Published on 16 September 2020 |
by Dr. Maximilian Holland
September 16, 2020 of Dr. Maximilian Holland
Less than a week to go until Tesla Battery Day. In my opinion, most of Tesla̵
While there will undoubtedly be an exciting tech showcase and lots of “one more thing” elements, Elon Musk probably has. already revealed the leading battery technology that will enable Tesla to massively scale its mission to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy (and transportation).
I analyzed and explained my opinion on this news immediately after it spread during the Tesla 2020 Q2 earnings call in July, but it appears that a significant portion of Tesla’s chatter simply missed it or, more likely, not. understood.
Not everyone knows that LFP battery packs cost at least 20% less per kWh than nickel-based battery packs and that LFP cathodes have no mineral supply constraints or price spikes (unlike nickel cells). But when you knowand if you’ve heard what Elon said, it adds up to something very significant.
What did Elon say?
So let’s break it down one more time. Here’s what Elon already said in the Q2 call for those who didn’t take it the first time (this time in italics):
“The real limit to Tesla’s growth is there isAll production at an affordable price, that’s the real limit, so that’s why we’re going to talk about it a lot more on drum day, because this is the fundamental constraint of resizing. “
“There are two general classes of cells, there is iron phosphate [LFP] and then the nickel-based one. Nickel based cells have a higher energy density, so obviously they are more at hand needed for something like Semi where every unit of mass you add in the battery pack you have to subtract in the load. So it is very important to have a mass efficient long range package.
“However, what we are seeing with our cars is that the overall efficiency of the vehicle has become good enough that we are actually comfortable with an LFP package in the Model 3 in China, and that it will be in volume production later this year. So we think getting a range that’s in the high 200’s … you probably get it a range of nearly 300 miles, with an iron phosphate package, taking into account a whole range of engines and other vehicle efficiencies. ” Elon Musk, Tesla Q2 2020 Earnings Call.
I’ve written several times about the economics and properties of LFP cells and nickel-cobalt cells for electric vehicles (check here, here and here), so maybe I have a different perspective than most Tesla observers. The interpretation of Elon Musk’s statements seems to me unequivocal. But even simple words are open to different interpretations, so I’ll explain my interpretation here:
There are many varieties of electrochemistry, but there are currently only two major commercial routes for EV cells, LFP (iron phosphate based cathodes) and nickel (nickel cobalt based cathodes). This is widely understood in the industry. So far, so good.
The higher energy density of nickel-cobalt cells (compared to LFP) is suitable for long-range and weight-sensitive electric vehicles such as the Tesla Semi. However (in contrast) for T.passenger vehicles esla (especially the entry level vehicles need no more than 400 miles of range or insane power-to-weight ratios), Tesla’s many years of accumulation in the powertrain and other efficiencies mean that even the most modest energy density of LFP now it is enough to give nearly 300 miles of range.
Add the crucial side note (which Elon knows very well but apparently most of the Tesla community doesn’t know) LFP EV batteries are much cheaper per kWh and much more scalable (availability of raw materials) than nickel ones.
Bottom Line: We are now at a point where the lowest cost EV battery technology, LFP, despite its lower energy density, has enough energy to power Tesla’s higher volume entry level vehicles with a range of nearly. 300 miles.
Tesla will not unlearn all of the vehicle efficiency technologies it has acquired, it will further improve them. LFP will not become less energy dense over time (it will improve further). LFP will not increase in price / kWh (it will become cheaper). Therefore, all of Tesla’s more affordable future entry level vehicles will also have very decent range (range sufficient for mass market acceptance) using low cost, LFP batteries.
In short: LFP is by far the cheapest and most scalable (in production volume) EV battery chemistry that exists today and for the foreseeable future, being at least 20% cheaper ($ / kWh) at the package level than the nickel-cobalt battery packs. If LFP is now a suitable technology for Tesla’s highest-volume vehicles, it would be madness for Tesla not to use LFP.
True, LFP does not have the highest energy density. True, it doesn’t have the image of the most glamorous or sexiest battery technology around. But don’t be fooled by appearances – it is precisely the low cost and potentially massive production scale of LFP that the electric vehicle revolution needs to replace combustion engine vehicles. And kill the internal combustion engine in the age of global warming, pollution and dysfunctional fossil fuel policies it’s sexy as hell.
To meet the mass market, electric vehicles don’t need extreme reach, they need low cost and higher production volume
The 2012 Tesla Model S was already capable of 265 miles of nominal range and 35 minutes of charging for decent travel progress. The 2017 Tesla Model 3 was already capable of about 300 miles of range and 20 minutes of charging for decent progress. These vehicles already had sufficient technical capabilities to replace combustion engine vehicles for a large percentage of car buyers, but were held back by true mass market demand. from their price points. To reiterate Elon’s first point quoted above:
“The real limit to Tesla’s growth is the production of cells at an affordable price.”
The technical capabilities exist for the wide acceptance of electric vehicles, but the dominance of the mass market requires lower prices than those offered until now. Battery packs are by far the most expensive single component in electric vehicles, so reducing the cost of the battery is key.
For a little more color on what constitutes the price of mass market vehicles, the best-selling models in Europe for each of the last 3 years have been the VW Golf (prices in Germany starting at € 19,881 including tax), the Renault Clio (€ 13,540) and the VW Polo (€ 15,138). This is an average of around € 16,200 ($ 19,265), which is, by definition, a mass market price in Europe.
In the US, putting aside the anomalous culture around pickup trucks (a segment Tesla is targeting soon), the best sellers are the Toyota RAV4 (starting at $ 25,850 before sales tax), Nissan Rogue ($ 25,200) ) and Honda CR-V (~ $ 25,000). That’s an average of around $ 25,350 (€ 21,300) plus tax, so a little higher than in Europe (partly due to the average US folks preferring these significantly larger vehicles).
Yes, savvy folks know that an electric vehicle will save them at least € 25,000 on fuel costs in Europe over a life of 150,000 miles / 250,000 km (and save a little less in the US due to lower fossil fuel prices. ), but unfortunately most consumers think of costs in lump sums, not in portions over time. Despite substantial life savings, the initial price of electric vehicle vignettes must decrease approach the above prices in order to achieve greater mass market appeal. LFP, being by far the most affordable EV battery technology, is the most direct way to lower the price of electric vehicles.
As time goes by, the efficiency of electric vehicles will continue to improve further, requiring less battery power to provide competent and affordable range. LFP’s key features of low cost and production supply will continue to further improve, improve, and as a welcome side bonus, LFP’s technical capability will further improve (in fact, this is an important part of cost reduction per kWh). So LFP will become an increasingly better solution for mass market electric vehicles over time.
Precisely these dynamics led to the agreement between Tesla and battery manufacturer CATL to supply LFP cells for its Shanghai Gigafactory Model 3, the news of which came in February 2020. The two had reportedly talked about LFP supply. for “more than a year” in advance. This tells us that Tesla has already been thinking about LFP for a long time.
What’s behind the cost benefit of LFP?
I have done several analyzes of LFP battery capacities in relation to the traditionally more common nickel-cobalt EV batteries if you want to know more. The tale is their relative cost. The supply of mined nickel and cobalt minerals (for nickel-cobalt cells) is only available on a fraction of the scale of the mined iron and phosphate supply (for LFP cells), and the older minerals are much more expensive.
The lithium hydroxide that nickel batteries need is also more expensive than the lithium carbonate that LFP batteries need, although this is not a major cost component overall. EV cobalt nickel batteries are already absorbing most of the current world supply of cobalt, and unless the volume of minerals mined can change very quickly, they will also take up most of the class 1 nickel once the electric vehicles will approach 20% to 25% of the global automotive market share (they will have reached a share of around 10% in Europe this year).
Over time, both nickel and cobalt can be consistently mined more extensively, but mining projects have very long lead times and the tightening of mineral supply is already setting a looming minimum price for how much batteries can be produced in the medium term. at low cost nickel-cobalt, and obviously by placing limits on the quantities in which these batteries can be made. Nickel-cobalt chemicals still work around $ 100 / kWh at the package level, even for higher volume contracts from low-cost suppliers.
LFP avoids all these constraints due to the relatively huge abundance of currently mined constituent minerals (iron, phosphate and, increasingly, traces of manganese) and consequently the low price of minerals. LFP has reportedly already hit $ 80 / kWh at the package level and still has the potential to drop much further over time as it is nowhere near the cost of the ore. LFP’s mineral components are so abundant that even when nearly all of the vehicles sold are electric vehicles, there will be more than enough minerals to supply the required batteries.
The cost advantage of LFP is even more relevant for stationary accumulators, where the slightly heavier weight of LFP compared to nickel-cobalt is generally not a problem. The economics of stationary storage depend primarily on low cost and high life cycle – there are common varieties of LFPs that can meet both of these requirements much better than most other traditional battery chemicals. We can expect the majority of Tesla’s fixed storage to take advantage of this and eventually switch to LFP.
Nickel-cobalt will continue to play an important role in Tesla’s halo / showcase products
As it should be clear by now, nickel-cobalt batteries are not that competitive in terms of cost, but they do have energy density advantages over LFP batteries and have more room to gain (and gain faster) in energy density in future. Given the above discussion, of course, this higher energy density is no longer strictly necessary for electric vehicles capable enough for the mass market and struggles to compete with LFP on cost for this class of vehicles.
However, the energy density advantage of nickel-cobalt will remain very relevant for halo battery electric products such as long range electric vehicles (over 300 miles or even 400 miles) and high performance electric vehicles where the relative light weight it is still very desirable. This of course includes Tesla’s semi-trailers, where vehicle weight is inversely related to available payload payload, as indicated above by Elon.
Tesla’s Roadrunner Battery Project
In March 2020, an environmental study paper emerged regarding a new Tesla battery project. The paper described proposed construction work at Tesla’s facilities in the Kato road area in Fremont “To house new battery manufacturing equipment and research and development space (known as ROADRUNNER).”
Tesla hasn’t spoken publicly about the project yet, but this will almost certainly play a major role as a high-end tech showcase to the battery day. The study paper reveals the following details:
- The construction of 29,475 square feet of manufacturing and R&D space at the Kato Street Building, plus some additional space existing in the adjacent Page Building.
- At least 400 new production employees, with shifts of 100 employees working at any given time.
- Additional 200 MWh per day of electricity supply to support the project: for traditional battery production methods, this would be sufficient for approximately 3,000 kWh of battery production per day (equivalent to 11,000 units of 100 kWh packs per year). But Roadrunner’s point is to implement new approaches to efficient cell production, such as Tesla’s energy-efficient dry electrode manufacturing process, which does not require solvent-based drying ovens. This and other innovations can mean substantially greater cell production in this facility. Maybe 20,000 units of 100 kWh per year.
- Statement of both nickel-cobalt-aluminum and nickel-cobalt-manganese materials (among others) on the site, suggesting that both existing variants of Tesla’s nickel-cobalt cathode will be produced. The material claims do not provide any indication of LFP cathode variants produced as part of the Roadrunner project.
Until a month ago, Roadrunner’s major construction work was nearing completion. As this is the first record we have of Tesla producing its own internal cells at a commercial volume, and research and development is part of the intention, we have to imagine that the company will incorporate the dry battery electrode manufacturing process of its own. Maxwell Technology subsidiary.
Tesla will also presumably use electrolytic filling technologies from the Hibar subsidiary.
Another rumored recent acquisition, SilLion, will be leveraged to optimize the silicon content in graphite anodes, without excessive swelling and mechanical stress, to improve energy density.
The work of the Jeff Dahn research group at Dalhousie University will be leveraged to optimize electrolyte doping. They also worked on single crystal cathode technology (see million mile battery, below) and other chemistry improvements, primarily aimed at optimizing cycle time.
There is also Tesla’s tabless electrode technology, which we are already aware of via a patent application from May 2020. This will reduce the ohmic resistance of the current flowing inside the cells and thus significantly reduce the generation of heat, will improve cell longevity, reduce / simplify cooling needs and reduce the energy required for cooling. In addition, it will make the cells more tolerant to high-power charging (as well as discharging), thereby reducing the supercharging time and improving peak power. This is big enough:
Much more important than it looks
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 7, 2020
Along with all of this, there are most likely some other battery technology and manufacturing innovations that Tesla will be using in this production line, which we are not yet aware of. Recent leaks suggest that the diameter of Roadrunner cells is about twice that of 2170 cells. If so, this should increase energy density at the cell level, as well as simplify the interior and package assembly, reducing packaging costs.
It is clear that Tesla intends this Roadrunner battery project to produce cells at the cutting edge in terms of energy density, power density (C rates of charge and discharge), thermal performance and even life cycle. Presumably they intend to try new methods in production efficiency (speed, energy, cost of capital, yield) and thus also improve the cost of the cells in $ / kWh (compared to existing commercial nickel cobalt cells).
Roadrunner battery cell applications
As Roadrunner cells will most likely quickly become the highest energy density available to Tesla at commercial volume, the company will almost certainly implement them in cutting-edge applications. Logically, these applications will be the next Semi Truck and Roadster, and the next Plaid Tesla Model S and Model X.
I think Tesla will announce the availability of these Plaid models on Battery Day, as Porsche recently tweaked the Taycan 2021 for more performance, and Lucid Motors also announced a high-performance challenger coming next spring.
To ward off another impending extreme long-range challenger from Lucid, Tesla could also announce a long-range variant of the Model S with a ~ 130 kWh Roadrunner battery that is expected to achieve an EPA rating of over 525 miles (or more). . Improved cellular energy density will minimize weight gain.
Since Roadrunner cells will initially be expensive to produce and only available in moderate volumes, these short-term and ultra-long-haul Plaid vehicles will be priced high commensurate with their exclusivity and initially limited production volumes. In a short time we can expect a further increase in the production of Roadrunner cells, probably in parts of Tesla’s gigafactories; most likely in Texas where Tesla Semi and Cybertruck will be produced. The Plaid version of the Cybertruck can use Roadrunner cells. Tesla may also work with Panasonic at Gigafactory Nevada to produce Roadrunner cells. Read more about how Tesla can scale Roadrunner cells below.
The latest “application” for Roadrunner technology is simply to help Tesla diversify its strategy and strengthen its bargaining position.
Diversity, flexibility and strategic bargaining position
We have seen that even modest energy density LFP cells will power very interesting but affordable vehicles, which will become Tesla’s best sellers by volume. Tesla may also be able to bring some of their battery technologies such as dry electrode, tabless electrode, electrolytic doping to be applied on LFP cells, perhaps in collaboration with CATL, perhaps ultimately with its own production. LFP. Tesla will continue to find good uses for their existing cells with decently high density in the meantime. These are the Panasonic NCA cells which provide “Long Range” and “Performance” vehicles and LG’s NCM cells which power the Tesla Long Range 3 models and soon the Model Y in China.
Because Tesla’s highest volume vehicles are so efficient that they can use generic enough cells from any available supplier, the company can shop virtually anywhere to ensure it benefits from the most competitive pricing on the open market. This puts Tesla in a good position to negotiate the most competitive contracts, potentially with a wide range of suppliers.
Add to that available palette internal Roadrunner cells, which ensure Tesla doesn’t depend on anyone else’s technology to maintain its reputation for being at the forefront of halo electric vehicles and frontier applications (like long-haul semi-trucks). and Tesla should be in a strong position.
In relation to the point of non-dependence, this flexible strategy, tapping into different cell types, allows Tesla to protect itself from the whims of mineral supplies and fluctuations in costs, particularly those for nickel and cobalt. Having access to low-cost, stable technology like LFP means that Tesla’s core business of manufacturing and selling ever higher volumes of battery electric vehicles and battery power products is protected from these fluctuations and potential bottlenecks.
This diverse and flexible approach to cell supplies has long been in the works for Tesla. As Drew Baglino said at the 2019 Annual Meeting, regarding Tesla’s need for a large-scale solution for battery cell manufacturing, “We are not sitting and watching, we are making every move to be masters of our destiny here. , technologically and otherwise. “
“Million Mile” Battery
Since at least 2015, Elon Musk has been referencing Tesla’s plans to get EV powertrains with “one million miles” of useful life, including for batteries. This of course depends on how many miles a battery’s charge cycle allows and the number of charge cycles the cells can perform before degrading significantly.
If one battery allows a vehicle to have 400 miles of range, 2,500 cycles give you a million miles. 300 miles of radius takes ~ 3,333 cycles and so on. The cut-off point in defining “useful life” (or “significant degradation”) is typically when the battery pack still retains approximately 70% of its original energy capacity. Even below 70%, the battery and its cells will still be valuable for less energy-dense uses, such as in stationary storage applications.
Research team Jeff Dahn worked to take nickel-based cells from 4,000 to 6,000 cycles in the lab, using single crystal cathode particles and custom electrolytes. Commercial production versions should balance cycle duration with other features, but should be able to go from 2,500 to 3,000 cycles to take “one million miles”. Maxwell reported that their dry electrode manufacturing technology also increases cell cycle duration.
There are only a couple of high-use cases where a million-mile capacity would obviously be useful: Tesla’s semi-trailers and robotaxis. Most privately used vehicles almost never reach much more than 300,000 miles of lifetime use (which Teslas can already provide), requiring over 20 years of average driving service (13,500 miles per year for typical US drivers) . A private vehicle is also far behind in safety technology (and other features) when it is 20, even if its powerplant is in perfect condition.
As we explained earlier, LFP is not suitable for weight sensitive applications such as the Tesla Semi Truck, so although some varieties of LFPs already run beyond 2,500 cycles, the Semi will use nickel-based versions of a “million-pound battery. miles “. An LFP version would be cheaper in robotaxis. Note that CATL, Tesla’s current LFP cell supplier partner, has already announced its “million-mile battery,” but said this technology uses neither conventional LFPs nor nickel-based cathodes.
How to scale the production of batteries in practice?
Kato’s road facilities will likely only supply around 10,000-20,000 units of 100 kWh battery packs, or equivalent, per year. This will be fine in the short term if only the long range Plaid S and X, S and X and the initial Tesla Semi units are to be provided. But each Semi will likely use at least 800-1000 kWh of cells, so when these vehicles exceed a few hundred units per year, the production of Roadrunner batteries will have to increase. And that’s before you even consider a Plaid Cybertruck and the Roadster.
This scale will likely take place in a portion of Tesla’s new gigafactories (Shanghai, Berlin, and Austin), but Roadrunner likely may not be the exclusive gigafactory cell type. Panasonic’s classic NCA cells will continue to be manufactured at Gigafactory Nevada, and depending on Tesla’s negotiated supplier relationships, it is entirely possible that Tesla will also have lines that manufacture their own LFP cells, or partner on those lines with CATL.
The internal versus supplier of the story is difficult to predict, as some of Tesla’s strong strategic positions, highlighted above, can be achieved simply by having modest internal cell production, flexible cell needs, and various agreements with external suppliers.
However, if Tesla’s Roadrunner cells performed as cost-efficient and high-performance as intended, it would make sense for Tesla to increase production capacity, as they will likely be the most competitive nickel cells available. Keep in mind, however, that the potential nickel and cobalt ore supply problems mentioned above mean that Tesla will try to avoid over-reliance on any cell type beyond LFP, unless they can get a very reliable, stable, and highly scalable mineral supply agreements.
Some of these mineral supply contracts will also be needed for Roadrunner’s modest Kato road production. The ladder of these contacts is something to look out for on Battery Day to indicate the volume of Tesla’s roadrunner plans.
Even if Roadrunner goes according to plan, as noted above, LFP (as it can also benefit from some of the same new manufacturing techniques) will still have the cost advantage and ideal fit for entry level vehicles. Again, in my view, LFP is Tesla’s way to true mass-market sales volumes and completely disrupting internal combustion engine sales.
Other Battery Day technologies?
What are some of my more off-the-wall thoughts on what might come the drum day?
It might make sense to put a small bank of 50kg (around 1kWh) Maxwell supercapacitors in the Plaid Model S (and a future Roadster) for the benefits of battery / motor cooling during hard track sessions.
Because? Repeated extreme acceleration and regeneration add a lot of heat to the battery pack (and engine heat). The limiting factor for high-performance electric vehicles on race tracks is not power or performance, but heat build-up and thermal throttling to protect components. A small supercap cache that reduces 50% of the battery load for hundreds of acceleration / regeneration tasks (e.g. Hundreds on just one turn of the Nürburgring Nordschleife) would make a huge difference to the temperature control of the battery pack and allow for greater cooling to motors and inverters.
Since this simply tops the dollar (and supercapacitors likely get hotter than batteries due to lower round-trip efficiency), the feasibility of this depends on how heat tolerant Maxwell’s supercapacitors are. I also admit that if the tabless electrode design of the Roadrunner cells works exceptionally well, the extreme heating of the battery could still be significantly mitigated. This would eliminate any advantage of a supercap cache.
We already know that Model Y’s heat pump and eighth valve will eventually catch up with all other Tesla vehicles, since Elon referred to this when he discussed “our passenger vehicles” and efficiency, above.
The Semi Truck probably won’t be announced as ready for production yet, but we could see a formal update announcement about its range increasing to 600 or more miles, thanks to Roadrunner cells.
Tesla’s V3 Superchargers are officially rated for 500 volts, and vehicles currently have 400-volt power systems. Ad un certo punto probabilmente vedremo le Tesla di fascia alta migrare verso un progetto di sistema a 500 volt, altrimenti perché il guadagno nella capacità di tensione del Supercharger. Il giorno della batteria potrebbe essere un buon momento per annunciarlo o potrebbe arrivare più tardi.
Un aggiornamento estetico potrebbe arrivare al modello S e X, e un modesto aggiornamento esterno sarà ovviamente in qualche modo necessario per le versioni Plaid comunque, data la loro posizione più ampia e gli ampi diffusori d’aria.
Sappiamo che i modelli Tesla più piccoli e più convenienti arriveranno in futuro, ma non vedo alcun annuncio su questi che accadrà per un altro anno circa, in parte perché potrebbero Osborne ordini e vendite della Model 3 e della Model Y. Questi futuri modelli Tesla più piccoli potrebbero effettivamente essere annunciati correttamente solo una volta che saranno disponibili per l’ordine. Ricordi come è stata svelata la Model Y in un evento di basso profilo, per paura delle vendite di Osborning Model 3? Questo potrebbe essere ancora più vero per questi futuri modelli di mercato di massa.
Nella mia interpretazione, conoscendo i vantaggi in termini di costo dei pacchi LFP rispetto ai pacchi batteria al nichel-cobalto, le parole di Elon sulla chiamata agli utili del secondo trimestre 2020 erano chiare. I veicoli di ingresso di Tesla, con una portata di quasi 300 miglia, passeranno alla tecnologia LFP economica. Questi saranno i maggiori venditori di Tesla a livello globale, perché quasi 300 miglia di autonomia sono sufficienti per la maggior parte dei consumatori e, una volta inclusi, sono i prezzi competitivi il fattore chiave per la scalabilità. Tesla cercherà di reperirli da CATL, ma potrebbe anche iniziare a produrli internamente in collaborazione con CATL o altri fornitori LFP. Alcune delle tecnologie generali delle batterie di Tesla dovrebbero essere applicabili a LFP e potrebbero ridurre ulteriormente i costi.
Le batterie al nichel Roadrunner di Tesla incorporeranno tutte le tecnologie delle batterie di Tesla e apriranno nuovi orizzonti in termini di prestazioni complessive. Ciò consentirà ai veicoli all’avanguardia di Tesla di rimanere in prima linea nelle specifiche di prestazioni, autonomia, ricarica e longevità. Diventeranno anche le celle a base di nichel più competitive a cui Tesla ha accesso. Tesla manterrà Roadrunner in-house o in strette partnership di produzione (Panasonic e / o LG), ed espanderà gradualmente il volume di produzione di Roadrunner ad Austin, Berlino e possibilmente nelle altre Gigafactories.
Avere questo duplice approccio innovativo alla fornitura di celle, almeno uno dei quali sarà interno, oltre agli accordi esistenti di Panasonic e LG, offre flessibilità a Tesla e pone l’azienda in una forte posizione strategica per quanto riguarda le negoziazioni e i contratti di fornitura.
Penso che queste siano le parti chiave del quadro, ma probabilmente mi sono perso alcune altre cose ovvie, e spero che ci sarà qualche sorpresa “un’altra cosa”. Per favore, passa ai commenti per condividere i tuoi pensieri.
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