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German teardown firm gives insight on Tesla Model 3 materials cost and battery composition

A German teardown company has stated that Tesla could make a profit with the Model 3. Speaking with German news agency WirtschaftsWoche, an engineer from the teardown firm stated that after analyzing and studying the vehicle, they concluded that the materials used in the Model 3 cost around $18,000 per vehicle.

The Model 3 has a base price of $35,000 for the standard range, RWD version. Currently, the premium variant of the compact electric car, the Model 3 Performance, is offered at $78,000 with all options except Autopilot. In a statement to WirtschaftsWoche, the engineer from the teardown firm stated that the Model 3 could ultimately contribute positively to Tesla’s earnings.

“If Tesla manages to build the planned 10,000 pieces a week, the Model 3 will deliver a significant positive contribution to earnings,” the engineer said.

Also notable were the conclusions of the German company about the Model 3’s battery pack. Laboratory results shared with WirtschaftsWoche noted that Tesla’s 2170 cells for the Model 3 consisted of 2.8% cobalt, 65% less than the industry average of 8%. Sven Bauer, Managing Director of Batterien-Montage-Zentrum (BMZ), one of Germany’s largest independent battery producers, stated that Tesla’s reduction in cobalt use can give the company a competitive advantage. 

“That would be a significant competitive advantage for Tesla. Cobalt is currently very difficult to get on the world market,” Bauer said. 

Tesla’s progress in its battery tech were highlighted in a recent report from advisory firm Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. According to BMI, Tesla has used less cobalt in its batteries since the days of the original Roadster and the Model S. With the Model S, for example, Tesla used up 11 kg of cobalt per car. Tesla is using 4.5 kg of cobalt for the Model 3, a 60% reduction.

Tesla’s improvements showcased in the Model 3’s 2170 battery cells were discussed during the company’s Q1 2018 Update Letter. According to the letter, the cobalt content of the company’s Nickel-Cobalt-Aluminum cathode chemistry is “already lower than next-generation cathodes that will be made by other cell producers with a Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt ratio of 8:1:1.” Such a ratio has not been attained by any competitor in the market so far.  

The evolution of Tesla’s cobalt use over time. [Credit: Benchmark Mineral Intelligence]

The observations of the German firms about Tesla’s battery tech in the Model 3 echo the findings of Detroit veteran Sandy Munro, whose company, Munro & Associates, is also in the process of tearing down and analyzing the compact electric car. In a recent episode of Autoline After Hours on YouTube, Munro stated that the Model 3’s battery is the best in the industry today. Munro was particularly impressed with the .2-milliamp differential between the Model 3’s battery modules, stating that “nobody (in the industry) can balance batteries that close.”

Back in January, photographs emerged in the Tesla community showing the Model 3 being air-freighted to Germany. References to Stuttgart, which is where Porsche and Mercedes-Benz are based, were visible in the pictures. The German companies reportedly paid up to $230,000 for every Model 3 that they acquired.

Confirmation that German companies were analyzing the Tesla Model 3 came in February, when Georg Kacher, a journalist for German news agency Süddeutsche Zeitung, published an article stating that a “major German car company” was able to acquire a Model 3 for testing and analysis. According to Kacher’s report, the German company was surprised and impressed by the Model 3’s minimalistic design, especially in the vehicle’s interior, which was dubbed as “reminiscent of a completely cleared, black-washed Bauhaus living room.”

German teardown firm gives insight on Tesla Model 3 materials cost and battery composition
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