Tesla may ramp up 4680 battery cells production dramatically with US$717 million Giga Texas expansion
Tesla may have big battery-making expansion plans for its Gigafactory in Texas that assembles the Model Y with the 4680 battery pack while preparing the mass Cybertruck production lines, too. It has filed for factory floor expansion permits before the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and three of the four new projects - Cell 1, Cathode, and Cell Test Lab - directly reference battery production intent.
The biggest Giga Texas expansion project in the filings - Cell 1 - will cost US$368 million for a 693,093 square feet facility. Next is the Cathode factory floor with US$260 million investment, followed by a small Cell Test Lab at a cost of US$3.7 million. Finally, Tesla has asked for permits to build an US$87 million Drive Unit section at the sprawling 423,032 square feet of new construction.
Thus, out of the US$717.7 million new Giga Texas facilities, US$631.7 seem to go directly to Tesla's battery production expansion plans there. The biggest, Cell 1 undertaking, has been granted permit for construction that will begin as soon as this month, with a finish date in about a year, and ditto for the Drive Unit section. The Cell Test Lab will be operational this September, while the Cathode facility should start churning out battery components at the end of the year.
Tesla reportedly started producing the first 4680 cells at the Giga Texas factory last spring, but the ramp-up to any meaningful quantities has been slow, though it did start equipping the Model Y assembled there with the new cell-to-chassis 4680 battery packs. Despite the new 4680 technology, those packs aren't as revolutionary as Tesla teased on Battery Day a few years back just yet. They actually come with similar adjusted energy density to the 2170 cells when accounting for the dearth of silicon in the 4680 anode or nickel in the cathode.
The big reason that Tesla is adamant to ramp up the 4680 cell production is that they are currently much cheaper to make than the 2170 packs, with the potential to cost half as much if Tesla somehow manages to scale up the dry cathode production method. The new Cathode, Cell 1, and Cell Test Lab sections that it is building out at the Texas Gigafactory may be the right moves in that direction, but it remains to be heard if and when there will be enough production for the Cybertruck, whose initial batches could potentially be equipped with 4680 cells from the Fremont factory, if Tesla is using 4680 batteries in it at all.
TDLR (Cell 1, Drive Unit, Cathode, Cell Test Lab)