Tesla's touted 4680 battery faces a formidable competitor as CATL's superior cell nears release
Back in 2020, Tesla unveiled a new Panasonic 4680 cell during its Battery Day keynote presentation that is supposed to revolutionize its electric vehicles range by offering higher energy density at a lower manufacturing cost. The 4680 number comes from the cylindrical battery cell's dimensions and Tesla recently bragged that it has produced the millionth 4680 battery unit.
While that sounds impressive on paper, it's quantity just about enough to produce 1200 Model Ys, while Tesla's long-running battery partner Panasonic is still in its 4680 production trial phases. Granted, Panasonic promised to prioritize Tesla's deliveries once it irons out the 4680 production kinks, but that still leaves Tesla on its own when it comes to manufacturing the next-gen cells in a trial run at its Fremont factory.
Meanwhile, Korean battery makers like Samsung or LG, as well as the Chinese juggernaut CATL have all announced plans to produce their own cylindrical batteries with increased energy densities. CATL's invention, in particular, has achieved 13% higher energy density than Tesla's 4680 battery. CATL has codenamed its novel battery Kirin, for the Chinese equivalent of a unicorn.
Its battery creature, however, is not at all mythical, as it is scheduled to arrive as soon as this current quarter, confirmed CATL's founder and chairman today. There are evidently some mass production plans already in motion as he stated that "some customers need to use large cylindrical batteries for special vehicle design reasons, and we have already started cooperation," but we should know more about which EV makers will get the goods when CATL launches the Kirin battery later in this quarter.