Cybertruck to be powered by 4680 battery as Tesla plans to increase its energy density and lower costs

The Cybertruck's body steel comes from the Starship (image: Peterson Museum)
The Cybertruck’s body steel comes from the Starship (image: Peterson Museum)

Tesla has ultimately decided on using its new 4680 battery in the Cybertruck rather than go for Panasonic’s 2170 cells and it is working with Asian companies to lower their cost and increase the energy density. Currently, the 4680 pack has similar energy density to the 2170 ones, but a new high-nickel version is on the way.

Tesla reportedly considered all three of its available battery options for powering its Cybertruck electric pickup that is due to be released in the summer, but ultimately decided on using the newest 4680 cells. Despite having adjusted energy density very similar to the 2170 batteries it currently uses in its long-range and performance vehicles, the 4680 pack is much cheaper to produce. So are the LFP batteries that Tesla uses in its standard range Model 3 and Model Y, but when it comes to the Cybertruck the 4680 battery was considered the better option.

The automaker has reportedly partnered with two Chinese companies – Ningbo Ronbay New Energy and Suzhou Dongshan Precision Manufacturing – to drive down the cost of the 4680 battery production further as it ramps up across its Gigafactories in the US. Tesla recently filed for a multimillion battery section expansion of its Texas Gigafactory where the Cybertruck will be assembled, while it announced plans for 100 GWh of extra 4680 battery capacity at Giga Nevada as well. It is also looking at Panasonic and LG for augmenting the 4680 battery supply when their facilities come online in the span of a year or so.

So far, the main cost savings of the 4680 battery production come from the design of the integrated packs themselves, rather than the elusive dry cathode production method that would help lower their cost 50%, as promised on Battery Day. On last teardown, the structural 4680 pack that Tesla uses in the Texas-made Model Y had 244 Wh/kg energy density compared to 269 Wh/kg for Panasonic’s 2170 cells.

Panasonic’s higher number, however, comes from more nickel in the cathode and 10% silicon in the anode, so the adjusted energy density of the two batteries is rather similar. Moreover, Tesla has reportedly partnered with a Korean company – L&F Co. – over the development of its own high-nickel cathode for the 4680 battery which would boost its energy density further and bring more performance to the Cybertruck.

Because of the ongoing 4680 battery production ramp and other manufacturing limitations, Tesla’s first Cybertruck batches are said to be in fairly modest quantities, while the electric pickup is only expected to be mass-produced in earnest early next year.

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Daniel Zlatev, 2023-03-10 (Update: 2023-03-10)

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