Tesla is planning to make battery cells in Texas, the state chosen for the location of its Cybertruck factory.
At Battery Day in September, Tesla boss Elon Musk revealed a new 4680 battery cell that will enable Tesla to pack more capacity into the same space, and in which it plans to use a new high-energy high-nickel chemistry.
Tesla will use the new 4680 form factor and chemistry for high-powered electric vehicles such as the Cybertruck electric ute (known as a pickup in the US) and Semi electric truck.
At the time, Musk also noted that Tesla is already producing prototypes of the cell on a pilot line at its Kato Road, Fremont, site. But there was no mention of where Tesla would eventually planning to make the new 4680 cells in volume.
Now, reports of documents filed with the state of Texas suggest that Tesla is planning to make the cells in that state – and it makes sense, given that that is where Tesla will also be making the Cybertruck which is slated for a late 2021 release in its dual- and tri-motor forms.
The documents, which were filed by GHD Services on behalf of Tesla (as reported by Austin Business Journal), refer to a “a cell-manufacturing unit to produce the battery packs that are installed in the vehicle.”
It notes that the documents do not make it clear if the plans refer to operations at the Travis County site where the Cybertruck factory is being built, or another nearby site also recently purchased by the company, nor was it clear if it is the 4680 cells that would be made under these plans, although this seems fairly safe to assume.
The Austin American-Statesman also notes that Tesla’s Travis County site is some 2,100 acres but its Cybertruck factory plans only cover 280 acres of this, leaving another 1,800 or so acres free to play with.
Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives said according to the Statesman that, “I see, ultimately, them making this much more than a typical factory,” Ives said. “It’s not just about the (vehicle) factory.”
He also said he thinks Tesla will “take advantage of Austin’s engineering talent” – this is backed up by a simple search for jobs advertised by Tesla.
According to job placement site Seek, Tesla is looking for engineers with cell manufacturing facility experience to apply for positions in Austin, Texas.
One such job advertisement placed on Seek is for a civil engineer with “experience building high-tech/industrial infrastructure and operational facilities (semiconductor, solar, battery, etc.)” and another is for a controls engineer with “industrial manufacturing facility (semiconductor/battery manufacturing preferred)”.
Teslarati has also reported that Tesla has plans to a lithium hydroxide refinery in Texas. Lithium hydroxide would be used to make battery cells.
The facility in question would make the material from hard rock spodumene – the same material that will be bought from Australia’s Piedmont Lithium under a 5-year deal signed by Tesla in September.
As reported by The Driven in September, the Tesla Cybertruck factory is slated for completion as soon as May 2021.
The rule-breaking Cybertruck, which uses a hardened steel exoskeleton allowing for its angular form, as well as armoured glass, was revealed by Musk in November 2019.
While Musk had originally said he didn’t mind if Tesla didn’t sell many of them, there have reportedly been hundreds of thousands of $US100 ($A150 in Australia) refundable pre-orders taken for the vehicle so far.
Outside of North America, Australia is the Cybertruck’s largest market with a potential $A1.5 billion value for Tesla according to crowds-sourced data, and although Musk thinks Tesla may need to make a smaller version for overseas markets, he agreed on Twitter two weeks ago that Australia could have the full-sized version as long as it passes local vehicle design rules.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.