The situation around battery cell production at Tesla Gigafactory 1 is coming into focus over the past few days following reports about Tesla and Pansonic slowing down their investments into the battery factory.
Now Tesla CEO Elon Musk weighs in and confirms that battery cell production is indeed still limited at Gigafactory 1 in Nevada.
Last week, a report came out of Asia claiming that Tesla and Panasonic suspended investments in the expansion of Gigafactory 1.
Tesla partly denied the report saying that they still plan to continue investments, but they want to first focus on getting more production out of their existing equipment:
“Both Tesla and Panasonic continue to invest substantial funds into Gigafactory. That said, we believe there is far more output to be gained from improving existing production equipment than was previously estimated. We are seeing significant gains from upgrading existing lines to increase output, which allows Tesla and Panasonic to achieve the same output with less spent on new equipment purchases. However, we will of course continue to make new investments in Gigafactory 1, as needed. Most importantly, contrary to what is implied in this report, our demand for cells continues to outpace supply. It remains the fundamental constraint on Tesla vehicle and Powerwall/Powerpack production.”
In following comments over the weekend, Musk reiterated what was said in Tesla’s official comment regarding the automaker being cell constrained, but he added that the production is currently not effectively at 35 GWh, which was previously thought to be the current annual production rate.
Last year, it was believed that Panasonic achieved an annualized production rate of 35 GWh and there were even talks with Tesla to increase its investment at Gigafactory 1 beyond the 35 GWh capacity.
Now Musk says the production lines are only running at two-thirds of the capacity:
There is 35 GWh/yr “theoretical capacity”, but actual max output is ~2/3. It was physically impossible to make more Model 3’s in Q1 due to cell constraints.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2019
Tesla disclosed having produced 62,950 Model 3 vehicles during the first quarter.
At an average of 63 kWh per battery pack (the average between Standard Range Plus and Long Range battery packs), it would mean almost 4 GWh of battery cells or almost 16 GWh at an annualized rate.
When Tesla and Panasonic first announced plans for Gigafactory 1, they planned to gradually increase production capacity at Gigafactory 1 to up to 105 GWh of battery cell production and 150 GWh of battery pack production in order to support Tesla’s growing business.
This is significant news. The production capacity at Giafactory 1 is much lower than most people previously thought.
For a while now, we thought that Gigafactory 1 wasn’t a production bottleneck anymore.
Elon seems to say that Model 3 is still cell constrained, but it doesn’t seem to be the case at a production of ~63,000 units last quarter unless there were specific problems with battery cell production during the last quarter or energy storage production was way higher than anyone expected.
Either way, I think it is still fair to say that Gigafactory 1 is still the largest battery cell factory in the world.
My understanding is that Tesla and Panasonic have invested in the capacity for 35 GWh, but they currently can’t get out more than ~23 GWh due to production issues.
We will keep an eye out on production issues at Gigafactory 1 going forward as it is a very important part of Tesla’s future growth.
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