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At Tesla’s “Battery Day” event on Tuesday, CEO Elon Musk announced the production of a US$25,000 electric vehicle (EV) “about three years from now”. Importantly these EVs will be powered by “tabless” batteries that Musk promises will be cheaper and more powerful.
The new “tabless” batteries, called 4860 cells, will provide five times more energy, six times more power and 16 per cent greater driving range. The 4860 cells are larger and will result in a 14 per cent reduction in cost per kWh at the cell form factor level. Full production is about 3 years away.
Musk explained that the greater power and cost-efficiency will be achieved by removing the tab that connects the cell to what it is powering.
“You actually have a shorter path length [for the electron to travel] in a large tabless cell than you have in the smaller cell with tabs,” Musk said.
“So even though the cell is bigger, it actually has more power. The power to weight ratio is actually better than the smaller battery.”
The announcement of the new battery technology is significant because it determines how far the car can travel between charges, the time needed to charge it and how fast it accelerates. It is also the most expensive component of the car, and so a cheaper battery will result in a more affordable car.
“This is a massive breakthrough,” claimed Musk.
These battery updates affect Tesla’s long-haul truck Semi, pick-up truck Cybertruck and updated sportscar Roadster. However they are not expected to reach high-volume production until 2022.
Tesla will continue to buy battery cells from Panasonic, South Korean manufacturer LG Chem and Chinese manufacturer CATL however will also make them in-house to reduce costs, hopefully creating cheaper electric vehicles.
“It’s absolutely critical that we make cars that people can people can actually afford,” he said. “Affordability is key to how we scale.”
A US$25,000 electric vehicle would be approximately the same price as the cheapest automatic Toyota RAV4, according to CarAdvice.
“We do not have an affordable car. That’s something we will have in the future. But we’ve got to get the cost of batteries down,” Musk said.
However this is not the first time Musk has promised a $25,000 electric vehicle. In a youtube interview with Marques Brownlee in 2018, Musk promised that a $25,000 electric vehicle would be available within three years.
“I think in order for us to get up to…a 25,000 car, that’s something we can do,” Musk said. “But if we work really hard I think maybe we can do that in about 3 years.”
Tesla is also planning to build a new cathode plant for its batteries in North America to reduce supply chain costs. This may make cathodes 76 per cent cheaper and reduce cost per kilowatt-hour of its batteries by 56 per cent, whilst also producing zero wastewater.
Tesla also described plans to eliminate the use of cobalt and maximise the use of nickel in its cathodes. Musk did not cite a timeframe but did state it would make Tesla’s batteries significantly cheaper.
Musk outlined that the ultimate end goal of such changes was sustainability.
“By how many years can we accelerate sustainability? That is the true metric of success.”