Tesla announced on January 4 that is has begun mass production of the battery cells that will power its second generation energy storage products and the Tesla Model 3 midsize car due out in about a year. The Tesla Gigafactory began turning out pre-production cells last December. The new cells are called “2170 cells”, which indicates they are approximately 21 millimeters in diameter and 70 millimeters long. In a blog post, Tesla says the new battery cells were “jointly designed and engineered by Tesla and Panasonic to offer the best performance at the lowest production cost in an optimal form factor for both electric vehicles and energy products.”
The first 2170 cells will be used in the company’s Powerwall residential storage batteries and Powerpack grid-scale energy storage products. Cells intended for the Model 3 will go into production in the second quarter of this year. Tesla says by 2018, it will be manufacturing 35 gigawatt-hours of batteries, nearly as much as the rest of the entire world’s battery production combined.
The Tesla Gigafactory is a big part of Elon Musk’s plan to rethink how factories work and unlock efficiencies of scale that will drive down the cost of manufacturing. He calls it “building the machine that makes the machine.” He expects ultimately that factories of the future will be able to operate 3 to 10 faster than they can today.
“The Gigafactory is being built in phases so that Tesla, Panasonic, and other partners can begin manufacturing immediately inside the finished sections and continue to expand thereafter. Our phased approach also allows us to learn and continuously improve our construction and operational techniques as we continue to drive down the cost of energy storage. Already, the current structure has a footprint of 1.9 million square feet, which houses 4.9 million square feet of operational space across several floors. And we are still less than 30 percent done. Once complete, we expect the Gigafactory to be the biggest building in the world.
“With the Gigafactory online and ramping up production, our cost of battery cells will significantly decline due to increasing automation and process design to enhance yield, lowered capital investment per Wh of production, the simple optimization of locating most manufacturing processes under one roof, and economies of scale. By bringing down the cost of batteries, we can make our products available to more and more people, allowing us to make the biggest possible impact on transitioning the world to sustainable energy.”