Ben Sullins of Teslanomics has created a thriving business by reporting on all things Tesla and doing it in an authoritative fashion. When you get recognized as an authority, people tell you things that they don’t tell others. Right now, Sullins say he has a source that is “very close to Tesla” who is telling him the battery pack in the new Model 3 due out on Friday will use a brand new lithium ion cell format known as 4416. That portion of the latest video begins at about the 14:30 mark.
First a word about nomenclature. Batteries come in a dizzying array of sizes, shapes, and voltages. Right now, the Tesla Model S and Model X use so-called 18650 cylindrical cells. Long a staple of the electronics industry, they are 18 millimeters in diameter and 65 millimeters long — sort of the size of a AA battery. Those cells have been provided to Tesla since the beginning by Panasonic.
Tesla began manufacturing so-called 2170 battery cells at the Gigafactory in Nevada last year. They are slightly larger than the 18650 format batteries at 21 millimeters in diameter and 70 millimeters long. Until this point, it was assumed that Tesla would utilize the 2170 cells to make the battery packs for the Model 3. But if Ben Sullins’ source is correct, the Model 3 battery pack will actually used battery cells that are 44 millimeters high and 16 millimeters wide.
A quick scan of battery specifications on Wikipedia shows that size resembles what we normally think of as a 9 volt battery, the kind used most often in smoke detectors. Keep in mind that all this is speculation at this point. Sullins is careful to point out that his information comes from one source only and has not been corroborated in any way. But if his informant is correct, the likelihood is that the Model 3 battery pack is made up of cells that are rectangular instead of round. Otherwise, if they are cylindrical, they are three times bigger in diameter than they are tall.
Regardless of the shape, the new cells are said to have a higher energy density than either the 18650 or the 2170 cells. It’s that higher energy density that may give the Model 3 with a 75 kW battery a range of 315 miles or more. Sullins points out that the Model 3 is not that much smaller and lighter than the Model S 75, which has a range of 249 miles according to the factory. The only way to squeeze out more range with the same size battery would be to increase the energy density of the cells.
Sullins goes on to speculate further that the new cells will be used in updated versions of the Model S and Model X at some time in the future, once there are sufficient Model 3 battery packs available to meet demand. With higher energy density, he believes range for the Model S with a 100 kW battery could exceed 400 miles.
Is any of this true? We simply don’t know. Ben Sullins is a reliable source of Tesla information and he says the person who told him about the 4416 battery cells is someone he has found to be accurate in previous instances. We may know more in a few days when the official Model 3 introduction event takes place and the first 30 owners get their actual cars. Make that 29 owners. Car #1 is going to Elon’s garage.