Tesla’s 4680 battery offensive in China hits the accelerator pedal

Tesla is looking to find more suppliers that will manufacture its 4680 battery cell in China, with reports that the automaker is already negotiating with several battery companies in the country, according to Chinese media outlets.

Tesla unveiled its 4680 battery cell in September 2020, aiming to create an EV battery capable of more range and power and a longer life span. Tesla has reportedly been producing the cell at a facility near its Fremont plant in Northern California known as Kato Road. Tesla has not yet deployed the cells in vehicles that customers own, the company has said. The first vehicles to utilize the new 4680 cells will be the vehicles built at Tesla’s upcoming factories in Berlin or Austin, Texas.

Tesla debuts new 4680 battery cell: 500% more energy, 6X power, range increase

Because Tesla is working to deploy the cells in some of its most popular vehicles, like the Model Y, it is attempting to secure manufacturing contracts for the 4680 battery now, so it is available later. Tesla was eyeing contracts with Samsung SDI and LG Energy Solutions for 4680 production, according to a report from The Korea Herald in mid-July, with suppliers Panasonic and CATL likely already lined up for manufacturing efforts.

A new report from Chinese media site 36 Krypton indicated that Tesla is now eyeing Ningde Times, LG Chem, and Yiwei Lithium Energy for contracts that would allow for 4680 cell production. A person familiar with the matter said the negotiations are in the early stages, and mass production will begin in 2023.

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Yiwei is known for its LFP battery technology, which Tesla uses in the Chinese and European regions. However, it introduced the pack to the North American market for the Model 3 last week. Director of Basic Materials and Technology Research for Yiwei, Ji Yajuan, said that the company had deployed two major models of 4680 and 4695, with plans for the batteries to be promoted into the market gradually after 2023.

More companies are reaching out to Tesla for the opportunity to lock in a 4680 contract (via 36 Krypton):

“A source revealed to 36Kr that Ningde Times, LG Chem, etc. are also negotiating 4680 battery cooperation with Tesla in China, and BAK Battery, which has always adhered to the cylindrical route, has also taken the initiative to find Tesla.”

Tesla’s production of the 4680 battery cells at Kato Road will likely fill the company’s supply sheet for the foreseeable future. The plan has been to transfer cells from Northern California to Berlin and Texas when the plants are ready to begin production. Until then, Tesla will likely continue to line up suppliers as its production and delivery figures near 1,000,000 units annually for the first time in company history.

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