Tesla sources many of its battery cells from third-party suppliers, like Panasonic, LG Chem, and CATL. Because of the massive rate at which Tesla buys these cells, it is paying significantly less per kilowatt-hour compared to its competitors, according to a new report from Cairn Energy Research Advisors.
With battery packs making up most of an electric vehicle’s cost, cells are the most important factor in controlling the price. The more a company buys, the less it costs, just like a wholesale retail store like Sam’s Club or Costco: the more you buy, the less per unit. In this case, electric vehicle companies compare their prices by kWh, and Tesla has a controlling lead in the sector, Cairn said, and it will last through the decade.
“Tesla is definitely putting the hammer down on the accelerator pedal. They see this as the crucial period, and they’re building out their capacities,” Managing Director of Cairn, Sam Jaffe, said. Mentioning the company’s Berlin, Shanghai, and Austin production plants, it is evident Tesla is piling on the output to decrease costs and make the most affordable (and highest-performing) electric cars on the market.
According to Cairn’s research, Tesla pays an average of $142 per kWh for cells purchased from its three previously mentioned suppliers. Meanwhile, companies like GM are paying $169 per kWh, while the industry average runs around $186, according to the firm’s report. Furthermore, Tesla’s packs cost $187 per kWh on average, with GM’s costing $207 per kWh and the industry average being $246 per kWh.
How has Tesla managed to pay so much less per kWh than competitors? Cairn says it is because Elon Musk and his team of highly-trained engineers and developers have done everything in their power to cut costs of its cars, a strategy outlined in the Tesla Master Plan.
“Everything is focused on cost. The lower the cost, the more affordable the cars become,” Jaffe said, according to CNBC.
Tesla’s work is far from finished too. Chasing the elusive $100 per kWh point, which is the widely-agreed upon price point that would match EV’s price to gas-powered cars, was outlined at Tesla’s Battery Day event in September, where Elon Musk outlined the company’s plan to decrease battery costs by up to 54%. This was outlined through a plan of mass-scale production, more affordable materials, and new manufacturing strategies. Additionally, Tesla plans to manufacture some of the cells in-house at its Kato Road facility.
Because of Tesla’s developments, Cairn believes it will remain the leader in battery cells throughout the decade. With some analysts predicting that Volkswagen would be the company to challenge Tesla, Cairn believes GM is the true number two.
“GM is fully committed and is taking this complete integrative approach which is going to allow it to be very close to Tesla, although the scale still isn’t in the same ballpark as what Tesla is planning.”