A few days ago, Tesla completed its first earnings call of the year. Impressively, whilst many other companies were losing out, Tesla was still profitable. However, not only do Tesla’s earnings reports give investors an insight into the financial health of the company, they also give us some details on what Musk is planning for the future of the California based Automaker. One subtle note here is the inclusion of a Terafactory.
This earnings call was riddled with no shortage of surprises, so I’ll break them down here. Much of what is being reported is still just speculation, not just concrete facts, so here’s the information we know, and what the implications of it could be.
The Facts:: During the conference call, Musk hinted that the next Tesla factories would be Terafactories. This would be the next jump up from Gigafactory. Originally, the name Gigafactory was used because the factories produced multiple gigawatt-hours (GWh) of battery capacity.
Hence, a Terafactory would produce at least one terawatt-hour (TWh) of battery capacity; this equates to 1000 GWh. Back when the Gigafactory in Nevada was constructed, it was the largest battery manufacturing facility in the world by far, producing more batteries than the rest of the world combined.
As a result, a Terafactory would produce multiple times the world total battery production rate. Given that Tesla’s current factory is one of the largest big footprint in the world, how big would a Terafactory need to be.
Originally, Musk hinted at a Midwest location to build the Cybertruck at. However, this could change.
Currently, Tesla is running a ‘secret’ project called ‘Roadrunner’, which aims to develop a cheap, long lasting battery that could potentially hit the million-mile durability marker.
Tesla’s battery investor day is likely to cover something like this. When it was planned, it was supposed to be hosted at Gigafactory New York, though those plans have since been amended due to the Coronavirus. Now, Musk is suggesting that the battery day will either take place in California or Texas. Furthermore, it was originally scheduled to take place in April, however it seems more likely that it will either be May or June now.
Speculation: Although the COVID-19 outbreak has halted some of Tesla’s plans, they’re still aiming to go ahead with the battery investor day. Many have begun to suggest that, since Musk talked about holding the battery day in Texas, then that’s where the new Gigafactory will be. However, after doing some further research, it seems as though Texas is likely to be on the list of possible places due to it being most convenient.
Firstly, Musk does a lot of work at the SpaceX Boca Chica test facility in Texas. He travels there a lot, and could potentially be thinking about hosting the event at the SpaceX site.
Secondly, Texas appears to have more relaxed lockdown measures than other parts of the United States. This could allow Tesla to host the event without causing too much disturbance.
Given that the Battery day was originally scheduled to be at Gigafactory New York, speculation on the Terafactory being positioned in Texas seems a little premature. Of course, it’s completely possible that it will be built there, but I don’t think there’s enough evidence to infer that with any great degree of confidence just yet.
Battery Investor Day
The Facts: Tesla’s much anticipated ‘Battery Investor Day’ was originally planned to be a battery and power train day, before Musk decided that each one should be their own separate topic as there was too much to talk about.
During the conference call, Musk said the following about the upcoming battery day.
“Battery Day people. Wait until Battery Day. It’s gonna blow your mind. It blows my mind, and I know it!”
Currently, we know that the roadrunner project is taking place which is working on developing long lasting, cheap, and energy dense batteries of some form. However, we don’t know what type of batteries these will be.
Speculation: Whilst we do not know what type of cells (if any) Tesla will be announcing, we can make some predictions based on the indicators over the past few years.
Firstly, Tesla acquired Maxwell Technologies in May 2019. Maxwell specializes in the mass manufacturing of ultracapcitors as an energy storage solution. Despite this, Musk stated that he wasn’t particularly interested in ultracapacitors in his electric vehicles shortly after Maxwell was acquired.
What’s more interesting is that Maxwell is also involved in the research of dry electrode technology. This type of battery does not require a solvent, and is a significant improvement over lithium ion batteries in terms of performance. Additionally, they have the potential to dramatically reduce production costs.
Model S Range Increases
Facts: The Model S has the most range out of Tesla’s lineup. It’s also the second most expensive, and has the best performance with a peak 0-60mph time of 2.3 seconds.
Due to the rise in popularity of the Model 3 and Y, Tesla is only incrementally upgrading the Model S and X, at least until the Plaid powertrain comes out.
After months of software tweaks and efficiency improvements, Tesla has managed to bring the Model S range up to 391 miles.
However, Musk claimed that the EPA (environmental protection agency) left the door open overnight before testing. This resulted in the car staying ‘awake’ overnight and losing 2% of its battery capacity.
That 2% of battery could have pushed Tesla over the 400 mile marker, becoming the first mass production electric vehicle to do so.
Since then, the EPA has denied the claims that the testing was not completed correctly. Despite this, Tesla is still looking to test the vehicle again once it is able to do so.