Tesla CEO Elon Musk was at the AGU Fall Meeting today for the Presidential Forum and made some comments about Tesla’s battery factory under construction in Nevada.
Musk said that the battery cells the company will produce at the Gigafactory in partnership with Panasonic will feature some “moderate improvements” in technology over those in production today.
Earlier this year, Tesla confirmed that the battery cells it plans to manufacture at the factory will be different from the current ones solely produced by Panasonic for the Model S and X, but this is the first time that the company attached the adjective “moderate” to the improvements.
During a recent earnings call, Tesla chief technology officer JB Straubel said that the company will manufacture different types of li-ion batteries in the Gigafactory and confirmed that Tesla will have multiple lines operating in the facility.
The automaker currently uses nickel cobalt aluminum (NCA) battery cells for its vehicles and its back-up power battery packs like the 10 kWh Powerwall. For the 7 kWh daily cycling Powerwall, the company uses nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) cells, which typically have a longer cycle life, but less energy density.
During his talk at the AGU meeting, Musk said that the technology improvements at the Gigafactory will not be small nor big, but moderate – without specifying any change in chemistry. He then added that the battery industry is generally seeing a 5 to 8 percent increase in energy density every year.
The CEO emphasized that the Gigafactory will be able to produce better batteries over time and that its main goal is to take advantage of the economy of scale, which he said will be “pushed to its limits” with the factory.
While answering questions from the audience, Musk also confirmed that the Gigafactory will feature an on-site battery recycling facility. He compared the battery packs to “high quality ore”:
“it’s way better to mine a battery packs than rocks.”
We recently learned that Tesla’s Gigafactory will be nearly 40% larger than expected and that the company already started production, but only for stationary storage battery packs. Battery cell production is only set to begin in late 2016.
We will update this post with a video of Musk’s talk at the AGU meeting when it will be available.