First Tesla 4680 battery teardowns reveal it is not all that revolutionary at the moment
Current 4680 battery cells are not living up to their promises made by Elon Musk during Tesla's Battery Day in 2020 when they were first revealed. At the time, Musk mentioned features like a high-nickel cathode, silicon anode, and an ingenious packaging system at a fraction of the cost of the 2170 batteries. For now, however, it has hit only one of these purported features.
We already know that the 4680 battery packs that Tesla now places in its Model Y are only halfway to the stated goal of a 50% cost reduction compared to conventional batteries. The bulk of the savings come from the packaging efficiency of stuffing them into much larger tubes hence improving the volumetric density and requiring fewer welding points. The key dry-coating process for the electrodes, however, which doesn't require toxic mixes and oven baking, remains a pie-in-the-sky goal for now, despite that Tesla hopes to hit a pilot run this year.
Moreover, independent 4680 battery teardowns and chemistry analysis shows that Tesla is still using the regular 811 nickel-manganese-cobalt mixture for the cathodes and ordinary graphite anodes. Be it because of the price of raw materials that go into batteries for performance electric vehicles now, or simply for the lack of necessary manufacturing technology or equipment, the high-nickel and silicon electrodes that bring about true cost, range, and performance improvements, are still to come for Tesla vehicles with the 4680 battery.
Even NIO, which is farther ahead in the development and mass production of a 150 kWh high-nickel battery that is supposed to propel its top ET5 and ET7 performance sedan versions for more than 620 miles on a charge, had to postpone their launch. Its battery maker WeLion was supposed to deliver the first mass-produced batch of 150 kWh semi-solid packs with high-nickel technology this month, but the launch of the top ET5 and ET7 models has now been stretched into 2023 as the technology needs further validation.
2/ How about the cathode?— Taylor Ogan (@TaylorOgan) September 12, 2022
Battery Day: cobalt-free high-nickel cathode
Reality: NMC 811, like many other batteries pic.twitter.com/Kqjv6ppoJV