, some makers also have significant NCA capacity.

The 2170 cells in the Model 3 packs are an original design from Tesla AFAIK.

It’s a partnership between Tesla and Panasonic. I think it almost certain that Tesla and Panasonic engineers collaborated on the design of the 2170 cells. Tesla does have its own battery analysis lab, and also recently created a battery R&D group, but Panasonic has been busily improving its cell chemistry for decades.

Nope. Many secrets of manufacturing can’t be uncovered by deconstruction and/or chemical analysis. That has been the case since WW II, if not before.

That’s why many companies prefer to keep some or much of their IP as industrial secrets, rather than patent them.

Yeah even Colonel Sanders has KFC’s recipe in a secret location. So far nobody has as duplicated the recipe.
Even in China the Colonels IP (recipe) hasn’t been duplicated.

t’s not strange, Tesla only plans to use batteries from Chinese suppliers for the BASE Model 3. They do this precisely because they don’t want to leak their secret sauce.

The range of the base model is possible even without Tesla tech even if it leads to increase in weight a bit. The higher models will import the packs made in USA.

In this way Tesla can hold their IP while minimizing import tariffs.

Nope. Tesla will use Chinese cells for all the cars it makes in China. That’s pretty much a necessity in China, due to the way the Chinese government has rigged the system to make it difficult or impossible, or at least very expensive, to use foreign-made batteries in EVs.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611448/chinas-ambition-to-power-the-worlds-electric-cars-took-a-huge-leap-forward-this-week/

Tesla is only producing the short range version in china, long range versions will continue to be imported, here is the official statement from Tesla:

“Local manufacturing is an essential component of our ability to provide to customers in the region a truly affordable version of Model 3. Most other mid-sized premium sedans in China are locally produced, which allows them to have a lower average selling price. In the initial phase of Gigafactory Shanghai, we expect to have stamping, paint shop, body joining, and general assembly shops in operation by the end of 2019. This accelerated timeframe should be possible due to the radical simplification of our manufacturing layout and processes compared to our first-generation production line in Fremont. Higher-spec models such as our long-range all-wheel drive (AWD) and Performance versions will continue to be shipped to China from the US.”

https://insideevs.com/tesla-model-3-production-china/

“Tesla only plans to use batteries from Chinese suppliers for the BASE Model 3.”

They say clearly: “In the initial phase of Gigafactory Shanghai, …. Higher-spec models such as our long-range all-wheel drive (AWD) and Performance versions will continue to be shipped to China from the US.”

You are skipping lines. Initial phase is talking about what will be inside the new gigafactory being: “stamping, paint shop, body joining, and general assembly shops”

The higher spec models being imported is already a new sentence.

60 Minutes doesn’t have a monopoly on selective editing… 😉

They better not put these in RHD cars. I want the real thing from Fremont, not the cheap and cheerful cells courtesy of the Chinese military.

That will not happen anytime soon but don’t knock Chinese manufacturing. The odds are, the battery that is in your pocket that powers your phone is from China.

Last I heard, most high-end phones at least still use Korean cells…

This will go only into BASE Model 3 cars for China market only.

So if you:
1) Live anywhere outside of china
2) Live in China but order a long range version

You will get the cells made in Nevada (not Fremont, Fremont doesn’t make cells)

Not for long. Certainly not after the Shanghai Gigafactory gets its full production lines going next year. Tesla has already said it will use Chinese battery cells in Tesla cars made in China.

The main reason for Tesla building a Gigafactory in China is to avoid Chinese import tariffs, so why would Tesla spend all that money to build an auto assembly plant then pay stiff tariffs to import battery cells?

Keep in mind Tesla has no plans (at present) to build the Model S or the Model X in China; just the Model 3 and Model Y.

Tesla has stated they will only build the low range version in China’s factory while importing the higher models from US.

They can achieve the range of the low range version with Chinese batteries, but not the long range version.

Most of their sales in china will probably be the low range version anyways.

Tesla states a lot of things and then changes their mind. It should not come as surprise if one day, Elon tweets that only way to make the SR profitable is to use chinese cells

Well, if one day Chinese makers take the global lead in cell manufacturing, that might very well happen… But that won’t be for years. And even then, the Chinese companies will likely set up factories in the target markets, rather than exporting. (CATL is already doing this.)

AFAIK there is still no mass-produced, Chinese alternative to the Tesla/Panasonic NCA chemistry in the 2170 format (energy/power density, heat tolerance and longevity).

CATL will probably come close when they start producing their NMC-811 cells but that is probably still months away at the minimum. The latest news I could find about this: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-catl-battery/chinas-catl-to-start-producing-next-gen-low-cobalt-batteries-in-2019-source-idUSKBN1L213C

I wouldn’t be surprised if Tesla could only produce the low-range variant for at least 1-2 more years with Chinese sourced batteries. Their statements are indicative of this.

Companies are struggling with NMC 811. This report claims an automaker switched from 811 to Samsung SDI’s NCA last year:
https://www.adamasintel.com/ncm-811-adoption-passenger-vehicle-market/

I have no idea which automaker they are talking about. Tesla is the only carmaker I know using NCA.

It’s a true rumor.

Those batteries really really sucked like last week ago when I read how Volkswagen was going to be using them. Back then Panasonic where the only decent batteries but now I see the light seeing that Tesla is going to use CATL batteries

CATL batteries do suck compared to Panasonic, but it’s enough to make the base model.

It doesn’t make sense Tesla seen as a state of the art electric car company using products that even local small manufacturers use. Then again, maybe Panasonic batteries are not so special after all. Price competition is a bi*h!

You need to think outside the box a bit. Sure, the CATL cells won’t have the energy density, and likely not the power density, of Panasonic cells. So Tesla will have to use more CATL cells to achieve the same result. That’s okay; the Model 3 has enough room inside for a Long Range Model 3 battery pack. If Tesla has to pack more CATL cells into a Standard Range pack to equal the capacity and power of Panasonic cells, there’s room to do it.

In fact, using the new and presumably more space-efficient pack architecture for the Standard Range Model 3 pack, I think it’s entirely possible that Tesla can cram in enough CATL cells for even the Long Range Model 3. If not now, then surely within a year or two, as continuing improvements in cell chemistry result in continuing improved energy density, even in inferior CATL cells.

Where did you see anything about new Model 3 pack being more space efficient?…

It should be noted that Chinese cell supply does *not* have to be put in place for the Shanghai factory to get going. For starters, local battery production is planned to be put in place about half a year later than vehicle production. Also, they already said that some cells will likely be imported from Nevada and/or Japan — presumably starting with imports, and then shifting to local sourcing as it becomes available…