Elon Musk explains Tesla’s LFP Battery strategy for US Model 3 SR+

Tesla is giving Model 3 Standard Range Plus reservation holders the opportunity to get their vehicles sooner. For early delivery, Tesla owners can opt to receive a Model 3 SR+ equipped with a lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery pack instead.

As of this writing, January is the estimated delivery date of the Tesla Model 3 SR+ in North America. However, base Tesla Model 3 reservation holders could receive their vehicle as early as September if they opt to take delivery of a Model 3 SR+ with a battery pack similar to those produced in Gigafactory Shanghai.

The one difference between the base Model 3 made in Tesla’s Fremont Factory and Tesla China’s Model 3 would be their battery packs. Fremont’s Model 3 SR+ is equipped with Tesla’s nickel-based battery cells, while Tesla China’s Model 3 uses an LFP pack.

The battery packs have slightly different range estimates, which reservation holders may want to consider before taking Tesla up on its offer. The US-made Model 3 SR+ has an EPA-estimated range of 263 miles per charge, while the MIC Model 3 with an LFP battery has an estimated range of 253 miles per charge.

Elon Musk elaborated on Tesla’s decision to start offering base Model 3s equipped with LFP batteries.

“Our intent with this pack is that product experience is roughly equivalent between nickel & iron,” he said. “I’d personally slightly opt for iron pack, as it wants to be charged to 100% whereas nickel prefers ~90%,” Musk wrote.

The slight charging differences Musk mentioned between the packs may make up for the differing range estimates between the Model 3’s nickel-based battery packs and those using iron-based cells.

There is a 10-mile range difference between the two battery packs, but the fact that the LFP cells are best charged to 100% means that owners could frequently get their vehicles’ maximum range. In comparison, Tesla notes that vehicles with nickel-based batteries are best charged to about 80%.

During the last earnings call, Musk also suggested a preference for iron-based lithium-ion cells over those with a nickel base.

“I think probably there is a long-term shift more in the direction of iron-based lithium-ion cells rather over nickel,” Musk noted.

“I think probably we’ll see a shift — my guess is probably to two-thirds iron, one-third nickel, or something on that order. And this is actually good because there’s plenty of iron in the world. There’s an insane amount of iron. But nickel, there’s much less nickel, and there’s way less cobalt,” he said.

As more automakers transition to manufacturing electric vehicles, the demand for raw materials to make battery cells to power EVs has increased. As such, EV makers want to secure their raw material supply chain in advance. Tesla’s shift from nickel-based to iron-based cells, which use zero cobalt, could help it avoid supply issues in the future.

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Elon Musk explains Tesla’s LFP Battery strategy for US Model 3 SR+
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