Image: Tesla patent
Tesla continues to work on the development of 4680 battery cells, which will be cheaper to manufacture and be more productive than the current 2170. The manufacturer has published a patent for “Sintered cathode active material elements and methods thereof.”
Tesla developed significant changes to the battery during the development of the 4680 cell, and battery chemistry changes to the cathode hold substantial cost benefits (-12%) while extending range (4%). Here the goal is to eliminate expensive and ethically problematic cobalt in favor of a nickel-rich cathode. Tesla will add 'novel coatings' to the nickel to provide stability in the absence of cobalt, resulting in a 15% reduction in $/kWh cost. This will increase the demand for nickel, so Tesla developed a three-tiered approach to cathode chemistry, using cheaper iron for medium-range vehicles, a nickel/manganese combination for 'medium-plus' range and high nickel content for long-range vehicles like the Semi and Cybertruck.
On September 20, 2021, Tesla filed a patent for “Sintered cathode active material elements and methods thereof” and published it on March 31, 2022. The invention generally relates to electrode active materials and methods for their formation. More specifically, the patent discloses forming metal oxide cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries.
In the patent, Tesla reveals a number of complexities that are commonly associated with the cathode manufacturing process. The manufacturer notes that the calcination process occupies the highest portion of the manufacturing cost among all processes, due to the highest capital cost of the roller hearth kilns (RHK) typically used, highest energy consumption and long residence times. As a result, maximizing the throughput of these kilns is critical to reducing the capital and operating cost of cathode production. The invention describes ways to solve this and other problems that arise in the process.
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