By Norihiko Shirouzu and Paul Lienert

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Elon Musk says prototypes are simple, manufacturing is hell. And relating to the long-awaited Cybertruck, Tesla’s hell is its pioneering 4680 battery.

Tesla delivered the primary of its futuristic stainless steel-plated electrical pickups final month and CEO Musk stated in October that it could in all probability hit an annual manufacturing charge of 1 / 4 of 1,000,000 automobiles in some unspecified time in the future throughout 2025.

However Tesla remains to be a good distance off that form of manufacturing tempo, and one of many primary bottlenecks is the pace it will possibly make the 4680 batteries used within the Cybertruck with its new dry-coating know-how, 9 folks aware of the matter stated.

Tesla’s Giga Texas manufacturing facility is presently churning out 4680 battery cells at charge solely ample to energy about 24,000 Cybertrucks a 12 months, or a couple of tenth of the required output, in keeping with Reuters calculations based mostly on a mix of public information and unpublished figures offered by sources.

With the ability to ramp up battery output massively by dry-coating electrodes – relatively than utilizing the slower, extra pricey wet-coating – was a key issue behind Tesla’s forecasts in 2020 that it could greater than halve battery prices, minimize funding considerably, and create smaller, greener factories.

The 9 folks, who spoke to Reuters on situation of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, stated Tesla had but to crack dry-coating on the industrial scale wanted to make 4680 batteries quick sufficient to hit its manufacturing targets.

The folks stated dry-coating the anode within the 4680 cells was not problematic however Tesla was combating the identical method for the cathode – the costliest element in a battery.

Dry-coating anodes and cathodes is confirmed within the laboratory, in addition to for smaller power storage gadgets reminiscent of tremendous capacitors, and even some small batteries, in keeping with Yuan Gao, a battery know-how marketing consultant.

“However nobody has performed it up to now for giant EV batteries at a mass scale and at a excessive sufficient pace. Tesla is the primary one to attempt to commercialize this,” stated Gao, who has labored within the trade for 3 a long time.

“The problem is that not solely does Tesla should scale it up and pace up the method, it additionally should develop its personal tools and instruments. It is formidable to say the least,” he stated.

Tesla didn’t reply to detailed questions from Reuters for this story.


In accordance with three of the sources, the 4680 batteries in Cybertrucks embody an estimated 1,360 particular person cells.

Which means Tesla would wish to make 340 million cells a 12 months, or nearly 1,000,000 a day, to provide 250,000 of the electrical pickups, that are coming into a sizzling market with rivals reminiscent of Ford’s F-150 Lightning, Rivian’s R1T and an electrical Hummer from Normal Motors.

In the intervening time, Tesla’s Austin manufacturing facility takes about 16 weeks to make 10 million 4680 cells, in keeping with Reuters calculations based mostly on figures from Tesla, verified by the three sources.

That interprets to 32.5 million cells a 12 months, or sufficient for just below 24,000 pickups – and that is just for the Cybertruck.

Tesla additionally needs to make use of 4680 batteries to energy different automobiles, most notably the $25,000 small automobile the corporate is scrambling to launch by the mid-2020s.

Tesla has some restricted manufacturing capability for 4680 cells in Fremont, California however its plant there may be primarily for pilot manufacturing. Panasonic, one among Tesla’s long-standing battery suppliers, is planning to construct a minimum of two vegetation in america however has solely simply damaged floor on the primary.

Two of the 9 folks aware of the matter imagine Tesla’s progress with scaling up 4680 manufacturing will probably achieve steam, particularly as soon as it achieves stability with the manufacturing know-how on one manufacturing line.

They stated Tesla had been specializing in establishing strong know-how to provide batteries with out flaws first time spherical. It is a time-consuming course of however, “when you crack the code and set up stability, it’s like exponential”, one among them stated.

“Pace would decide up. There’s already lots of traction in dry coating,” the individual stated.

Tesla’s battery tsar Drew Baglino stated in October that the corporate was now producing 4680 cells on two manufacturing traces in Austin and plans to put in a complete of eight traces there in two phases, with the final 4 on account of be working in late 2024.

Nonetheless, one of many two folks stated replicating established know-how from one manufacturing line to the subsequent is not any cakewalk.

The supply stated solely about 5% of cells made on worthwhile manufacturing traces are ditched however scrap charges may shoot as much as 30%-50% and hover there for a number of months as every new line will get going.

One of many sources stated Tesla’s dry-coating methodology for cathodes was not proving to be any sooner than the previous moist course of, although scrap charges had dropped to as little as 10% to twenty%.

Baglino didn’t reply to requests for remark for this story.


The sources stated Tesla was struggling to combine the cathode supplies, which embody lithium, manganese and nickel, with a binder and stick them to a metallic foil to provide a cathode – with out utilizing moisture.

Two of the folks stated the method labored for small quantities however when Tesla tried to scale it up, lots of warmth was generated and this melted the binder, which one of many sources believed was polytetrafluoroethylene, extra generally often called Teflon.

“In case you soften the glue, fairly quickly the whole lot will turn into one massive chunk of gooey mess,” one other of the sources stated.

Equally problematic for Tesla are the machines used to coat the metallic foil to provide battery electrodes – tools which is akin to very large journal and newspaper printing machines with massive rollers, the sources stated.

To speed up cell manufacturing, Tesla is making an attempt to coat a number of strips of magnetic foil with energetic battery supplies on the identical time, and at excessive speeds.

That calls for giant, extensive rollers, in addition to making use of super power to press the supplies onto the foil. However as a result of the rollers are massive and extensive, making use of stress evenly is proving to be a problem, the sources stated.

And when stress will not be utilized evenly, Tesla will get electrodes with uneven surfaces and thickness, which are not any use for its battery cells and should be scrapped, the sources stated.

Maybe extra problematic, Tesla’s Baglino advised a fireplace chat at a battery convention in March that Tesla was nonetheless constructing a totally new high quality verification system so they may weed out cells with flaws in coating.

One of many sources with data of the matter, stated particularly it was about constructing information infrastructure round Tesla’s battery improvement, manufacturing and in-field use as a result of in some instances the issues had been hidden within the coating and didn’t present up for a number of months down the street.

In different phrases, Tesla does not fairly know but which dry cells are good, and which of them should be junked, the supply stated.

(Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu in Austin and Paul Lienert in Detroit; Enhancing by David Clarke)

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