By on September 22, 2020

Tesla Model S Grey - Image: Tesla

Tabless batteries and a Plaid trim level of the Model S made the biggest news at Tesla’s much-hyped “Battery Day.”

Batteries that last longer, cost less, and have more power will help drive EV adoption, and the new 4680 tabless battery cells, which are cylindrical and larger, are claimed to provide five times as much energy as before, with six times the power and up to 16 percent more range. Tesla says production on these batteries has already begun.

“We do not have an affordable car. That’s something we will have in the future. But we’ve got to get the cost of batteries down,” Musk said.

Other planned battery improvements include different electrode materials, better cell design, and upgraded production processes.

Musk also claimed that a revised “full self-driving version” of Autopilot – which, again, is NOT Level 5 autonomy – in the next month or so. Given Autopilot’s documented failures and that it is not full autonomous, we’re skeptical at the moment.

Cheaper battery costs could lead to more affordable Teslas, and Musk claims a $25K car is in the works. Musk also touted improvements in the company’s manufacturing abilities.

Tesla has purchased a 10,000-acre mining site to mine more lithium. A new casting machine is meant to integrate the battery and its components into the car the itself, with the goal of reducing mass and the number of parts while also making the structure of the vehicle have more integrity.

A Plaid version of the Model S will be available next year, with pre-orders already available. The car will cost $140,000, have 1,100 horsepower, and Tesla claimed a 1:30.3 lap time at Laguna Seca. The range is listed at greater than 520 miles and top speed is claimed to be over 200 mph. Zero to sixty is claimed at under 2 seconds and a quarter-mile run under 9 seconds.

The Plaid will use three electric motors.

[Image: Tesla]

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32 Comments on “Tesla Battery Day: They’ve Gone to Plaid...”


  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    How does the math add up? 5x energy, 6x power = 1.16x range?

    Or is that 5-6x longer life, with 16% better range?

    • 0 avatar
      chris724

      I figure each cell has 5x the energy, but it’s also physically larger, so there will be fewer of them in total. The “extra power” is just lower internal resistance, which reduces waste and keeps the battery cooler too.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed on the confusing terminology.

      Honestly, I’m surprised they’re going with such a large cell, due to the large gaps that creates between them when packaged. Apparently the math works.

      • 0 avatar
        chris724

        Any cylindrical cell would have the same percentage wasted on gap, regardless of diameter. This is assuming they are butted right together. If there is a fixed gap between the cells for cooling, then the larger ones will have less wasted space. Maybe the larger cell also helps reduce the percentage wasted in the outside casing?

    • 0 avatar
      rushn

      The math adds up only if you quote the marketing material without any thought behind it.

      4680 battery is larger than 2170 battery by a factor of 5.5. Soo…. despite plastering that as some sort of a gain, the benefits of that cell are elsewhere: cost of production, longevity, a bit more power due to new structure and overall battery pack manufacturability. But those obviously do not present the opportunity to scream 5x (!) and 6x (!) the improvement for a company that needs/wants 20-40% annual growth.

      So yeah, bullshit.

  • avatar

    Why it is called Plaid? Could not come with a better name?

  • avatar
    mcs

    1100 hp, sub 2 second 0-60, and quarter mile in the 9’s. I’d say they’re really going after that “hate to drive cars” market. Nothing says boring appliance like 1100 hp. Can’t get a good autonomous car, so I’ll just settle for something that does a quarter-mile in the 9’s.

    • 0 avatar
      turbo_awd

      1) sub-10 seconds 1/4 mile requires a roll cage for drag strip, IIRC, so you can’t take it there unless you’re willing to mess it up by adding a roll cage. Of course, you can get a 9-second car for less than $140K as well.

      2) the other place people who like to drive enjoy taking their cars is a race track. How many laps can it do before thermals interfere? Pretty sure a $60-70K C8 will outrun / outlast any current gen Tesla in any race of any length. Heck, with upgraded pads / fluid, my Stinger can probably run circles around said Tesla if doing more than a few laps after thermals kick in..

      As a daily driver, sure, it’s great – but just a bit overkill, wouldn’t you say?

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Overkill is right… if Telsa turned down these cars to have more normal performance what would their range be? Double? Telsa’s are already beyond fast, why bother with hyper-car performance just to be stuck in traffic?

        Nobody is tracking a Telsa so the only reason for this insane performance is bragging rights and embarrassing old-school ICE vehicles in stop light drags. However it does show that Telsa’s market is not the eco-weanies everyone loves to make fun of. The one Telsa owner I know had an Audi S8 as their previous daily driver.

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          “if Tesla turned down these cars to have more normal performance what would their range be? Double?”

          My understanding is that the performance/efficiency tradeoff is not the same with electrics as it is with ICEs. That’s part of the reason the fastest Teslas also have the longest range.

          I would think if they had a way to easily sacrifice performance for range, they’d do it in a heartbeat because 90+% of the customers would go for it.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            The fastest Teslas have the longest range because they have the largest battery packs. The size of the battery pack is important since that determines the instantaneous and sustainable current flow.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        I think the Model 3 overcame the high-speed thermal issues of the Model S. But with the new 4680 cells, you can be sure Tesla isn’t bolting them to the very same cooling system.

        However, a 46 mm diameter cell has nearly 5x the cross-sectional area as the current 21 mm cell, so cooling it would be much more difficult. Maybe they’re chilling the water?

        • 0 avatar
          Giskard

          The new cells are tabless so the cathode has contact with the bottom of the casing over its entire length. Previous cells only had a small tab leading from the cathode to the case. This means the entire metal cathode can be used to dissipate heat by cooling the plate the end of the cell sits on. Way more effective than for previous packs. They showed a graph of the heat dissipation under load and it wasn’t even close. This will also allow electrons to flow more easily since they won’t all have to travel through the tab.

        • 0 avatar
          turbo_awd

          @SCE_AUX: Did it? I haven’t seen any reports of model 3s running more than 1-2 full-speed laps before throttling.

          Plus the overheating braking issue – fixed with a software patch! – doesn’t inspire confidence. Not if I’m going to the track, and my updates randomly changed the way the brakes work from the last time.

          Now, can these be fixed? Probably. Is there anyone out there actually able to offer a solution? You know – like for my Stinger, even though it’s a low-volume car and very LOW aftermarket support, things like oil coolers are pretty standard and can be added. How do you add a battery cooler to a sealed compartment?

          And, the “everything runs through the central video screen” is the opposite of driver-friendly, IMHO. How far do you have to turn your head to see ANYTHING on that screen wearing a helmet? Even my “not-a-race-car” Stinger has oil temp, boost, Gs, tire pressure, etc available in the dash..

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    “We do not have an affordable car. That’s something we will have in the future. But we’ve got to get the cost of batteries down,” Musk said.

    Agree.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    5 times the “energy” and six times the “power” with 16% more range. Well that’s clear as mud.
    A “4680” has about 6X the volume of an 18650, but material needed for the outer shell will have significantly less area, although the thickness of the shell is unknown. So basically, bigger cells.
    Weak comment about a $25,000 car.
    Cobalt is still a problem and they’re working on it.
    Interesting comment that they’re going to need these new and better batteries for things like a Semi, which tells me that the Semi project is stalled, which everyone knew anyway.
    Then a pointless plaid halo three motor S for a premium, which has little to do with better batteries but hey it sounds exciting.
    So to sum up, “we’re working on better batteries (good), and here’s a plaid S (that no one asked for).

    • 0 avatar
      Snooder

      Plaid S will pay for everything else.

      How? Simple. You put in 30k worth of extra tech and charge 60k more for it. And they’ll probably sell out because the kind of person who want to flash that cash, is gonna wanna flex in the most expensive Tesla.

      Honestly,they could crank out a limited edition million dollar Tesla and it would sell like gangbusters.

      • 0 avatar
        Imagefont

        “Plaid S will pay for everything”.

        Wrong.

        I was reading on another site about ge battery day comments from a Musk. Very interesting his description of what amount to incremental improvements in batteries, and that good news. But a three motor S is pretty irrelevant.

        And pouring the foundation for a factory to build, what?

        Too many Tesla cheerleaders on this site, completely absent of facts.

        • 0 avatar
          Giskard

          The Plaid Model S will likely have high margins but you’re correct in that it won’t be a huge factor simply because it won’t sell in great enough numbers. The bulk of their cash is coming from the lower priced Model 3 and Model Y which still have pretty decent margins (20-25% the last I saw).

          As for factories, it’s pretty common knowledge they’re currently hard at work on three sites. Their Shanghai facility (which started producing Model 3s right before covid hit) is adding a Model Y line which should be getting pretty close to cranking out cars.

          They’re also building new factories near Berlin and Austin. The former will start with Model Y production and will likely get the new 4680 cell production lines at some point. They’ve also talked about building a Model 3 based hatchback for Europe there.

          The Austin facility will start with Cybertruck production and will likely be the first facility they ramp to large numbers of the 4680 cells (Elon talked about 200 KWh/year there). They’ve also announced a Model Y line will be added in Austin later and it’s likely the Semi will be produced there.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “Interesting comment that they’re going to need these new and better batteries for things like a Semi, which tells me that the Semi project is stalled, which everyone knew anyway.”

      They don’t need all of the new features for the new batteries. The tabless feature is fine. Dry process they don’t need and cobalt free they don’t need. The rest is good to go. I don’t see where the semi-truck program is stalled. They’re getting ready to start pouring the foundation for the factory now.

      “and here’s a plaid S (that no one asked for).”

      That’s a totally baseless statement. People interesting in performance were certainly asking for it. I just priced a Taycan at $223,000 yesterday. When the Z06 and Zora Corvettes come out, are you going to say no one asked for those?

      • 0 avatar
        forward_look

        I see a lot more RAV4s than Taycans, and will see more $25K Teslas than Plaids. If they ever make them, that is.

        • 0 avatar
          Giskard

          I guess Ferrari shouldn’t exist then because I almost never see one. How in the world do they survive selling so few cars? The answer is the margins are slightly higher on the few they sell, of course. There is demand at both ends of the market and everywhere in between. Tesla is just providing an option at the higher end. They’ll go even higher once their new Roadster enters production, too.

          I do agree that if/when Tesla ramps production on a $25K version it will quickly become the most common one seen on the roads …

  • avatar

    I am not impressed until it runs faster than speed of light.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    EV critics: “I won’t consider an EV until it can go 500 miles on a charge, because that’s how far I drive every day.”

    Well, folks, here you go.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’m still wondering when they’ll have planned replacements of the model lines – the basic styling of the Model S is the same as the day it launched. Will it become the EV version of the Checker Marathon?

    Also, is anyone proofreading the articles here? I see some glaring grammatical errors, like “Musk also claimed that a revised ‘full self-driving version’ of Autopilot – which, again, is NOT Level 5 autonomy – in the next month or so”, and “A new casting machine is meant to integrate the battery and its components into the car the itself.” They look like something I’d write (changing the wording, then forgetting to clean up the first wording), but then I’m just a commenter, not the writer.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      dukeisduke:

      I have often wondered about Tesla’s parts-sharing. It seems that all the running gear is shared across the board. Some add extra motors, others less, but it seems like all the same stuff gets recycled. The bodies may be different and the battery packs vary in size but there seems to be little that is unique to a specific model. Kind of like Lee Iacocca and 1980s Chrysler.

  • avatar
    ejwu

    I think the Plaid S kind of made the new roadster pointless.

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