Yesterday, Elon Musk, Tesla CEO was interviewed for the European Battery Conference and he shared details about the EV carmaker’s current and future plans.
Musk who is climbing the list as one of the richest people in the world says Tesla (TSLA) is in the process of developing a long range battery and hinted at a smaller Tesla being manufactured for the European market.
On battery development, Musk said, “Our longest-range vehicles have over 600 kilometers of range, and there’s more we could actually do. We even have some under development long term that could do 1,000 kilometers.”
The Tesla Model S is the only model with a range rating of more than 400 miles from the US Environmental Protection Agency. The Tesla Model Y Performance currently gets 303 miles of range. The Tesla Model X has a 371-mile range for the Long Range Plus, and the Tesla Model 3 has a range between 315 and 353 depending on the model variant.
Musk said the fundamental impediment to progress with batteries is the cost. So, improving the battery while keeping costs down make electric vehicles affordable for everyone. Lowering Tesla’s price for vehicles is the biggest challenge and the fundamental aspect to improving energy density that related to improving the range. And to get there will require a lot of innovation in the battery’s cell design as well as the design of the factories that will manufacture these batteries.
The Tesla boss said:
“There's quite a bit more work in that in building the machine that builds the machine, then in the cell itself. So, one needs to design the cell in the right way. And then very, very difficult part. And I can't emphasize this enough, the very difficult part is then scaling up that production and achieving extremely high reliability and safety with the cells. So, we've put a lot of effort into this over many years. Mostly internally, but they've also been some key acquisitions that have been instrumental in achieving a low cost per kilowatt hour. And that's what we intend to add to the perspective Gigafactory in Berlin Brandenburg area.”
Regarding Tesla’s plans for battery cell plant at Gigafactory Berlin, Musk said they starting with a small plant in California, which is a proof of concept, but it will become the largest battery cell plant in the world capable of over 100 gigawatt hours per year of production, and then over time, it will increase to even 200 or 250 gigawatt hours a year. On top of this, Tesla wants to ensure there is no environmental impact of battery production. Musk said there are some proprietary methods that avoid a lot of the steps in the process that would normally be difficult to deal with environmentally.
One example is to reduce the cobalt content, which avoids the mining issue. Tesla wants an “almost” pure nickel anode as that will eliminate issues around processing the nickel electrode. Another process to improve sustainability is moving to a high silicon anode because it’s not energy intense to create the silicon and also coming up with a way to create lithium hydroxide, without using sulfuric acid and instead uses sodium chloride, which is essentially table salt that is used to extract the lithium from lithium deposits. And then that table salt is able to be reused.
Musk confirmed that both Giga factories in Berlin and Shanghai will manufacture original Tesla cars instead of manufacturing a European version of a Tesla model designed in California. Tesla will also ramp up its hiring to attract the best talent to do the original design and create a compact EV like a hatchback or something that most people want. In the US, cars tend to be bigger with options to go for smaller vehicles. So, in European cities that are more dense urban environments, a car that can easily fit into parking spaces is an important factor.
Musk admitted that he struggled to find a decent parking space while driving a Tesla around Berlin, “I was driving around Berlin and in quite a bit of trouble finding a parking space where we could fit.”
So, Tesla will be ramping up European operations by offering more employment, manufacturing high-performance batteries while minimizing harm to the environment, building super factories and vehicles that fit the region. All these plans will certainly place Tesla as a top competitor in the European EV markets.