Elon Musk warns new Tesla battery tech won’t reach mass production until 2022

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Whatever is unveiled during Tesla’s Battery Day event on Tuesday won’t enter “serious high-volume production” until 2022, the company’s CEO Elon Musk has cautioned on Twitter. The time-scale means the technology will mainly impact Tesla’s Semi, Cybertruck, and Roadster projects, the CEO said, adding that the company will continue to buy third-party battery cells even if Tesla decides to make its own.

Musk’s comments suggest that any new battery tech shown at Tuesday’s event will be at the prototype stage, ruling out its imminent use in Tesla’s current mass-market vehicles like the Model 3 or Model Y. Musk points towards the “extreme difficulty” in scaling new technology as being to blame, noting that making “the machine that makes the machine is vastly harder than the machine itself.”

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Musk’s statements also make it clear that Tesla will still need to purchase third-party battery cells over the coming years even if it begins manufacturing its own. “We intend to increase, not reduce battery cell purchases from Panasonic, LG & CATL (possibly other partners too),” the CEO wrote, “However, even with our cell suppliers going at maximum speed, we still foresee significant shortages in 2022 & beyond unless we also take action ourselves.” Shortages impacted Tesla in 2018, when Musk said a lack of battery cells at Panasonic constrained Model 3 production.

The extreme difficulty of scaling production of new technology is not well understood. It’s 1000% to 10,000% harder than making a few prototypes. The machine that makes the machine is vastly harder than the machine itself.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 22, 2020

There’s been a lot of speculation about what Tesla could announce at its Battery Day event. Leaks, acquisitions, patent applications, research, and — of course — tweets from Musk himself suggest that Tesla could announce new battery technology that holds a higher capacity than third-party cells, and which can be produced at a lower cost. Reports have also mentioned a so-called “million mile” battery, which could allow Tesla to sell its cars more cheaply, and give customers the confidence that the electric vehicles will last longer.

“It will be very insane” Musk, ever the showman, promised last week.

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