Production is scheduled to begin in September at the Tesla Gigafactory
Panasonic has evolved New battery technology for the "2170" lithium-ion cells that Tesla produces and delivers. This change improves energy density by 5% and reduces the costly cobalt content.
The new, higher energy 2170 cells are manufactured by Panasonic The company announced on Thursday in Tesla's factory in Sparks, Nevada. Panasonic is upgrading its battery cell lines. Production is scheduled to start in September. The company operates 13 lines with a capacity of 35 gigawatt hours of batteries per year. All 13 lines will eventually run on the new technology, said Allan Swan, President of Panasonic Energy North America, without specifying a schedule when the entire system would be updated.
"We're about to make another leap forward," Swan said in an interview recently. "From Panasonic's point of view, it's exciting. We're heading towards cobalt-free and towards higher-energy batteries, which gives our customers the choice of how they want to use it."
The plant in which these new battery cells are manufactured is known as Gigafactory 1. an important component of Tesla’s plan to expand global battery capacity and reduce costs for electric vehicles. Panasonic was the main partner in this project, which should last until at least 2023 based on a recent agreement. Panasonic manufactures the 2170 cells in Gigafactory 1, from which Tesla then makes batteries for Model 3. The 2170 cells are also used in Teslas newest vehicle, the model Y.
Here's a quick introduction. A battery contains two electrodes. There is an anode (negative) on one side and a cathode (positive) on the other. An electrolyte sits in the middle and acts as a courier that moves ions between the electrodes during charging and discharging.
A cell with a higher energy density means that engineers have found a way to pack more energy into this space. The 5% improvement in cell energy density should result in the same gains for Tesla batteries. The result: Tesla's Model 3 and Model Y saw improvements in range. Reducing the cobalt content, a rare chemical element that is expensive and involves social and environmental costs, could also help lower the price of the cells.
Panasonic's Japanese factories manufacture the "18650" cylindrical lithium-ion cells that power the Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles. Panasonic has already improved 18650 cells, which leads to a reduction in cobalt and an improvement in energy density.
Panasonic uses NCA or nickel-cobalt-aluminum cathode chemistry in its battery cells. Panasonic would not disclose the amount of cobalt used today, nor would it go into the details of its technology. However, Celina Mikolajczak, vice president of battery technology at Panasonic Energy of North America, said that the total amount of cobalt used in Panasonic cylindrical car batteries is less than 2% of global demand.
Mikolajczak said that NCA uses less cobalt than NCM or nickel-manganese cobalt oxide. NCA cathode chemistry has been developed to reduce cobalt, she added.
The company is striving for zero cobalt in its battery cells, said Mikolajczak. Panasonic has already done this feat in its research and development laboratory. The It is planned to launch cobalt-free batteries in a few years.