Tesla’s expansion is critically dependent on the availability of Lithium-Ion batteries for their cars and storage solutions, with a very close relationship with their supplier Panasonic being one of their main saving graces compared to other slow-moving car companies who have not secured their own supplies.
Despite having Panasonic co-located at their gigafactory battery supply and the cost of the battery packs have remained an issue for Tesla, with Musk earlier in the year confirming that Tesla was “cell-starved for vehicle production,” and had to prioritise their vehicles over their home energy storage products.
The company has been for some time been expected to bring the production of these cells in-house. These rumours were given new vigour with the February 2019 purchase of Maxwell, a supercapacitor and battery manufacturer with a new revolutionary dry-electrode technology.
Maxwell’s dry electrode technology promises to increase battery density from 40 to 140%, which should massively expand the range of Tesla cars, while also being more environmentally friendly due to not using solvents.
Now new job listings suggest Tesla is ready to start trial manufacturing of these cells.
One listing for a “Cell Technician” notes:
We are looking for an Engineering Technician to assist anode development and optimization R&D. Candidates should be familiar with Li-ion cell chemistry and have experience building and assembling cells for performance testing. This candidate will be a key member of a cross-functional product development team. This job includes the fabrication of laboratory scale Li-ion anodes, electrode processing, laboratory scale Li-ion cell builds, and data analysis. The primary responsibilities of this position will be to assist in experimental planning and to carry out experiments and analysis.
Another for a “manufacturing technician” notes “Tesla is currently seeking a Technician for a manufacturing line we are developing. You’ll be part of a new product line we are developing.”
Other job postings are looking for cell designers, analysts, and testers.
As usual with Elon Musk timescales appear very compressed, with the listings suggesting we may see cells integrated into cars by next year.
It is not clear how this move will affect Tesla’s important relationship with Panasonic, who are also providing cells to companies like Toyota and Honda, while Tesla also using cells by LG Chem in China. Like everything Tesla brings inhouse however it seems likely we will see some “production hell” before the benefits become apparent.