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Overview of Tesla‘s 4680 Battery Cell

The 4680 battery is Tesla‘s newest lithium-ion cell that promises major improvements in capacity, range, performance, and manufacturing efficiency. With its much larger size and tabless design, Tesla believes the 4680 has the potential to revolutionize electric vehicle production.

First unveiled by Tesla in 2020, the 4680 gets its name from its 46 millimeter diameter and 80 millimeter height – making it over 5 times larger than Tesla‘s previous 2170 cell. By increasing the dimensions and simplifying the design, Tesla aims to boost driving range, lower production costs, and enable rapid scaling to higher volumes.

As Tesla brings its first 4680 factory online in Austin and scales up production, it could prove to be the most important piece in unlocking Tesla‘s goal of selling 20 million EVs per year. Here is a comprehensive look at Tesla‘s 4680 battery and why it represents a potential watershed moment for EV adoption.

The 4680 leverages new battery chemistry refinements to push the boundaries of what lithium-ion batteries can deliver. Here are the detailed specs:

Cathode

  • Chemistry: Nickel-rich lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC)
  • High 80% nickel content for increased energy density
  • Small amounts of manganese and cobalt

Anode

  • Graphite-based anode as in most lithium-ion cells
  • Silicon likely blended in to increase energy density

Electrolyte

  • Conventional liquid lithium-ion electrolyte
  • Formula tweaked to enable fast charging

Other Key Characteristics:

  • Tabless single-piece design for simplified production
  • Dry electrode manufacturing process without binders
  • Estimated capacity around 5,000 mAh
  • Energy density of 400 Wh/kg (compare to 250-260 Wh/kg for 2170 cell)
  • 75% charge in 15 minutes capable at 3C fast charge rate
  • Aiming for over 1.5 million mile lifetime

The high nickel NMC cathode delivers higher energy density which directly translates to increased range. The anode innovations like silicon blending also pack more energy.

Meanwhile, the chemistry advances allow the 4680 to fast charge incredibly quick. Tesla is targeting a blinding fast 0-60 mph time under 2 seconds in 4680-powered models.

The 4680‘s larger size and advanced chemistry give it considerable performance improvements over Tesla‘s previous battery designs:
battery comparison chart
(Source: EVNewsDaily)

With 5X the capacity and energy density of the 2170 cell, Tesla estimates over 300 miles of range from the 4680 battery. That‘s a major jump from the 200-250 miles for most current Tesla models.

In addition to the chemistry advances, Tesla optimized the 4680 for radically simplified manufacturing. The company claims the new process reduces battery cost per kWh by over 50%.

1. Dry Electrode Coating

Older methods use a wet slurry coating for electrodes. The 4680 applies dry powder coating to eliminate wastewater and the time-intensive drying stage.

2. Tabless Design

By removing the tabs, Tesla streamlines cell assembly and avoids an expensive and tedious process step.

3. Integrated Production

Tesla co-locates 4680 cell production, module assembly and pack production all under one roof. This vertical integration improves efficiency.

These incremental innovations add up to a vastly accelerated and lower cost production process. Tesla believes they are key to expanding global battery capacity and EV adoption.

For now, Tesla is only producing 4680 cells at Gigafactory Texas. However, Tesla is also collaborating with key battery partners to scale up 4680 supply:

  • Panasonic – Tesla‘s long-time battery partner. Panasonic is setting up 4680 production lines at their Nevada Gigafactory.
  • LG Energy Solution – Global battery powerhouse investing in 4680 production in the US.
  • CATL – Chinese battery giant and Tesla supplier reportedly filing patents around 4680-type cells.

In total, over $25 billion is being invested globally by battery companies to increase 4680-compatible production capacity according to data from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

Securing adequate battery supply will be crucial if Tesla hopes to hit aggressive production targets of 2 million cars per year by 2023 and 20 million per year this decade – a level that would require at least 3 TWh of annual cell production.

As of early 2023, the 4680 battery was only equipping Model Y crossovers built at Tesla‘s Gigafactory Texas. Model Ys with 4680 cells are delivering over 300 miles of range.

Tesla‘s next vehicles slated to adopt the 4680 are the Cybertruck and Semi Truck, both expected to enter production in 2023. Their greater energy needs make them ideal applications for the 4680.

Ultimately, Tesla plans to transition its entire current and future lineup to the 4680 cell including the Model 3, Model S, Model X and any new models like the rumored $25,000 hatchback.

While Tesla is assembling 4680 cells at its pilot factory in Fremont, high volume production is concentrated at Gigafactory Texas.

Tesla originally projected 100 GWh of annual 4680 output by end of 2022. However, the company has faced challenges scaling new cell production technologies to mass manufacture.

As of early 2023, Tesla was reportedly producing 4680s for Model Y at an annualized rate of around 5 GWh. It now aims to exponentially grow production capacity to 100 GWh by end of 2023.

Meanwhile, Panasonic is preparing to supply Tesla with additional 4680 cells from the Gigafactory Nevada location. After working through prototyping and validation, Panasonic stated it is ready to start mass production in the first half of 2024.

Ramping up 4680 cell volumes will be instrumental in Tesla‘s plans to drive down battery costs below the widely-cited $100/kWh threshold.

The 4680 battery packs impressive specs and manufacturing improvements into a larger cell format. This has profound implications:

1. Lower Cost

Simplified manufacturing and greater energy density drive battery costs down. Tesla guiding for >50% cost reduction versus 2170 cells.

2. Increased Range

Higher energy density cell chemistry enables 300+ mile range on a single charge.

3. Better Performance

With higher power density, 4680-powered Teslas can achieve insane acceleration.

4. Scalability

Larger cell size translates to fewer cells per pack. Combined with simplified production, factories can scale up easier.

5. Standardization

Widespread 4680 adoption by automakers could establish a standardized large-format cell, benefiting the broader EV industry.

While still early in the production ramp, Tesla‘s 4680 battery represents a potential tipping point for EV cost and performance – and ultimately, mass adoption.