The 18650 battery cells Tesla Motors has been using in its Model S, have proven to perform very well compared to other types of battery chemistries on the market. The cylindrical battery which measures 18 mm wide and 65 mm in height, hence its name 18/650, has been the main component of Tesla’s battery pack, but could there be a possibility that it would soon move away from this proven technology?
Tesla isn’t married to 18650
Tesla Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel has recently said the company isn’t married to cylindrical cells and the company would move to flat cell manufacturing if and when there are greater advantages to replacing the 18650. This has started speculations in the world of investors, yet again.
18650 cells = the Model S
Tesla manages to squeeze several thousand of the 18650 cells in the 85 kWh Model S with brio. The cylindrical shape of the densely packed cells within a protective casing lends itself to become part of the structural integrity of the vehicle. Because of this, one has to naturally ask whether there’s advantages to Tesla replacing a floorpan of batteries that has become so instrumental to the Model S’ overall rigidity? Not to mention Tesla would need to rework the battery thermal management system, as well as introduce a completely new subframe for the vehicle.
What else might work?
When you consider Tesla’s choice of using the 18650 while other carmakers are experimenting with and choosing perhaps more sophisticated battery technology, at the expense of not having sufficient time on market, it paints a clearer picture that Tesla’s use of the more affordable, and proven 18650, may be the safer play. After all, the cell technology has been around this long for a reason, presumably because of its cell efficiency, and its ability to curtail thermal-runaway conditions with the right measures in place.
There is little sense for Tesla to move away from the 18650.
Going back to Tesla’s future using 18650 cells, the company won’t drop them any time soon especially with the latest announcement that the $5B Gigafactory plant will have Panasonic as a copartner. It might make sense to think the third generation of its mass-market electric car would sport a different type of battery, but until then Tesla’s current battery technology is rock solid and won’t be going away anytime soon.