Image credit: Emile Bouret/Instagram
The battery is the most important component of an electric vehicle. Their cost, power, weight, specific energy, and energy density are very important characteristics, especially when it comes to EVs with a high carrying capacity, such as Tesla Semi. It seems that the Californian manufacturer's truck will be equipped with a battery of about 500kWh, which is actually unexpected and would be a real game changer.
Batteries for electric vehicles are characterized by their relatively high power-to-weight ratio, specific energy, and energy density. Smaller, lighter batteries are desirable because they reduce the weight of the vehicle and therefore improve its performance. This is important for Tesla Semi, whose range could suffer from excess weight.
Some industry experts consider heavy haulage impractical for battery cars due to cost and weight, however Tesla CEO Elon Musk intends to prove otherwise. In November 2017, the company introduced Tesla Semi. The truck will be produced in two configurations depending on the range: 300+ miles (about $150,000) and 500+ miles (about $180,000). In evaluations, some firms have concluded that the Tesla Semi will not be able to travel long distances, as the battery weight is too heavy, which would have a negative impact on the range.
During an interview on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Musk shed some light on the matter, and said the Tesla Semi battery pack will be around 500 kWh. This is significantly less than experts anticipated when evaluating its performance, weight, and cost.
“You want something on the order of probably a 500 kWh pack. What we have in the Model S and X is a 100 kWh pack and probably something like a 500 kWh pack in the Tesla Semi."
Even now, Tesla batteries are far superior to any existing electric vehicle, being twice as efficient, according to ARK Invest. Tesla's battery, control system, and electronics allow it to operate quickly and efficiently, delivering both high performance and long range. With new battery cells, this will give Tesla even more benefits.
Tesla revealed its new 4680 cell architecture in September. It seems that large cells could imply greater weight and thermal challenges, but Tesla is tackling that with its new tabless architecture. This means removing the two tabs connecting the battery cap and can to the jellyroll anode/cathode, and replacing that with a spiral architecture allowing many more points of connection, increasing efficiency and reducing resistance.
The net effect is a form factor with a 6X increase in power, which is critical for the heavy work (undertaken by, e.g., Tesla Semi) and which allows for a 16% increase in range, while reducing $/KWh costs by 14%. That in itself is impressive, but more impressive still is that the 4680 cell is designed with mass production in mind--using less steel and is easier to assemble. Along with the new cells, the new structural packaging, while being more efficient, will also be much lighter in weight than 2170 cells, which is an important factor.
In November 2020, Musk said that Tesla Semi achieving a range of 800 kilometers (500 miles) and 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) shouldn't be a problem. In order to make this possible, Tesla would use the new 4680 battery cells that were presented at Battery Day.
Musk emphasized that the battery pack will be integrated into Tesla Semi's core structure, thus also further bolstering the vehicle's structural integrity. With the new form factor, Tesla is able to minimize negative mass, thus increasing the density of the battery pack. The battery is then able to be positioned more efficiently, further reducing redundant structures within the packaging itself.
Next year, the first Tesla Semis are due to roll off the Giga Texas assembly line, but at first from Giga Nevada, as rumored. Analysts predict that US electric truck (freight/semi) sales should surpass 54,000 units by 2025. The high demand will certainly be met by Tesla Semi.
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About the Author
Eva Fox joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover breaking news as an automotive journalist. The main topics that she covers are clean energy and electric vehicles. As a journalist, Eva is specialized in Tesla and topics related to the work and development of the company.