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New release of 100 kWh battery and Tesla’s future plans

Model 3

Tesla to rely on Model S P100D customers in order to make to jump to mass-production of denser batteries

As many – including Electrans – had predicted, Tesla has announced a new 100kWh battery which will become available for its Models S and X. The new battery gives the Model S P100D a range of 315 miles, making it the first production EV to exceed the 300 mile limit.

According to the company, it will be available from 2017, with models priced at US$134,500 for the Model S P100D, or US$20,000 to update from the 90 kWh battery.

The new battery is approximately the same shape and size as a 90 kWh battery, meaning it should fit into the existing assembly of both Models. If you believe the Tesla hype, this has been no small feat of engineering; battery energy density has been improved by 11%, yet the weight of the battery pack has grown by 4%.

Despite the excitement from fans, reactions to the announcement have been mixed. This may be because rumours about the new battery have been circling around since February, prompting Electrans and others to predict an imminent announcement – surely knocking the wind from the PR.

Muted response could also be due to the lack of people able to buy a car in the six-digit bracket.

Speculation abound

In the aftermath of the announcement, Electrans and others have become suspicious that Elon Musk may have other intentions for the new battery pack.

The Tesla Model 3 is due to be released in 2017, and will be a far cheaper option for those looking to jump on the EV wagon. To be priced at US$35,000, the Model 3 will have a range of 215 miles, accelerate to 60 miles per hour in six seconds, and include all of the usual sus-specs in the line up such as the Autopilot feature.

In October 2015, Tesla’s co-founder and Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel indicated that Tesla would be focusing on the Model 3. Straubel said: “This is the vehicle we are actually developing today, most of the people inside Tesla are no longer working on the S or X, but they are hard at work designing and inventing all the technologies going into the Model 3.”

According to our calculations, with the new technology used for the P100D, Tesla would need a battery which weighs in at 405kg in order to allow for a 215 mile range. With a 60 kWh battery that enjoys an advance in energy density of 11% and only a 4% maximisation of weight, the Model 3 would be able to travel 212 miles on a single charge. Therefore Tesla just about has the technological know-how to create the Model 3.

In Musk’s eyes, it seems the P100D is the perfect way to test the new battery and make enough money to allow the company to begin mass-producing.

During a conference call in which the new 100 kWh battery was discussed, Elon Musk stated that: “Yes, it is an expensive car, but that is what is paying for the Model 3 – both in terms of free cash flow and learning more about its core technology,” signifying the battery could be more of a test bed for new innovations aimed at benefiting the development of the Tesla Model 3.

An uptake of 200 people per week for the new battery is expected over the next few months.

Musk says that Tesla is pushing the theoretical limit of what they can get out of the existing battery design. Engineers have redesigned the software, cooling, electronics and cell layout to fit more power into the same battery pack, akin to “stuffing 11 pounds into a ten-pound bag,” said Musk. “It gets exponentially harder to increase the energy density,” indicating further that their path for the future may be aimed at condensing the space required to output large amounts of energy.

All in all, larger packs should continue to add confidence in Tesla and the EV industry, as denser batteries allow for longer range. Ultimately that research should help the development of a cheaper car for a larger, less wealthy market.

About Sarah Burroughs

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