Tesla has a number of programs that have the potential to change markets, and one of these is arguably the 4680 cells. Created using a dry electrode process and optimized for price and efficiency, the 4680 batteries could very well be the key to Tesla’s possible invasion of the mainstream auto and energy market. If Tesla pulls off its 4680 production ramp, its place at the summit of the sustainable energy market would be all but ensured.
Unfortunately, Tesla’s publicly disclosed target for the 4680 cells’ production ramp appears to have been made on “Elon Time.” This means that during Battery Day last year, Tesla’s target of hitting acapacity of 10 GWh by late September 2021 included some optimistic assumptions. Similar to other projects like Elon Musk’s Alien Dreadnaught factory, however, the pilot production of the 4680 cells have met some challenges.
Tesla admitted to these difficulties during the Q2 2021 earnings call, when Elon Musk explained that the main challenges in the 4680 cell production ramp were related to the batteries’ calendaring, or the process when the dry cathode material is squashed to a particular height. Partly due to the use of nickel in the 4680 cells, which are extremely hard, some of the calendar rolls end up being dented.
This was an issue that presented itself only in the pilot 4680 line, not during the bench and lab stages. Tesla Senior Vice President of Powertrain and Energy Engineering Drew Baglino, however, emphasized that the challenges in the Kato Road facility are an engineering problem and not a science issue. This meant that with enough work and optimization, Tesla should be able to address the calendaring issues of the dry battery cells.
Citing sources familiar with the matter, Tesla investor and host of YouTube’s Hyperchange channel Galileo Russell recently shared some details suggesting that Tesla may have hit some breakthroughs with the production of the 4680 cells. As per the Tesla investor, the production yield of the 4680 cells has reportedly risen to about 70-80%, up from just about 20% last year. This means that a decreasing portion of the 4680 cells produced today are seeing issues, and Tesla’s pilot battery line at Kato Road is starting to close in on the acceptable yields of factories like Giga Nevada.
While the delays in the 4680 cells appear to have affected the rollout of products like the Cybertruck and the Semi, it is starting to become evident that Tesla is about to hit some respectable battery output from its pilot line in California. Fortunately, the company has already initiated some contingencies that address the 4680 cells’ delays. The production of the Model Y in Giga Berlin and Giga Texas would be launched with 2170 battery packs, for example, at least until the 4680 cells are available.
Watch Hyperchange‘s feature on Tesla’s 4680 battery production challenges in the video below.