New details of Tesla’s mysterious P100D battery pack, which Tesla CTO JB Straubel once described as having notable changes in battery module and pack technology, and a “complete redo on the cooling architecture”, have emerged thanks to Jason Hughes’s latest project.
Hughes posted photos of a dismantled 100 kWh battery pack, which he obtained through the purchase of a salvaged Tesla P100D, that reveal an increase in the number of 18650 lithium-ion cells being packed within each battery module. Hughes also discovered a surprising increase in battery capacity beyond 100 kWh, and what appears to be a replaceable connector that allows Tesla to retrofit older vehicles with the newer battery pack.
More 18650 Battery Cells
As outlined in Hughes’s blog post, Tesla was able to fit more of its cylindrical 18650 lithium-ion battery cells into each of the 16 modules making up the P100D battery pack. It’s worth noting that Tesla has maintained a relatively similar form factor on battery packs produced for Model S and Model X vehicles since their introduction. Regardless of the vehicle’s model version – be it a P85, a 60, 75D, or 90D – the uniform skateboard design of the battery pack allows for ease of production, as Tesla can manufacture a single-style pack that can be installed across its fleet of vehicles. Under that same notion, Tesla has also been able to create ‘unlockable features’ by software limiting vehicle range depending on the option purchased by the customer. In other words, Tesla installs the same battery pack into like-kind vehicles (e.g. Model S 60 uses the same pack as Model S 75).
Hughes’s dissection of the P100D battery shows that Tesla leveraged the same design concept by distributing a total of 8,256 battery cells across the 16 modules making up the battery pack, bringing total capacity up to the advertised 100 kWh number. However, and much to Hughes’s surprise – he had previously criticized Tesla for providing less battery capacity than what’s perceived by way of the vehicle’s nameplate – Tesla actually provided 102.4 kWh of capacity on the P100D pack, representing a 2.4% increase over what’s marketed.
Backwards Compatible Design
Tesla has also, seemingly, taken into account the ability to retrofit new battery packs onto older vehicles by using the same high and low-voltage connectors across packs. According to Hughes, “the pack itself has the same high-voltage connection, the same low voltages connectors, and the same cooling connector.” However, Hughes notes that there’s subtle changes on the P100D pack that would require a new part in order for it to be retrofittable onto non-P100D vehicles.
“The [P100D] pack has the newer ring around the high-voltage connector. So, it’s plug-and-play (for the most part, firmware and config changes needed) on the Model X and refreshed Model S, however it would require a different spacer ring on the high voltage connector. Tesla even has a part number for it, so it should be pretty simple to put into any Model S/X.” says Hughes.
What about that new P100D battery cooling architecture?
Well. It’s not magic. Tesla did improve battery cooling in the new P100D 100 kWh battery pack. And Tesla did provide a redone architecture, but it isn’t one of mythical proportions.
Hughes reveals Tesla’s approach to improve battery pack cooling was to use shorter and thinner cooling loops per battery module, thereby improving the rate of heat dissipation. Unlike most other electric car makers who do not “prime” their vehicle’s batteries through the use of a thermal management system, Tesla pumps fluid through the battery module to regulate the temperature of its battery pack in order to bring them to optimal operating temperatures. By ensuring the lithium-ion cells operate within ideal temperatures, Tesla is able to provide the best performance possible, while ensuring cell longevity.