There’s enough evidence now to suggest that Tesla Motors is on track to reaching the much-coveted EV battery cost of $100/kWh. By all estimates, they’re already well below $145/kWh, and it looks like they might hit the $100/kWh level before 2018 is out.
At the recent shareholder meeting, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who doesn’t often use the word “breakthrough”, did just that. This is what he said:
“We think we have come up with some pretty cool breakthroughs on energy density and cost of the battery pack. It’s going to be pretty great.”
That’s contingent on commodity prices being relatively stable through the rest of the year, and the biggest part of that is the cost of Cobalt, as we discussed in an earlier article. Cobalt prices have sky-rocketed over the past few years, while Lithium has been relatively stable, although that’s increased as well. The problem is, the Republic of Congo controls most of the Cobalt production in the world, and China controls a lot of its movement.
That could be one of the reasons why Tesla is contemplating a Gigafactory in China as well, but at this point, it’s little more than speculation. Nevertheless, Cobalt’s role in Tesla and Panasonic’s battery plans for the future is decidedly on the decline. They already use 60% less Cobalt than anyone else, and engineers who tore down a Model 3 battery a few weeks ago said that it is the most advanced design they have ever seen anywhere.
And Tesla’s CTO JB Straubel said as much at the shareholders meeting:
“It’s difficult for us to talk about specific cost numbers. It’s a difficult topic, but we are still very confident that we have the best price and performance of anything out there in the world. If there’s anything better, I don’t know about it and we have looked as hard as we possibly can. We try to talk with every single battery startup, every lab, every large manufacturer. We get quotes from them. We test cells from them. If there’s anything better, we are all ears, we want to find it, but we haven’t found it yet.”
By comparison, GM says it’s buying LG Chem’s batteries for $145/kWh, and Audi claims that it’s EV battery cost $114/kWh for the packs it plans to use in the upcoming e-tron quattro. That means Tesla is much closer to the $100/kWh that anyone realizes.
What the $100/kWh barrier means is that it will allow any company that acquires battery tech at that cost or less can match prices with traditional internal combustion automobiles. And that’s a big breakthrough for EVs. We believe that’s one of the breakthroughs Musk spoke about at the meeting.