Tesla’s electric car gigafactory currently under construction in Berlin-Brandenburg, Germany, will be the biggest battery manufacturing facility in the world with as much as 250GWh annual capacity, COE Elon Musk says.
Speaking at the European Battery Conference on Tuesday (Europe time), Musk told an interviewer that: “I think it will be the largest. It would be capable of over a 100GWh hours per year of production and then possibly going to to 200 or 250.”
“I’m pretty confident at that point it would be the largest battery cell plant in the world.”
To put that in perspective, 160GWh worth of batteries were made worldwide in 2019 according to Benchmark Minerals, with the majority made by South Korea’s LG Chem.
Musk said at Tesla’s Battery Day in September that to accelerate the world to zero carbon and tackle climate change once and for all, Tesla estimates global demand for batteries will be 20-25 terawatt-hours per year, not only for electric vehicles but also energy storage.
In 2019, Benchmark Minerals estimated that by 2028, there would be 1.45 terawatt hours battery production capacity worldwide.
Musk did not elaborate on a timeframe for the Berlin factory to start making batteries at scale, but added there is a lot of innovation that needs to be done to achieve making batteries at mass scale first.
It will need new advanced machinery that Musk says is currently being designed.
“This sounds simple but it’s really very difficult- in fact a lot of the critical specialized equipment we use for this come from elsewhere in Europe.”
“It doesn’t exist, it’s being designed and made now at a bench-top level and we are aiming soon to have it done at a pilot plant level.”
Once that is achieved, Tesla intends to work out how to do this at scale – no easy feat, according to Musk.
“Designing the prototype of …. any advanced technology is relatively easy,” he said.
“Scaling up to to high volume production is very hard. There’s an old saying, it’s 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
“That’s because the scaling up for the production process is much harder than ringing something out on a lab bench,” Musk said.
Long term, Musk wants to bring the cost of making batteries down to as little as 50 to 55 US cents per cell.
According to Shirley Meng, a leading battery researcher who has links to Maxwell Batteries which Tesla acquired in 2019, this would effectively mean a battery cost of $US50/kWh – about half that needed to bring electric cars on parity with combustion vehicles on sticker price alone.
Did not misspoke – cell level, if 10Wh cell level energy – 50cents – that means 50$/KWh. Correct math and sharp brain early in the morning ????
— Ying Shirley Meng (@YingShirleyMen1) November 24, 2020
Tesla is currently running a pilot line near its Kato Road, Fremont, site to make the new 4680 battery which is an integral part of its mission to reduce the cost of making batteries.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.