Elon Musk hinted, or really all but confirmed, that Tesla is getting into producing its own battery cells using its newly acquired technology from Maxwell and it might even get into mining minerals for those batteries.
It’s easy to think that Tesla already makes its own battery cells since it claims to have the biggest battery factory in the world, but it’s actually not the case.
At Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, Tesla owns the factory, but part of the plant is occupied by Panasonic who owns cell production lines at the factory. Tesla buys those cells from the Japanese supplier to make battery modules and packs with them in other sections of the same factory.
During Tesla’s 2019 shareholders meeting, the CEO highlighted the fact that Tesla’s product rollout is currently limited by the scaling of battery production.
“As we scale battery production to very high levels, we have to look further down the supply chain and we might get into the mining business… I don’t know. A little bit at least. We do whatever we have to to ensure we can scale at the fastest rate possible.”
Tesla has been increasingly involved down the supply chain by making deals directly with mining companies and when it comes to battery production, he said that he “didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag too much.”
Tesla CTO JB Straubel, who has been the leading battery expert at Tesla for some time, added:
“We need a large scale solution for battery cell production.”
While they didn’t outright say that they would take over battery cell production themselves instead of relying on a supplier like Panasonic, Drew Baglino, VP of Technology at Tesla, added that they want to be “master of their own destiny” on the subject.
The CEO also briefly mentioned the integration of the battery technology recently acquired from Maxwell:
“We think this is really quite strategic [..] this is a very important technology that will have big effect on the cost and scale of cell production – both reducing the cost and capital required to scale cell production.”
However, he didn’t want to comment more than that and said that more will be announced during the “Battery and Powertrain Investor Day” that Tesla plans to hold by the end of the year.
I think the chances that Tesla is getting into battery cell production itself is extremely high at this point.
Elon didn’t outright say that Tesla would make its own cells, but they made so many hints that they all but confirmed it in my opinion. The biggest one was when he listed the two most important things: battery cells and full self-driving.
Tesla is already building one of those things from the ground up. It makes complete sense to also build the other one.
When Elon talked about not letting the cat out of the bag just yet, JB talked about a “large scale solution for battery cell production.” He didn’t say “battery production”. He said “battery cell production.”
That whole series of comments from Elon, JB, and Drew was very suspicious and when Drew said that they have “learned a lot from partners” and that they now “have solutions”, JB looked at him with a weird nervous smile.
To me, that smile said “no don’t say it yet” and what he didn’t want him to say yet is that Tesla is going to make its own battery cells.
If we factor in Elon’s Maxwell comments, it looks quite clear that Tesla is working to leverage its experience working with Panasonic to start producing its own battery cells with the technology acquired from Maxwell.
This would be a major development. Tesla was already the automaker most involved in battery cell production, but this would bring their lead to a whole new level if the technology is really as good as it sounds.
What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.
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