In its conference call and financial report released earlier this week, Tesla shed some light on a number of long-promised vehicles in its pipeline, as well as one crucial piece of battery technology upon which those plans hinge. The 4680 cells, first announced during Tesla’s Battery Day nearly a year ago, are currently in development and are slated for the now-delayed Semi truck, the Model Y, and the Cybertruck.
Earlier this summer Tesla also canceled the Model S Plaid Plus, which was expected to receive the new battery cells, prompting plenty of speculation about the timeline for the lighter and longer-range cells that would have also been part of a structural battery pack, designed to provide chassis rigidity and thereby conserve weight.
This week Tesla openly indicated that the 4680 cells are on their way into production, but stopped short of issuing a timeline, while also pushing back the start of Semi truck assembly.
“We have successfully validated performance and lifetime of our 4680 cells produced at our Kato facility in California,” the company said an SEC filing. “We are nearing the end of manufacturing validation at Kato: field quality and yield are at viable levels and our focus is now on improving the 10% of manufacturing processes that currently bottleneck production output.”
The automaker also indicated that the Cybertruck is slated for production, but only following the start of Model Y assembly in Austin.
“We are also making progress on the industrialization of Cybertruck, which is currently planned for Austin production subsequent to Model Y,” Tesla added.
One of the problems, however, is that Gigafactory Texas is not finished yet, and with autumn around the corner it’s difficult to picture Cybertruck production starting there in 2021, as Elon Musk indicated earlier. And Tesla would first have to begin production of the Model Y before beginning assembly of the Cybertruck.
Another issue, of course, are the 4680 cells that the Cybertruck is expected to receive, and their own march to production. With the Model Y once again being the priority at the Texas factory, a lot of things would have to come together in the next few months to assure the start of volume production with the new cells. Tesla is also racing to complete the Berlin-Brandenburg factory in Europe, seen as one of the key projects to increasing capacity for the European market, whereas the Cybertruck would be a purely North American offering not likely headed for Europe or China.
Unfortunately, this places the Cybertruck far down on the priority list by Tesla’s own admission, suggesting that production is much likelier in the spring or summer of 2022 than at the end of this year.
The Cybertruck will therefore arrive in a markedly different EV landscape than the one in which it debuted as a concept: By 2022 the GMC Hummer will be on the market, due later this year in fact, with the electric Silverado due in 2022. Ford will also begin production of the electric F-150 Lightning in the spring of 2022, while Rivian is scheduled to begin deliveries of its R1T just in a matter of weeks, currently slated for September of this year. So the Cybertruck will have plenty of competition before it actually starts rolling out of Gigafactory Texas.
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