Can Tesla Meet 2023 Goals For In-House Battery Production?
- Getting By with a Little Help from Its Panasonic Business Partner How the Battery Dilemma Affects Likely Tesla 2023 Deliveries
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has set extraordinary goals for in-house battery production this year. In late 2022, Musk announced that Tesla aimed to halve the costs of the most expensive part of an EV by producing its own batteries. Tesla’s 4680 lithium-ion batteries — with 46-millimeter diameter and 80-millimeter length — hold about 5 times the energy of its current smaller 2170 cells. Tesla can use a smaller number of new cells for the same energy and driving range, reducing costs. Tesla faces a lengthy process in ramping up its battery factory, though, complicated by plans to use a new manufacturing technology called dry electrode coating. Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are the storage technology of choice in state-of-the-art EVs, leading to a substantial growth in global LIB production. The priority within the battery technology has been aimed at achieving higher LIB energy capacities to compete with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Dry electrode processing is part of the next generation of electrodes, as it reduces costs and eliminates toxicity to meet future battery production demands.
When Is The Tesla Battery Revolution Really Coming?
Research indicates that dry electrode mixing and coating would be revolutionary for large-scale LIB production. Solvent omission in dry electrode processing substantially lowers the energy demand and allows for a thick, mechanically stable electrode coating. The dry coating ultimately reduces the slurry preparation and mixing step, lowers drying times, and eliminates the toxic volatile fumes from N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP), solvent recovery, and recycling systems.
Compared to wet-processed materials, it is cost efficient and environmentally benign. Further, the dry electrode process may improve energy and power density by enabling unique, dense, high-loading electrode microstructures.
The Difficulty with Battery Manufacturing at Scale
He is changing the way how battery manufacturing is done,” Shirley Meng told Reuters. “It’s really, really difficult to manufacture at a speed and at scale.” Meng is a University of Chicago professor who previously worked with Maxwell, a battery technology company acquired by Tesla. The factory equipment for in-house battery manufacturing like this, Musk said, “doesn’t exist. It’s being made.” Reuters offers a nice explanation about how EV batteries are charged and discharged by the flow of lithium ions between the graphite-containing anode and the cathode. Cathodes contain nickel, which delivers high energy density, allowing the vehicle to travel further. Prices of battery ingredients like nickel hit records this week on supply fears stemming from the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and Musk had already in January forecast battery supply constraints, making in-house production a key to growth.
The pursuit of energy density has driven electric vehicle batteries from using lithium-iron-phosphate cathodes in early days to ternary-layered oxides increasingly rich in nickel; however, as nickel is used in the production of EV batteries, any sanctions placed on Russian nickel will become a barrier to EV manufacturing. Russia was the third-largest nickel producer in 2021, producing over 200,000 tons. Dry electrode technologies not only offer a way to reduce energy consumption in the battery cell making process — lowering the cost — but such innovations could also allow opportunities to augment the performance of today’s lithium-ion batteries in the near term. Dry electrode manufacturing skips a traditional, complicated step of battery manufacturing that involves the chemical slurry.