Californian EV maker Tesla is testing “Blade” lithium-ion batteries made by Chinese EV and battery maker BYD for use in the Model Y electric crossover, Chinese media reports say.
The unconfirmed reports, which were first shared via Chinese media site My Drivers, say that Tesla is already testing the BYD batteries in “C-sample” testing and they could be used in Tesla electric cars from 2022.
A follow-up post from CNEVpost said that the first Tesla electric car to use the BYD battery would be the Model Y, presumably the one made in Shanghai.
The BYD Blade battery was first revealed in March 2020, and according to the manufacturer’s own testing is extremely resistant to runaway thermal events.
It is, like the CATL battery used in the Standard Range Plus Model 3 manufactured at its Shanghai factory, made with a lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) chemistry, which fits in with Tesla’s goal of using cells free of cobalt and nickel to avoid ethical problems associated with cobalt, and reserve nickel for high demand applications like the Tesla Semi.
Notably though, the BYD Blade battery is also made in a cell-to-pack configuration. This means, like the 4680 batteries Tesla revealed at its 2020 Battery Day, it could potentially be used as a structural element in the production of EVs.
This is significant for a few reasons. One is that Tesla is planning to use batteries as structural elements in electric vehicles to further reduce the weight of its cars which will naturally increase energy efficiency.
The Tesla Model 3 is already one of the most energy-efficient vehicles there is on the road, and the Tesla Model Y is the most energy-efficient SUV.
The upshot of that is that making cars more energy-efficient makes them cheaper to run, and will achieve price parity with internal combustion engine cars sooner. (We have already shown the Model 3 can be cheaper than a Toyota Camry to own, and although it is dependent on resale value, further reducing power needs will widen this gap.)
The other thing is that at the company’s Q2 2021 earnings call, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the Model Y that will be made at the upcoming Berlin and Texas gigafactories will have both a front and rear piece casting – much like a giant toy car.
The remaining piece to the puzzle is the structural battery that joins the two.
While Musk also said Tesla is moving closer to making its own 4680 format structural packs and that Tesla has a “backup plan with a non-structural pack and 2170s (cells)”, it would not be surprising if Tesla was additionally hedging its bets by trying out the BYD batteries.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor 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 Y and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.