In 1891, William Morrison designed the first electric vehicle using 24 electromagnetic batteries. The battery system weighed over 700 lbs and could reach a top speed of 14 mph. While this was impressive by the standards of that time, modern EVs can reach a top speed of 250 mph. However, most of us don’t usually go that fast. We’re more concerned about how much a tank of gas will cost. Elon Musk has listened to our cries, and his new battery cell, the 4680-type, can hold the most power we’ve seen in an EV. Let’s look at how Tesla’s battery cell types have changed over time.
Tesla’s Different Battery Cell Types: Side by Side Comparison
|Panasonic, LG Energy Solution
|18 mm diameter65 mm length
|21 mm diameter70 mm length
|46 mm diameter80 mm length
|Roadster (1st gen), Model S, Model X
|Model 3, Model Y
|Model Y, Cybertruck, Semi
|Model 3, Model Y
Tesla’s Different Battery Cell Types: 5 Must-Know Facts
- The 1865-type battery cell was the first cell used in Tesla electric vehicles.
- The 2170-type battery cell drastically cut costs by using less cobalt and replacing aluminum with manganese.
- The 4680-type battery cell uses a state-of-the-art design to regulate the amount of heat produced, making them capable of storing more power without the fear of catching fire.
- Tesla’s new vehicles that use 4680-type battery cells have less range than previous models.
- Tesla covertly uses a Lithium-Iron-Phosphate battery cell that is less efficient but costs much less to manufacture.
Tesla’s Different Battery Cell Types: What’s the Difference?
To understand how Tesla’s battery cell types differ, it’s important first to know what they have in common. And the primary similarity that they each share is their lithium-ion design.
Essentially, the battery uses heavy metal to cause chemical reactions when exposed to lithium to generate electricity. A big part of what makes these cells different is the composition of their heavy metals. Let’s take a look at how each of these breaks down.
The 1865-type cell (AKA 18650) was the first model of battery cell types that Tesla used. Panasonic produced it for the Model S and Model X in 2013. It was highly dense, allowing for incredible power output and a range of over 400 miles on a single charge.
Tesla’s original battery cell had a cathode comprised of nickel, cobalt, and aluminum. While aluminum makes a great semiconductor due to its durability, it requires a lot of cobalt to interact with lithium properly. Due to the incredibly high cost of cobalt (along with its questionable mining practices), Tesla looked into more affordable alternatives.
As Telsa became more widespread, it looked to cut down the cost of admission. Its new 2170-type battery cell was introduced in the 2017 Model 3 and Model Y. The battery changed in size and dielectric, offering more power storage at a fraction of the price. These new battery cells were produced by Panasonic and later by LG’s energy solution team.
To resolve the high cost of cobalt, Tesla changed the chemical composition of its cathode to feature more manganese. The new combination replaced aluminum and dropped the amount of cobalt by more than 66%. However, the new composition and the battery’s density led to concerns of overheating and potential fires.
Tesla’s most current battery cell, the 4680-type, was designed to reduce the heat released. The company developed a new shingle-spiral design that drastically reduced the distance voltage traveled from cathode to anodes. This design allowed Tesla to keep its material composition and density, resulting in a battery cell capable of storing 9000mAh of power.
The new lithium-ion battery cell was showcased at Tesla’s 2020 Battery Day event. The company announced that the cell was 54% denser, 56% more affordable to manufacture, and cost 69% less to run per Gigawatt-hour. The 4680 is only found in select Model Ys in the United States for the time being, but the company plans on using them in their Cybertruck and Semi models.
Interestingly, Model Ys with 4680 cells only has a range of 270 miles on a single charge. Critics wonder why such an advanced (and massive) battery cell provides less range than older models. Tesla responded that instead of beefing up their vehicles with incredible range, they’re using the technology to release more affordable models.
While the 4680-type battery cell currently owns the spotlight, Tesla covertly started using a lithium-iron-phosphate battery pack in newer models. While the battery cell is less dense than NCA/NCM compositions, it’s much more affordable while offering a decent range. The company is discovering that this alternative battery is well-received, with nearly half of Model Y sales at the beginning of 2022 having the LFP battery cell.
Tesla does not plan to pursue this type of battery cell; it simply does not provide the power and range that their 4680 can. But for those that spend most of their time driving short-mid range distances, this offers a perfect alternative to cell types that are expensive to make.
Tesla’s Different Battery Cell Types: Which One Should You Get?
When considering Tesla’s different battery cell types, you must also consider their availability. Since Tesla only used its 1865-type in its first models, you’ll only have access to this cell buying used. And as the 4680 is only used in some Model Ys in the US, you’ll have to wait until they release them on a wide scale.
For now, the most accessible battery cell options when purchasing a Tesla are the 2170-type and the LFP prismatic. Both are good battery cells that accomplish different tasks. For those looking for a longer range, the best option is 2170. However, if you’re like most of us and primarily use your vehicle to commute, the LFP is the more affordable type.
Tesla’s Different Battery Cell Types: Further Reading
There’s a lot of hype around the Tesla 4680 battery cell, especially if you’re looking at the Cybertruck. For more details on the EV company’s upcoming vehicles, check out these articles:
- Tesla Cybertruck: Full Specs, Price, Range, and More – Everything you need to know about the Tesla Cybertruck, set to release in the next couple of years.
- Tesla vs Rivian: Compared – See how Tesla, the leading EV manufacturer, sizes up against one of the decades up-and-coming competitors.
- Which Batteries Is Tesla Using In Each Model Today? – For a closer look at the electric vehicles that use Tesla’s battery cells.
SpaceX’s Starship Rocket: Specs, Size, and More – A detailed breakdown of Elon Musk’s other projects.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Tesla Fans Schweiz / unsplash.