Commercial Vehicles

Tesla Semi & Cybertruck dependent on 4680 cells


Elon Musk has concretised the timetables for the future models in the wake of the latest earnings call. Tesla could launch the Semi electric truck and Cybertruck pickup as early as now, but a bottleneck has grown around the battery cells.

Tesla had announced in the annual report that the first Semi would be delivered towards the end of the year. That would have suggested a production start in late summer or autumn. As Musk said during the conference call following the business figures, the Semi could actually be produced now, but first, the new 4680 cells have to be available in sufficient quantities.

His logic is that the Semi would “normally” have five times as many cells as a car, but Tesla could not sell the Semi for five times the car’s price. “Therefore, it would not make sense for us to bring the Semi now. But it will make perfect sense once we can address the cell production constraint,” Musk said.

Tesla makes the 4680 cells at its Tera pilot plant in Fremont. It aims to reach a production capacity of 10 GWh there this year. By the end of 2022, production capacities of 100 GWh are to be created in Grünheide near Berlin and Texas. Besides, other cell suppliers are working on 4680 cells that Tesla could buy-in.

According to the original plans, the Semi, a Class 8 electric truck, was to go into series production by 2019. Later, that was postponed to 2020. So now we have to wait and see how many examples can be built in 2021.

At best, only a few examples of the Cybertruck could also be rolled out this year, with volume production not starting until 2022. You have to be lucky if you want to deliver the first pickups this year, Musk said. He said the development and design had been completed, and the production facilities would be ordered shortly. In the process, Musk also confirmed that an even bigger ‘gigapress’ than the one currently used on the Model Y would be ordered for the rear frame of the Cybertruck: “So we’ll be using an 8,000-ton casting press for the rear body casting as opposed to 6,000-ton for Model Y.” The generally well-informed Tesla portal Electrek assumes that the Cybertruck will not start until the second quarter of 2022.

In the call, Musk also confirmed that production of the Tesla Roadster will not start until 2022. He had already hinted at this last year. The Roadster 2 was first shown in 2017 in the course of the Semi presentation. As the Tesla CEO now stated, the “three-motor drive system and advanced battery work” were “important precursors”. However, the Model S Plaid+ was apparently given priority – possibly because of its easier production.

Also on Tesla’s agenda is a van/minibus, but the battery cells are the bottleneck. “I think Tesla is definitely going to make an electric van at some point,” Musk said. Musk had already announced a kind of minibus with many seats in his Master Plan Part 2, but since then the project has been given rather secondary treatment. In the current annual report, however, there is talk of an unspecified “future product”. However, according to rumours, this is more likely to be a new entry-level model and not the minibus. (Semi), (Cybertruck), (Roadster), (minibus)


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