Anticipated Battery updates for Model X in coming years

Anticipated Battery updates for Model X in coming years


After only 2.5 years of production, BMW announced a new battery for the i3 where the range goes from approximately 80 miles to 125 miles. The rumor is that they are going to use the new Samsung 94 Ah battery cells.

I have not heard anything about Tesla updating the batteries in Model S or Model x. Model S has been around since 2012 and I am sure battery technology has improved since then. Given the 250 mile range on Tesla cars, battery capacity upgrades are not on top of the list of Tesla Owners (lie it is for i3 owners who get about 70-80 miles out of a single charge).

Is there any public information on what the battery upgrade plans are?

Note: The only battery upgrade i am aware of is on the Roadster.

aesculus | December 28, 2015

At one of the shareholders meetings Elon stated you should expect a 5% increase on average every year, but that they would not deliver new batteries every year. So some new batteries might be 10 or 15% more powerful than previous depending on the cycle.

The 90 was an enhancement to the 85 and you can check the TMC forum for responses on how much it costs to upgrade and what you have to do.

jjs | December 28, 2015

What is the kWh rating of the current i3 vs the announced version? Range can quickly be increased by making the "gas tank" bigger.

There are not stated plans/road map for Tesla other than an expectation that the historical 8% increase in price/performance is expected for the foreseeable future. (Paraphrasing J.B. Straubel.)

Energy density is a critical component in EVs. Lighter batteries with more energy storage is a double win for range. But durability/longevity are also very important considerations.

Finally you must factor in the BMS (battery management system). Used in conjunction with the best chemistry for EVs this component is critical in keeping the battery healthy for an extended period of time.

Model Ses have a LOT of miles and 3 years of history. Right now the best data shows about a 4-6% reduction in capacity over that time/mileage.

Tesla does not tend to make advance announcements regarding improvements to their vehicles. This stems from their philosophy of making incremental improvements throughout the year and not on a yearly basis, ie. model year, like the rest of the car manuf. world.

So, no there is not announcement/road map and it is highly unlikely there will be.

As far far the roadster being the only upgrade, I don't really believe that is true. There have been multiple upgrades, very quietly done to the Model S battery pack. Some have affected recharge rates, some durability of the BMS itself and the most noticeable in the increase from 85kWh to 90kWh.

sunitc | December 28, 2015

@jjs: i3 has a 22 KWh battery currently. The new battery pack capacity has not been announced yet, but I would anticipate it to be around 29-30 KWh given the 30% improvement in range. Also, the rumor is that the new battery has the same physical dimensions of the old one. So looks like they are using higher capacity cells that make up the modules of the battery pack.

jjs | December 28, 2015

@sunitc That is good news depending upon cost. If the cost/price of the car is about the same and the other important battery characteristics are as at least as good as before then this is quite a good improvement. Bodes well for EVs in general. At 125 miles per charge it would remove a lot of range anxiety for in town driving. Perhaps someone who is familiar with batteries in general and this cell specifically can chime in with discharge and recharge rates.

carlk | December 28, 2015

The limiting factors are cost and weight but not technology. Elon has said a 350 mile range is probably the highest that will be needed. That's probably true especially when fast(er) charging is available in the future. You never hear anyone expresses the need of a 500 mile gas tank. | December 28, 2015

@jj: I agree with everything you posted for what it is worth.
Energy density is hard to increase. Tesla and/or Panasonic managed to produce a 6% bump by adding Si to the anode. Much testing has to be done to ensure that the improvement doesn't create some unforeseen future issue.

But here's a trick that adds 20% to the capacity of the current pack without changing the chemistry. It adds about 200 pounds to the weight of the Model S/X which is only 4% so the net benefit is over 16%.

Change the dimensions of the cell from 18 mm diameter by 65 mm long to 20 mm by 70 mm. Squeeze as many new cells as possible into the existing box which has ample headroom. Each 20700 cell has 33% more than its 18650 cousin. But you can only get about 90% as many into the box because of the larger diameter.

With minimal development you now have a box that peaks at about 105 kWh The X105D will have a range of almost 300 rated miles! But wait, you have to have new assembly lines to fabricate the new form factor. Oh, that's what they'll have in Sparks. QED.

EVino | December 29, 2015

Who knew that by changing the cell form factor alone you'll get a 16% net improvement with the same pack dimensions. Maybe a Fibonacci arrangement can get even more.

Red Sage ca us | December 29, 2015

jjs wrote, "As far [as] the roadster being the only upgrade, I don't really believe that is true."

I think that Elon was saying this was the last 'MODE' reveal for Generation II vehicles... Migrating from [SPORT] to [INSANE] to [LUDICROUS] -- on this platform. He was saying that [MAXIMUM PLAID] would be the true next level, and would appear on the next Roadster (Model R?) to be released in four years or so. Apparently he is a big fan of the movie 'Space Balls' (1987).

This doesn't mean that even LUDICROUS mode won't get faster... It may... It will simply still be called LUDICROUS. And something even more swift will be available for the New Roadster as MAXIMUM PLAID.

deeageux | December 29, 2015

Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel gets ~730 miles per tank.

As long as price/weight/performance gain makes sense range will keep improving.

If Tesla decides to stop at some arbitrary point then some other company will offer more range at some point and take that business from Tesla.

Rated range does not equal actual range in the middle of summer with AC and tunes on full blast.

Rated range does not equal actual range in the dead of winter, in the middle of a snow storm, with heat on full blast.

For the foreseeable future there will be a demand for ever longer rated range and eventually there will be a company to fill that demand whether it is Tesla, Apple, Faraday Future, Porsche or somebody else.

No matter how much Green Fundamentalist rage that it is not needed and is less efficient. 100 MPGe or 95 MPGe does not matter to 99% of the buying public. If you are a buying a car roughly twice as efficient as a Prius most people are comfortable they are doing their fair share. | December 30, 2015

@deeageux: "As long as price/weight/performance gain makes sense range will keep improving"

That's a perfect and succinct summary.

I am positive that the Gigafactory will cut the cost of individual cells by as much as 50% of the current price paid to Panasonic for cells built in and shipped from Asia. If correct, Elon & Co. will easily be able to cut the cost of battery packs by the 30% amount that he has projected. When that flows through to car production, your criteria will be met. When? 2H16 maybe?

Red Sage ca us | December 30, 2015

deeageux: I mostly agree with you, I think, though for different reasons.

I'm not sure which configuration of the Grand Cherokee you are speaking of at ~730 miles... The 2015 AWD turbo-diesel is rated at 590 miles range by the EPA. Even if you go by highway only, its range comes to 688 miles instead.

Most people say they cannot get the EPA rating on any vehicle, and that EPA numbers are a joke at best, and worthless otherwise. Your comments on rated range apply to all vehicles, not just battery electric.

And yes, though it is unlikely that there will be a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry with a 40-50 gallon tank any time soon... I would not doubt that companies that want to show the 'superiority' of range for ICE will do their level best to get at least one variant of their petrol cars to a 1,000+ mile range within the next decade.

100 MPGe is exactly twice as efficient as a Prius, at least financially speaking, in terms of fuel cost for miles driven. But, a Prius with a 25 gallon fuel tank would have a range nearing 1,200 miles. But, if you look at the patterns of traditional automobile manufacturers, the more efficient a vehicle is, the smaller the fuel tank they include. Hence, why the Chevrolet Volt (106 MPGe, 8.9 gallons) has two-thirds the range of a Prius (50 MPG, 11.9 gallons), and a Camry Hybrid (41 MPG, 17 gallons) has nearly a 700 mile range -- 100 more than the Prius.

Gert van Veen | December 30, 2015

Probably the range is not so important as with a gasoline car.
To get fuel you have to go to a place you don’t want to be. Go to the station, fill-up you car, pay and then do what you like to do again. All together a waist of time of at least 10 minutes.
But with an EV, charging takes on average just 10 seconds. Parc your car, plug-in and go. Let’s say 10 seconds. On a yearly base an EV gives you 10 extra hours time.
So, above 250 miles more range is just a need of the old days.

speyerj | December 30, 2015

Gert...what EV charges in just 10 seconds?

Or presumably you're referring to getting home, plugging in, and going inside. That's great for a day commute, but it's entirely non-applicable to long distance one-way driving.

250 miles is GREAT for the average daily driving. But for distance that's the entire reason the SC network was built. For those times you aren't coming back to your home.

Bubba2000 | December 30, 2015

MS weighs around 4700 lbs including the 1,200 lbs battery pack. What can be done to reduce the weight of the car itself? I would think it is easier to optimize the structural design, metallurgy, etc and reduce the weight of the car, compared with tinkering with battery chem. Combo of stronger Al alloys, Titanium, Carbon Fiber, etc?

Red Sage ca us | December 30, 2015

Déjà Vu...?

I'm certain I've answered this before... The car was engineered to use aluminum as the primary structure. It would have to be re-engineered entirely to be based upon a different material, such as Carbon Fiber. Thus, the entire Fremont facility would have to be retooled to work with the different material. And, if you think several weeks or few months is a long time to wait, then you would not want to endure the length of time it would take for your car to reach you if built from more exotic materials.

The safety profile of the car relies heavily on the structure being designed from aluminum as well. And ultimately, to make a car that was just as safe out of something else would drive its price up by a wide margin, while only reducing the weight by a very small amount.

The main 'body in white' bare aluminum body and frame for a Tesla Model S only weighs around 400 lbs. Even if you could reduce that by 25%, you only have an improvement of 100 lbs. Dual motors have, thus far, done a great job of making up the difference in weight compared to lighter vehicles in class.

JeffreyR | December 30, 2015

That's ~3100 lbs. of other car stuff making up the rest of the Model S for those keeping score. So much easier to gain 10% savings there and not redesign the whole frame. In a few years when chemistry of cells is that much better you'll be well over 300 miles of range too.

MountainVoyageur | January 1, 2016

You never hear anyone expresses the need of a 500 mile gas tank.

This type of statement comes up repeatedly; it still makes no sense to me. Gas station density greatly exceeds Supercharger density, even on Interstate highways and especially off them. That will remain true for the foreseeable future.

I do believe that Supercharger build-out along Interstate highways will get to the point that the current battery capacity/range is fine for trips consisting of Interstate highway plus a modest distance from the Interstate at each end. Not there yet, but within a year or two we should be. Even so, several valid reasons for longer range batteries have been given, such as:

One of the factors determining the time a long road trip takes is time in Superchargers. Larger batteries mean less time to charge to the same number of miles, such as enough to get to the next Supercharger. Not everyone always believes the important thing is the trip, rather than getting to the destination. Furthermore, if EVs are to be superior to ICE in all ways then they need to minimize extra time they require for long trips.
Another time when the point is getting there, not the trip, is going on a weekend trip. If you leave after work on Friday and drive up in the dark and cold to go skiing you just want to get there. From San Jose to either Squaw Valley of Heavenly Valley is a bit over 220 miles -- including several thousand feet net up hill in winter conditions. It would be nice to have a big enough battery to make that trip with the heater on and no range anxiety. For some people this is not a rare trip -- it is most weekends during the ski season.
Recreational trips to a road head or lake or river put-in are not likely to have a destination charger at the end. Even if they did, it would be poor etiquette to plug in and then go off for two or three days. That means you need to be able to make a round trip from the nearest Supercharger -- i.e. your destination needs to be less than half the expected battery range (out, back, safety margin).

Red Sage ca us | January 1, 2016

I still get the impression that people probably only want a 500 mile battery pack, so that they can charge to 90%, showing 450 miles range remaining... Drive down to 20% state of charge, showing 100 miles range remaining. That is, they want to be able to get a guaranteed 350 miles even if they don't top off the battery pack to 100%.

From the point of view held by Elon Musk and JB Straubel, that would be a waste of batteries. They'd rather give you a car with a ~390 mile range, tell you to charge it to 100% before leaving, drive it down to 10% or less remaining, then refill that ~350 miles while having lunch.

Yes, there are those who long for a latter day Gumball Rally, Coast-to-Coast Challenge, Cannonball Run with EVs as participants. They would love to have the equivalent of splash & dash road trips where no one sets foot on solid Earth without having traveled at least 500 miles first. And they want any stop to be equivalent to a mythical 'five minute fill-up' every time. Though they may allow for a fifteen minute break, off-ramp to on-ramp.

That will come, in time. But in my opinion, far sooner than anyone else realizes, it will be possible to go much, much further than 500 miles in an EV. Once the ball gets rolling, it will be fascinating what can be achieved. I'm sure that once a 1,000 mile to 3,000 mile range is not only possible, but readily affordable, many will say it is simply 'enough'. Even then I hope the improvements will continue, until some day cars are rolling out of Fremont displaying 60,000 miles range remaining.