Picture this – you’re driving down the highway in your new Tesla, the wind blowing in through the window, radio set to your favorite station, and the best part? The car you’re driving in is not only aesthetically pleasing, but amongst one of the most eco-friendly in the world. With new technology and an innovative battery design developed by Tesla, that dream isn’t too far from reality.
Since its founding in 2003 by engineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, the company has paved the way for the popularity of electric cars and set a new standard for luxury. The company rose to fame most notably because of an early investor and current CEO, Elon Musk. His name has since become synonymous with the company, and his notability has grown so much that he has the power to sway markets and the fate of companies by merely stating an opinion on them. When Elon Musk says something, people listen.
Tesla is known for revolutionizing the automobile manufacturing industry as we know it through its innovative and design principles. What’s the latest innovation? Cue the tabless battery.
What Makes Tesla Special?
At a time where the bulk of automobile producers have made the shift to the prismatic designed battery, Tesla has stayed true to its roots and continued to utilize cylindrical cells in their manufacturing design. Many have speculated as to why Tesla continues to do this, and it is often attributed in large to the fact that since cylindrical cell batteries, specifically the 18650 battery, are one of the most commonly used in the world, their constant manufacturing has led to their perfection. Ultimately, this results in the consistency and safety of the product.
With the integration of Tesla's new tabless 4680 battery, things might be changing. The majority of batteries used in electric vehicles are developed with a small battery tab that is attached to both the anode and cathode. With the tabless battery, both of these attributes, the anode and cathode, are laser-patterned onto the battery to create tiny tabs along the surface. This can save time by no longer having to manually attach tabs during the manufacturing process. As a result of this design, there is now a greater surface area between the casing and active battery, which will reduce the path for electrons to travel and ultimately result in higher efficiency. This delivers up to six times the power of their previously used batteries.
Interestingly, throughout the keynote, Tesla’s underlying statements were that the likelihood that there will be enough tabless batteries to effectively cover their entire production line anytime soon is low because their manufacturing has slowed due to sourcing issues. It will likely be several years before we see these batteries hit the marketplace.
The Good, the Great, and the Not-So-Bad
This newer innovation from Tesla can result in many positives for the company, the industry, and the environment.
First, let’s take a look at the company. Tesla will eventually save quite a bit of money attributed to their ability to manufacture the 4680 battery at faster speeds. Before this new battery innovation, the manufacturing machines would often speed up and slow down throughout the day to make time for workers to manually add the tabs.
Now the machines will be able to run at a continuous speed throughout the entire shift. This will save energy, employee time, and resources. Another area that poses a large benefit is within the efficiency of the battery itself. With the potential of up to 6x as much power and a jump by nearly 16% in range gain, these batteries provide the possibility to save on charging frequency and, therefore, time.
The environmental footprint will likely show that the increase in efficiency will result in a decrease in negative environmental outcomes. The more efficient a product is from manufacturing to end-of-life, the likelihood that it will have a smaller footprint increases. This is attributed to the fact that fewer resources are needed throughout the life of the product, resulting in fewer emissions, waste, and overall pollution.
With regards to the industry itself, you will likely see a shift by other companies looking to jump on board with this design and create a similar battery to power their own electric vehicles. This can increase competition throughout the field and result in a domino effect of a new design, more efficient batteries, and a lower environmental footprint.
This all sounds great, but what is the negative outcome as a result of Tesla’s new 4680 battery cell? Well, that is rather ambiguous at this point. When Tesla released news of the new innovation on Battery Day in 2020, they spoke predominately of the benefits and the outcome that would happen as a result of that. Since it is still rather new, and the company understandably wouldn’t want to speak ill of their new product, the negative benefits have not come to light.
Taking everything with the current state of the product in its implementation stage into consideration, the negative outcomes are presumably low. Tesla wouldn’t have announced the 4680 cell battery if this wasn’t the case. In addition, the benefits that we are already aware of are of significance and can potentially result in competitors looking to emulate this design. The real winner of this would be the environment. Any innovation that shows greater efficiency and a lower environmental footprint than its counterpart is one to be celebrated.