Elon Musk and Tesla CFO Zachary Kirkhorn teased some details about the company's research on battery and powertrain innovations during the Q4 2019 earnings call. Musk stressed over and over again during the call for people to wait for Tesla's upcoming Battery Day, which is expected to happen later this year around April after the end of Q1 2020.
"Battery Day people. Wait until Battery Day. It's gonna blow your mind. It blows my mind, and I know it!" said Elon Musk during the latest Tesla earnings call. Talk of Tesla's recent research on batteries and powertrain were peppered throughout the recent call. It was enough to reveal how deep the EV automaker went to improve the essential components of its vehicles.
The first mention of Tesla's research on batteries during the Q4 2019 earnings happened when Gene Munster from Loup Ventures asked about the Cybertruck's demand and cost of production.
At the beginning of the call, Elon Musk had mentioned the strong demand of the Cybertruck. "The demand has been incredible," he said. "I think we'll make as many as we can develop for as many years...I think the product is better than people realize.”
Munster wanted more details about Tesla’s Cybertruck demand and how they would handle the all-electric pickup truck’s production. Elon Musk clarified that Tesla doesn’t comment on specific numbers, but he did say that demand for the Cybertruck was more than the company could make in three to four years.
He turned the conversation towards battery production capacity, stating that it was fundamental to manufacturing more EVs. “The thing we’re going to be focused on is increasing the battery production capacity because that’s very fundamental. ‘Cause if you don’t improve battery production capacity, then you end up just shifting unit volume from one part to another, and you haven’t actually produced more electric vehicles.
Musk used the Tesla Semi as an example to further explain his point. “So that is partly of the reason why we haven’t accelerated production of the Tesla Semi because it uses a lot of cells. Unless we’ve got a lot of battery cells available, then accelerating production of the Tesla Semi would then necessarily mean making pure Model 3 and Model Y cars.
“So we gotta really make sure we get a very steep ramp in battery production and continue to improve the cost to kWh for the batteries.”
Musk stressed how fundamental it was for Tesla to improve battery production capacity and how difficult it was to accomplish as well. He then reminded everyone about Battery Day, which would be dedicated to sharing Tesla’s research on batteries and their plans for relating to it in the future.
Elon Musk delved into Tesla’s progress in battery production during a question from New Street Research analyst Pierre Ferragu as well, who pointedly asked about the company’s battery capacity. Ferragu asked how Tesla keeps improving its battery tech and why no other automakers struggled to do the same.
Elon Musk reminded everyone that Tesla used to be criticized for its inability to work with both cars and battery capacity. In retrospect, those critics have learned that simultaneously developing the two can be quite difficult, he said. “Even the pros have trouble with it, you know,” Musk remarked.
Musk explained that battery production also means improvements in cell, module, and pack capacity. He believes that Tesla demonstrated how much its progress in those areas through Fremont’s output, partly because it has worked well with key partners like Panasonic and LG Chem.
He also mentioned partnering with CATL, which is a battery company in China. Tesla and CATL’s partnership is reportedly in preliminary negotiations, based on the last news about the two company’s plans with each other. However, Tesla did confirm that local battery pack production began in late December 2019 in its Q4 2019 Vehicle Production and Delivery report. Elon’s comments during the earnings call support these claims.
As a final note, Kirkhorn added that Tesla has a decade or more of experience in battery cell production and how to integrate it into a car.
The Spice. Must. Flow. pic.twitter.com/ov4aLIwzKz— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 29, 2018
Colin Rusch from Oppenheimer asked a follow-up question about Tesla’s plans to reduce costs for powertrains, which Elon Musk readily answered with confidence.
“Well, our powertrain is pretty damn good. I mean, it's way better than anything else out there by a country mile,” he said. To drive his point, Musk compared the Model S battery pack with the Taycan’s.
“It’s worth noting that the Model S has like a 100 kWh pack, the Taycan has like a 95 kWh pack. The Model S is steadily approaching 400 miles of range. The Taycan has 200 miles of range. So we must be using that energy pretty efficiently, and the powertrain is a big part of that,” Musk said.
Kirkhorn added that when it comes to the powertrain, Tesla focuses on the costs and how to drive it down. Then Elon Musk mentioned the Plaid powertrain, teasing that it would come out later this year. “This is like alien technology. It’s insane,” he teased.
Featured Image Credit: Elon Musk/Twitter
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