The Truth About Tesla Model 3 Batteries: Part 1

Welcome to another Two Bit da Vinci Video,
where today we are going to talk about “The Truth about Tesla’s Batteries.” Thanks to all those who voted in our last
poll, and to anyone who’s new, we hope you’ll subscribe and take part of our future polls
to see what topics we cover next. If you’re thinking about a Tesla, you’ve
undoubtedly heard about how cheap they are to fill up, how little maintenance they require,
and with recent Model 3 Production ramp ups, we’re on the verge of absolute Tesla ubiquity. But one of the questions that we believe keep
potential buyers up at night, surrounds their battery packs. So we’ve compiled a list of all the questions
we’ve received, and we’re going to break it down, step by step in this two part video
series. To understand the battery technology, its
important to think about it in these categories. First we’ll look at the raw materials required
to create lithium ion batteries. Second we’ll look at the battery cell manufacturing. In part 2, we’ll look at the complete battery
pack manufacturing, the final Car manufacturing, and end of life recycling of lithium ion batteries. The first step in this journey has to begin
with the acquisition of the raw materials that make EV’s possible. We’re often told that mining operations
for lithium and other battery materials is worse for the environment then just making
petrol cars. So is that true, are we destroying the world
by making battery packs for EVs? Let’s break this down element by element. Different car makers use different cathode
chemistries for lithium ion batteries, Tesla uses NCA chemistry, or Nickel, Cobalt, and
Aluminium (LiNiCoAlO2). They use this particular chemistry because
it offers great energy density, long cycle life, and great charge performance. This makes Tesla’s batteries the absolute
top of the line in the EV world. They weigh less, last longer, and power the
performance of things like Ludicrous mode. Most other EV manufacturers have opted to
use NMC or Nickel Manganese Cobalt, which has slightly lower energy density, but is
regarded as a safer battery. More on all of this later. Tesla’s Batteries have gone through 3 stages:
Stage 1 was from 2009-2012 found in the Roadster and Model S. Stage 2 was from 2016-2018 and
powered the Model S Gen II, and the Model X. Stage 3 starts with the Model 3 in 2018. So what’s changed, and how are they improving? Stage 1 batteries were constructed with 18650
cells, which are 18 mm wide, and 65 mm tall. They had a NCA formulation that required 11kgs
of Cobalt in the cathode, per car. They had a pure graphite anode, with no Silicon. Stage 2 batteries used the same 18650 cells,
but reduced the amount of Cobalt required in the cathode from 11 to just 7kg/car. They also introduced a small amount of silicon
into their anode. So let’s talk about anodes, where common
materials include graphite and silicon. Both Graphite, a very common stable form of
Carbon, and Silicon live on the same column of the Periodic table, giving them 4 valence
electrons. This ability to form 4 covalent bonds not
only makes Carbon the building block of all life on Earth, but also a great anode material. Silicon is very similar, but allows 10x the
energy capacity of Graphite. It’s clear that Silicon anodes are the future,
but the problem with Silicon is that, while Graphite expands about 7-10% in volume from
empty to fully charged, Silicon expands between 300-400%! This is a big problem, because while pure
Silicon anodes, could use less material, allowing for larger cathodes, and thus greater energy
density, the repeated expansion and collapse during charge/discharge cycles severely reduces
its operating life. So in Tesla’s Stage 2 batteries, they use
a hybrid Graphite/Silicon anode, with between 5-15% Silicon. Stage 3 batteries are new for Tesla, and first
shipped with the Model 3. Stage 3 batteries have further reduced the
amount of cobalt to just around 4.5kg per vehicle. They also have a hybrid silicon/graphite anode,
and while proprietary and unreported, probably higher silicon content than their stage 2
batteries. So why is lithium so popular for cathodes? Let’s look at the left-most column of the
Periodic Table. These are the alkali metals, and they all
have one valence electron. So metals here are likely to give up one electron,
which is very important in the production of electricity, and Lithium is the lightest
metal. It turns out, that Lithium is the 25th most
abundant element on earth. However, it only makes up .0007% of the Earth’s
crust. Most lithium extraction actually happens in
liquid brine pools. Water is evaporated off by the sun and the
lithium compounds can be extracted. A majority of current current lithium deposits
are in the Lithium Triangle of Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Australia and China are also big markets,
and their role will only increase in the future. There’s also lithium in the oceans and estimates
place it around 230 billion tonnes, but is in very low concentrations. Though there are no companies extracting Lithium
from the World’s oceans today, when demand rises or supplies dwindle to the point where
it’s profitable, you can be sure that they will. The price for Lithium is right around $7.50USD
per lb as of 2018, and looking at the past prices, you can see Lithium has been surging,
and prices in the future will hinge upon supply, as demand is just getting started. Next up is nickel which has an abundance of
0.009% in the Earth’s Crust. Nickel is widely viewed as the most important
element for EV batteries, and looking at this graph, you can see it’s the largest constituent
in Tesla Batteries by mass. It plays a pretty big role in battery packs
for other manufacturers as well, and will be a key element as worldwide EVs shipments
continue to rise. Nickel prices are around $4.00 / lb in 2018
and Canada is Tesla best bet for a pure North American supply chain. Next we have Cobalt which comprises 0.003%
of the Earth’s crust. Now this is where things get interesting,
because Cobalt is the most critical element in their battery supply chain. Cobalt is the most expensive material here,
costing just shy of $40/lb in 2018. This is due to is scarcity, but also due to
the fact that over 60% of worldwide production comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Political turmoil, child labor concerns, and
violence in this region, make Cobalt the most critical element in the supply chain, and
it’s no surprise that Tesla is reducing its reliance on Cobalt with each generation
of battery. Manganese comprises 0.11% (774) of the Earth’s
crust, making it the 12th most abundant element. You’ll notice there is no manganese in Tesla’s
batteries, while it is used on most other EVs. This is an interesting move for tesla, considering
Manganese is so cheap at only $0.93/lb in 2018, but when you factor a larger requirement
for Cobalt, in NMC batteries, its less surprising. There’s also a small amount of Aluminium
in the NCA battery, but luckily it is the 7th most abundant element on Earth by mass,
and has a very mature supply chain, due to its use in everything from cans, cars and
aircrafts. This makes Aluminium very affordable at only
$0.86/lb. So this is not a concern at all for Tesla. Now all those elements are used in the cathode,
and the story in the anode is simpler, where there’s graphite, which costs roughly $0.60
/ lbs and an average Tesla battery pack contains about 54 kg of graphite. While only 25% of graphite was used for batteries
in 2012, that number is use rise substantially. There isn’t too much concern here, especially
considering graphite can be created synthetically in the lab, and as demand soars, synthetic
graphite labs are sure to pop up. We wanted to talk about the raw materials,
because unlike other companies that are planning to sell tens of thousands of EVs each year,
Tesla is planning to sell half a million and then a million EVs each year. It’s absolutely crucial to understand supply
chain fragility when considering that lithium ion battery production is set to soar. The good news is all these materials have
been mined for decades, and most data suggests there won’t be any issues with supply limitations
for Tesla’s goals of a million cars a year. But as more manufacturers start believing
in the same vision, there’s sure to be a strain on some of the critical elements. So be sure to stay up to date with the raw
material supply chain news, because it will be absolutely critical in the next 10 years. We aren’t going to cover the environmental
impact of mining battery materials vs. petrol cars in this video, but make sure to subscribe
for a future video where we’ll do just that. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way,
let’s talk about the battery cell manufacturing. As you’ve probably heard, Tesla opened Gigafactory
1 in Sparks Nevada, and though it will only be fully completed by 2020, its pumping out
batteries, and will only increase its production rate as it nears completion. Tesla has switched from 18650 cells to 21700
cells because it’s an optimized size to maximize energy, with minimal increases in
weight, and excellent cost. Voltage is largely unchanged, since its a
function of battery chemistry. So the big question here is, why does Tesla
use these little battery cells, when they know they’ll need thousands of them? Why not not make custom big batteries, like
the ones found on a BMW i3? The i3 uses prismatic batteries, with big
custom packs. The Chevy bolt and Leaf use rectangular pouch
batteries, which you might think makes more sense since there’s less wasted space. But to understand Tesla’s choice of cylindrical
small cells, we have to consider commonality vs. customization, and design flexibility. The i3’s prismatic battery and the Bolts
pouch battery have to be specifically made for those cars. They are built to specification, much like
your smartphone. Figure out how much space you have left for
a battery, then get one custom made. In contrast, the Tesla model 3 uses a new
2170 cell which will be the battery that powers all future tesla models and even their home
energy storage solutions. Need more volts? Put cells together in series, need higher
capacity? Put those cells in parallel with other cells. In this way, Tesla can absolutely mass produce
these cells, and configure them based on car. This flexibility is why Tesla can offer a
wide variety of range options. By adding more cell blocks in parallel they
can increase range without changing the core voltage of the system. Tesla has a goal of producing batteries at
less than $100/kWh. This is very ambitious, and this small cell
philosophy, with the newly optimized 2170 cell is there recipe for success. The Gigafactory is Tesla’s greatest asset,
because by investing so heavily into a vertical integration structure, they can control costs
and production levels. In contrast General Motors, completely outsources
the battery development to LG Chem, who provide complete units ready to drop into their EVs. But if suddenly Honda and Toyota come with
contracts to LG Chem, how would that impact GM? Vertical integration for battery manufacture
is super costly, but does give Tesla a marked advantage over their competition. In fact, it might be their single biggest
advantage. One question we often get is who’s actually
making the battery, Panasonic or Tesla? The answer really is Panasonic. The gigafactory is Tesla’s vision of their
own production facility pumping out their particular batteries, and they’re able to
house Panasonic personnel in a symbiotic relationship. It takes decades to master the chemistry of
Batteries, and that’s where Panasonic comes in. The partnership is strong, and benefitting
both companies. We hope you enjoyed part one of this two part
series on the Truth Behind Tesla Model 3 Batteries. We wanted to break this up, because the story
of the raw materials, is quite literally the most important aspect of the future EV story. Without stable and reliable supply chains,
the Gigafactory would languish, and Tesla Model 3 Production would grind to a halt. We know we haven’t answered the biggest
question of how long Model 3 batteries will last, that comes next in part two of this
series. We really hope you’ll subscribe and join
the community, and vote for future videos, We’re two bit da vinci, thanks for watching.