When it comes to electric vehicle (EV) batteries, it’s not exactly one-size-fits-all. This is especially true of Tesla, one of the top EV brands today. Tesla has relied on four main types of batteries. It’s a similar situation with other car manufacturers and their EV lineups.
Simply put, different vehicle types will require different batteries. An electric SUV or a truck will have distinct needs for its power source compared to an electric convertible or sedan. Tesla is no exception to this. But which batteries is Tesla using in each model today? What distinguishes them, and how does Tesla decide which batteries are best for each model?
- Year Founded
- Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning
- Electric Vehicles
- Austin, Texas
- Key People
- Martin Eberhard, Marc Tarpenning, Elon Musk
- Notable Products
- Roadster, Model S, Model 3, Model X, Model Y
Let’s begin by going over the different types of Tesla batteries below. Then, we’ll reveal which batteries Tesla is using in each of their different models. In conclusion, we will review the history of Tesla batteries and reveal what’s next for the EV manufacturer’s battery types.
Types of Tesla Batteries
Tesla has four main types of batteries across their full line of EVs: 18650-type, 2170-type, 4680-type, and the prismatic-type Tesla battery. In the company’s nearly 20-year history, only four battery types have ever been used, including the now-defunct Roadster, which ceased production in 2012.
Each battery has its own unique manufacturer. No one company has ever had the honor of manufacturing all four battery types for Tesla cars. This might make things sound more complicated than it actually is, though. You see, even for someone as committed to total control as Elon Musk, the actual manufacturer of the battery matters less than what the actual battery can do for the EV itself.
Models Using the 18650-Type Tesla Battery
Cylindrical in shape, the 18650-type Tesla battery is a staple of the original Roadster, the Model S, and the Model X. It measures 65mm in length and 18mm in diameter. Coming in at 47 grams and a nominal voltage of 3.7V, the 18650-type can see a maximum charge of 4.2V and a discharge as low as 2.5V. These 18650-types can store up to 3500 mAh (or milliampere hour, used to describe how long the battery will hold a charge).
Equipped with the 18650-type, the Roadster could last up to 244 miles on a single charge. It can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph within 3.8 seconds. The 18650-type helped the Roadster achieve a max speed of 125 mph. It had an average efficiency of 88% and an MPGe of 120.
Also equipped with the 18650-type, Tesla’s Model S is the manufacturer’s flagship model. The car uses thousands of 18650 battery cells, giving it a maximum range of 405 miles on one charge alone. That makes it Tesla’s longest-range vehicle for those keeping track at home. Tesla claims the Model S can go 0 to 60 mph in 0.1 seconds, but that’s in a vacuum. In reality, it’s much closer to 2.1 seconds. Its max speed is 216 miles per hour, more than 90 mph than the Roadster. The peak efficiency is 94%, and its MPGe is — like the Roadster — 120.
The last model to be equipped with the 18650-type is the Model X. Tesla’s mid-size luxury crossover model – first introduced in 2015 – has a maximum range of 348 miles per charge. That’s significantly more than the Roadster but markedly less than the Model S. Still, the Model X’s arsenal of 18650s allows it to go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds. Its max speed is 163 miles per hour, its peak efficiency is 93%, and its MPGe tops out at 105.
Models Using the 2170-Type Tesla Battery
The 2170-type Tesla battery is a real step up from the 18650-type in size and capacity, even though its nominal voltage, maximum charge, and lowest discharge remain the same as the 18650-type. In other words, the 2170-type measures 70 mm in length and 21 mm in diameter, giving it room to store 4800 mAh per cell. With a weight of around 68 grams, this 2170-type can be found in both the Model 3 and the Model Y.
The Model 3, Tesla’s compact sedan, was the first model to receive the 2170-type Tesla battery. Introduced in the summer of 2017, the Model 3’s new-and-improved max mAh per cell gives it a maximum range of 358 miles per charge. It goes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds, hits a max speed of 162 miles per hour, boasts a peak efficiency of 93%, and an MPGe of 132. For the record, that means the Model 3 is Tesla’s most efficient vehicle to date, even if its 0-to-60 and its max distance per charge pales in comparison to other models.
Released in 2020, the Tesla Model Y is the manufacturer’s latest compact crossover offering. Consisting of 75% of the same parts as the Model 3, the Model Y also functions as a smaller and more affordable take on the Tesla Model X. With its 2170-type battery pushed to the limit, the Model Y can deliver 318 miles on one charge alone. It can also go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds with a maximum speed of 155 miles per hour. Beyond these specs, the Model Y’s peak efficiency is a whopping 97%, with an MPGe of 125.
Models Using the 4680-Type Tesla Battery
In October of 2020, Elon Musk announced that all future Model Ys manufactured at Tesla‘s new Texas plant would be equipped with 4680-type battery cells. These revolutionary new batteries far surpass the power and the size of the 18650-type and the 2170-type. With a length of 80 mm and a diameter of 46 mm, the 4680-type increases the mAh to an astounding 9000. Its weight and voltage are not precisely known, but with that much extra power, there’s no doubt the weight has increased even if the voltage likely remains more or less the same.
There’s still much to know about the 4680-type and its impact on the Model Y’s above specs. As of this writing, there’s not much factual, peer-reviewed information to draw from. However, once more Model Ys equipped with the 4680-type hit the street, you can be certain that this information will make its way to trusted sources shortly after.
Models Using the Prismatic-Type Tesla Battery
In addition to the new 4860-type battery, Tesla is also actively pursuing a new prismatic-type battery. Also referred to as the lithium-iron-phosphate (or LFP) cathode, the plan is to eventually replace all of Tesla’s standard-range EVs with a version of this prismatic-type battery. Not only will this help Tesla increase its profits while keeping the price of its standard-range vehicles the same, but it will also do away with the need to use any nickel or cobalt, resulting in a safer, more stable battery.
As it currently stands, future standard-range Model 3 and Model Ys can be expected to receive this prismatic-type LFP battery. While better stability and a cheaper cost are huge advantages, as is the departure from nickel and cobalt, the downside is that these prismatic-type batteries are far more susceptible to performance issues in cold weather and will likely come with a lower range compared to the previous 2170-type Tesla battery. As with the 4680-type, we won’t likely know more about how this will truly impact vehicle specs until they hit the streets.
Side-by-Side: Which Batteries is Tesla Using?
|Model Y (Texas-made)||✓|
History of Tesla Batteries
Though their names might differ across the board, one thing is true of all these Tesla batteries: They’re all lithium-ion. However, with that being said, there are a variety of different (and ever-evolving) chemistries that distinguish these Tesla battery types beyond their basic lithium-ion cells.
Across the board, Tesla EVs currently rely on three different types of cathodes: NCA (or nickel-cobalt-aluminum), NCM (or nickel-cobalt-manganese), and LFP (or lithium-iron-phosphate). NCA and NCM are good for high energy density and long-range charges, while the LFP is good for its lower costs and increased stability. As previously mentioned, the company plans to lean more toward the LFP cathode.
This has everything to do with the expected increase in demand for cobalt on the horizon, not to mention the negative impact these NCAs and NCMs have had on Tesla’s reputation in the past. Tesla has found itself at the center of many controversies involving EVs catching on fire or spontaneously combusting due to such immense heat from the batteries. So, switching to LFP cathodes — free from pesky nickel and cobalt — is a brilliant move for the company.
Tesla Battery Suppliers
|Tesla Battery Type||Supplier|
Which of These Types of Tesla Batteries Is Best?
Each type of Tesla battery has its unique pros and cons. However, when stacked up against one another, it’s clear that one battery outperforms all the others by a significant margin. That battery? The 2170-type in the Tesla Model 3.
Whether it be its high mAh or its superior maximum range, its rapid 0-to-60 or its breakneck max speed of 162 mph, the 2170-type helps elevate the Tesla Model 3 to a whole other level in comparison to the other Teslas on the market. Looking at sheer battery power alone, with a peak efficiency of 93% and an MPGe of 132 the 2170-type on the Model 3 takes the cake.