Tesla is discreetly developing its own “advanced” lithium-ion batteries in a “secret lab” that they hope will be able to go into mass production in the future for Tesla vehicles.
Today, Tesla is setting the foundation on becoming more independent and “vertically integrated” as much as possible by developing its batteries for its electric vehicles to decrease dependence on its partner, Panasonic.
The said batteries are being developed in “a “skunkworks lab” at the company’s Kato Road facility, a few minutes from its car plant in Fremont, California. This is the same factory that Tesla makes the Model 3, Model S and Model X vehicles
“Employees in Tesla’s battery R&D teams are now focused on designing and prototyping advanced lithium-ion battery cells, as well as new equipment and processes that could allow Tesla to produce cells in high volumes,” employees and former employees said.
However, there were already reports indicating that Tesla has been working on developing its battery cells “for the better part of the last decade” under Jeffrey Brian Straubel’s supervision. “JB” Straubel is part of the founding team and the Chief Technical Officer of Tesla Inc. and oversees the technical and engineering design of the vehicles.
Furthermore, speculation says that Tesla started developing its lithium-ion battery cells after the electric car company bought Maxwell Technologies for its ultracapacitor technology, and its work on battery density back in February.
Currently, it is easy to assume that Tesla is already making its battery cells since it claims to have the biggest battery factory in the world. However, the automotive giant is still sourcing its battery cells from Panasonic, which has been the company’s partner since 2014.
In its Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, Panasonic occupies part of the factory who owns cell production lines. Tesla then buys those cells from the Japanese supplier to make battery modules and packs with them in other sections of the same factory.
The news comes in a time when Tesla continues to struggle with mass production, especially when it announced during the first quarter of this year its Tesla Model 3— which is a lesser-end and more affordable electric vehicle towards the general public.
“There is a lot of speculation regarding our vehicle deliveries this quarter,” Musk told employees in an email Tuesday. “The reality is that we are on track to set an all-time record, but it will be very close. However, if we go all out, we can definitely do it!”
Initially, Musk tweeted last February 19 claiming that Tesla will make around 500,000 cars by 2019. Tesla’s initial forecast indicated only a maximum of 400,000 this year. So far, the electric car company has delivered only 63,000 vehicles to customers in the first quarter.
“We already have enough vehicle orders to set a record, but the right cars are not yet all in the right locations,” Musk wrote.
“Logistics and final delivery are extremely important, as well as finding [the] demand for vehicle variants that are available locally, but can’t reach people who ordered that variant before the end of the quarter.”
Furthermore, during Tesla’s 2019 shareholders meeting, the CEO highlighted the fact that Tesla’s product rollout is currently limited by the scaling of battery production.
“As we scale battery production to very high levels, we have to look further down the supply chain and we might get into the mining business… I don’t know. A little bit at least. We do whatever we have to to ensure we can scale at the fastest rate possible.”
According to Musk, the company has been “battery constrained” with a lack of batteries limiting Tesla’s production and sales of electric vehicles and energy storage systems (Powerwalls and Powerpacks).
Straubel said: “It’s more obvious now [that] I think it ever was, we need a large-scale solution to cell production.”
Vice President of Technology Drew Baglino added, “We’re not sitting idly by. We’re taking all the moves required to be masters of our own destiny here, technologically and otherwise. I think through all the experience we’ve developed with partners and otherwise, we will have solutions for this.”