The Audi R8 e-tron, Like The Tesla Model S, Uses 18650 Battery Cells


Audi R8 e-tron

Audi R8 e-tron

Did Audi make use of Tesla’s open-source patents in designing the R8 e-tron?

We doubt it, but there’s one similarity between the R8 e-tron and Tesla Model S that is impossible to ignore.

The R8 e-tron, like the Model S, make use of 18650 cells.

In the R8 e-tron, the cell count is 7,488.  Those cells are placed in 52 separate modules.  Total kWh listed for the battery pack is 91. The cells operate at 3.6 Ah.

Over in the Tesla Model S 85 kWh you’ll find 7,104 18650 cells.  These cells are believed to operate at 3.4 Ah.

So, ever-so slightly different then.  Perhaps this similarity could lead us to conclude that if you’re going to build a high-performance, long-range electric car, then the 18650 cell is the way to go?

Or, could it be that Tesla did share some of its battery ideas with Audi in developing the R8 e-tron?  Remember, the R8 e-tron was cancelled back in the day due to Audi only being able to cram 48.6 kWh of battery into the car and the automaker being displeased with its total range. We wonder then, did Tesla provide a solution to Audi, either directly (through discussions) or indirectly (Audi checked out the Model S and found a solution for the R8), or is this all merely a coincidence?

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Categories: Audi, Battery Tech, Tesla


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29 Comments on "The Audi R8 e-tron, Like The Tesla Model S, Uses 18650 Battery Cells"

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Betteridge’s Law aplenty.

History is rife with the same industry, faced with the same issue, having the same resources (including a talent pool) finding the same answer.

True to a point: wheels are all round for a good reason.

However, in electronics, there is a huge potential for designing something fresh, using completely different components, battery form factors, and module layouts– this seems more like a case of “We can do exactly what you did, but make it even more powerful”. Which may be true only until Tesla bumps up the battery pack size to help give the Model X, better numbers for better range and towing. *shrugs*

I think Elon would be flattered by Audi’s emulation.

BTW, are the cells also made by Panasonic?

No, Samsung.

And… Samsung is second in line to Panasonic, as a Tesla Battery Supplier. They have agreements with both companies.

Not a coincidence, I think. 😉

Tesla walked away from that deal because Samsung demanded to be a major supplier for other Model S components as well, especially in regards to the infotainment system, much of which is proprietary Tesla tech.

The Audi NEEDS supercharging… then we’ve got an interesting, albeit not especially useful EV.

Every EV maker bulding 200* range vehicles, is going to wish they had a SuperCharger…

If Audi caved in engineering, maybe they’ll also be the first to offer a Tesla compatible DCFC Option?

Audi/VW/Porsche back CCS. It offers up to 100 kW in theory, though most CCS charging stations deployed today are 50 kW (leading to Audi’s somewhat disappointing claim of “significantly less than two hours” charge time).

There is a MASSIVE difference between a 50kW CCS charge point and a 120kW supercharger.

Firstly there is the obvious power difference, btw I’ve yet to see a 100kW CCS charger, they might exist, but then so might the yeti/big foot! The next huge difference is that it takes a number of minutes to get plugged into these CCS chargers, you have to release the car’s charge port, go round the back, plug in, go back to the car for the charge card you forgot, then back to the charger, wave the card infront of the reader, hope it works, follow the on screen instructions, etc…

With the supercharger, get out of the car, press the button on the plug to open the charge port, plug in and walk away. Disconnecting is similarly easy and quick.

Trust me, supercharging is the way it is suppose to be!

I don’t see many high end electric cars going on cross country trips–these are rich owners, not college students. They fly to Vail, they don’t drive.

True. But Rich folks also drive 250 miles plus. Say Malibu to Vegas on a spur of the moment.

And nobody likes driving with a 100 mile extension cord tied to the back of their car.

Without a real fast charging network, range anxiety would do exactly that to an R8 e-tron.

I have five clients that live in Malibu and I assure you NONE of them EVER drive to Vegas.

What is easiest is not always best. The 18650 works great for Tesla’s relatively volatile chemistry, where cell isolation and cooling is relatively more important that packing the cells in the most dense configuration. I suspect that as the relatively safer chemistries closes the gap in energy density with Tesla’s chemistry, or once Tesla has enough performance data to know exactly how much abuse their cells can take before thermal runaway happens, pouch cells will become the standard. I’m not knocking Tesla here since obviously their system currently works better than any production pouch cell systems, but the key word here is “relatively.”

Common misconception. The Roadster used Lithium Cobalt Oxide cells, which are quite volatile. But the Model S uses Nickel Cobalt Aluminum, which is quite safe.

If the same chemistry were put into the prismatic and flat cells out there, capacities of Volts and Leafs might go up by over 50%. I think the lawyers at the big firms didn’t want “vent with flame” batteries in the first round of EVs. Since Tesla gets away with it and real-world fires didn’t slow things down much, we should consider the higher density and “vent with flame” cells as viable options for some of the EV cars on the road.

I don’t know if I want vent with flame in an EREV, however. Sparks and flame can mix with a fuel tank rupture in an accident causing an undue fire. Some car accidents occur with fuel tank puncture but limited or low injuries. However, throw in some battery fire into the mix and you have a more dangerous situation.

BEVs with “hot” batteries seems good. EREVs with safer batteries also seems good.

You are implying that the Volt/Leaf pouch cells would fare better in the same application as the Model S, but there is no evidence of this yet. This is because unlike the Model S, which has the pack in the outside and near the front of the car (as necessary for swapping), those packs are inside the car’s body envelope. If you swapped in Volt/Leaf cells to the Model S, there’s no guarantee the pack won’t catch on fire given similar punctures (keep in mind there are many ways a pack can catch on fire, including the Volt pack which did under NHTSA testing in 2 separate tests). The reason why the Leaf won’t use this chemistry is because Nissan doesn’t want the thermal management overhead. The reason the Volt won’t use it is because they value cycle life more given the PHEV usage. Tesla’s cells have lower cycle life but high capacity which fits well with BEV usage, but not with a PHEV where high capacity is less important. Even if you assume 50 miles of range for the Volt, the cycle life needs to be 2000 to match a 100k mile warranty. Also Panasonic does not make that… Read more »

I think this video shows the leaf cells are very hard to set on fire. That being said I’d rather have the higher energy density.

Eric, about those ‘Fact’ on the Cells – maybe you mean they ‘Have a capacity of 3.6 Ah’ – since these cells most likely – ‘operate at 3.6 (or 3.7) VOLTS Nominal’, and – you will see detailed specs on the 85 kWh battery provided in the comments on the InsideEVS Tesla Model S 70D Story – Provided by Tony Williams:

– About halfway down the now very long and highly commented page:
“Tony Williams
April 8, 2015 at 3:33 pm
Tesla 85kWh battery specs
3100mah Panasonic 18650 cells”

So – you see the Tesla 85 kWh Pack uses the 3.1 Ah (3100 mAh) Cells – Per Tony’s reference there.

I was wondering – could you find and share a link on a source for these Samsung 3.6 A (or – really – 3,600 mAh) Cells? Alibaba seems to top out at 2,900 mAh!

Panasonic is for sure delivering the NCR18650B 3.7V 3400mAh, and can be found on a number of sites.

More Likely – These are what they chose to use, and might be what Tesla is planning to use shortly!

Just wondering here – and – where is that link or the quote for the battery pack size, since quoted it as 92 kWh in February:

The 3.1Ah theory is pretty old. There’s a general consensus at Tesla Motors Club on the 85kWh pack being made of 7104 3.4Ah cells (actually 3350mAh), which at 3.6V gives 85.7kWh.

JakeY, I tend to Agree With that Math, and that the use of the 3.4 Ah Cell makes better sense, as I understand it to be a better cell than the 3.1 Ah Cell.

In any case – good on them if they can make the car, and sell it! (If they do connect with Tesla to work a shared arrangement for supercharger Access/Expansion – that would put all other players even further behind!)

The cells which Panasonic makes for Tesla are made to Tesla’s exact specifications. For example, they lack certain safety features found in consumer grade cells, which help prevent runaway overheating. A Tesla battery pack monitors each cell and has a liquid cooling system, so that’s not needed in the cells themselves.

If Samsung is now supplying Tesla with battery cells, you can be sure they are also a custom type made to Tesla’s exact specification. It’s very unlikely you’ll find those offered for sale to the public.

It would be interesting to get a battery expert to look at the cells in the Audi battery and see if they had the same modifications that Tesla made for their batteries.

I don’t have the slightest clue how to actually accomplish that…..

+1 Robert. Great post.


Please update the story to eliminate the nonsense statement “the batteries operate at 3.6 Amperes.” The Ah (Ampere-hour) capacity rating of the cells is valuable information, but it must be stated as such, not “amperes.”

Thanks for all the great writing you do for inside EVs, I really do appreciate it.


I like InsideEVs as a site which tries to give usable technical informations not only commercial bullshit.

But I am always very upset if you only copy and paste a press release from some car maker and do not even read if this release makes sense. (Yes even in the press centers of the most car manufacturers, there are sitting people who have no idea what they’re writing about) So even with my poor english I can not miss the nonsense “The cells operate at 3.6 amperes” They probably means capacity of the cells in Ah (amperhours). So the Audi cells are ~12,2 Wh. Tesla uses 12 Wh cells with capacity of 3400 mAh = 3,4 Ah.

I should put it out there since everyone here seemed to have forgotten:

Martin Eberhard, one of the founders of Tesla, worked for VW for a while. He was a big advocate of 18650 based battery packs and although it never made production in VW while he was still there, there’s a very good possibility that this was inherited from his work there.

What surprises me is that it’s taken this long for any other EV maker to imitate Tesla in this regard. Clearly Tesla has the superior approach to designing and building a battery pack to last.

The larger flat cells used by other EV makers sound like a better idea… on paper. But in practice, not so great. For example, failure of a single cell has a significant impact on the pack’s capacity and power output when there are so few of them.

They should jump in on Tesla’s Supercharger infrastructure too, that would increase the value of the car immensely.

What an incredible advantage for Audi to launch an electric car and already have the infrastructure in place!

I believe that Martin Eberhard, the co-founder of Tesla, has done some consulting for VW. Audi is an integrated premium brand in the Volkswagen corporate family.

Yup, Martin had a 1 year contract deal to be a consultant for VW before they both parted ways amicably at the end of the contract period.

That was back in 2010 right when the first Audi E-Tron’s were first being shown off. It is possible that he told them back then about the benefits of lots of small batteries, and they are finally just now taking his consulting to heart. Or they just have figured out that the best way to try and beat Tesla is to join them.