Tesla aims to start testing vehicles equipped with 4680 battery cells by next year.
During the Q3 2021 earning call, Drew Baglino—Tesla’s Senior Vice President of Powertrain and Engineering—answered an investor question about 4680 battery cells.
“Early next year, from a non-cell perspective, structural, battery, crash, range, and reliability testing are on track to be complete this quarter. Testing is—to date has gone well, and the Fremont manufacturing line is on track to support,” said Baglino.
Baglino’s response hinted that Tesla’s 4680 production line on Kato Road saw some promising results, specifically in terms of performance. However, Tesla still appears to be moving forward with caution, choosing to prioritize quality to produce safe battery cells.
“However, similar to what Zach said before, this is a new architecture, and unknown unknowns may exist still. Our top priority is ensuring quality in what we deliver. And from a cell perspective, we are comfortable with the design maturity and manufacturing readiness, matching the pack timeline I just mentioned,” Baglino added.
Baglino’s update bodes well for the rollout of vehicles like the Cybertruck and the Tesla Semi, both of which are heavily speculated to be equipped with 4680 cells due to their large size and substantial power requirements. Considering the Tesla executive’s statement, it would not be surprising if more prototypes of the Cybertruck and the Semi would be sighted on the roads in the coming year.
At the earnings call, Tesla’s Chief Financial Officer Zach Kirkhorn mentioned that commodity prices were rising. Kirkhorn confirmed that Tesla was affected by the spike in raw materials for batteries. He explained that Tesla’s primary exposure to the almost 40% spike in raw materials centered around nickel and aluminum.
Kirkhorn elaborated that Tesla has a mixture of contracts with various suppliers for raw materials. For instance, earlier this month, Tesla signed a supply deal with Prony Resources to purchase 42,000 tonnes of nickel in a multi-year deal.
Kirkhorn predicted more cost headwinds for raw materials, resulting from volatility and substantial price increases.
“And as contracts expire there or we have to renew and extend them, we’ll have to return to negotiations. And so, you know, what we have to do as a company and what we are intensely focused on is we need to be continuing to drive down the cost of our products, which we have been doing. And we have to overcome cost increases that are outside of our control,” Kirkhorn elaborated.
“So whether that’s resourcing components or redesigning components or finding ways to be more efficient in manufacturing, we have no choice but to continue on that path and be even more aggressive in the light of the macroeconomics here,” he said.