Tesla turns to Germany for battery automation

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

“For months, the battery module line was our main production bottleneck,” the company told shareholders. “After deploying multiple semi-automated lines and improving our original lines, we have largely overcome this bottleneck. Consequently, we now expect to reach a module production rate of 5,000 car sets per week even before we install the new automated line designed and built by Tesla in Germany. Once installed, this new automated module line should significantly lower manufacturing costs. Our automation team in Germany is currently focusing on further capacity expansion where needed.”

This team is at Tesla Grohmann Automation, headquartered in Prüm near the border with Belgium. Tesla bought Grohmann Engineering, which had worked with BMW and Daimler,in January 2017, and turned it into a dedicated engineering unit.

Automation is only half the story, says Tesla. “Our Model 3 general assembly line consists of fewer than 50 steps, which is about 70% less than conventional assembly lines. All Model 3 vehicles use only one standard body frame, down from more than 80 for Model S, a wiring harness that has 50% less mass than average vehicles, and a fraction of the number of controllers, connectors and CPUs.”

A key element is the 2170 lithium ion cell that uses less cobalt than other cells.

“Cells used in Model 3 are the highest energy density cells used in any electric vehicle,” said the company. “We have achieved this by significantly reducing cobalt content per battery pack while increasing nickel content and still maintaining superior thermal stability. The cobalt content of our Nickel-Cobalt-Aluminum cathode chemistry is already lower than next-generation cathodes that will be made by other cell producers with a Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt ratio of 8:1:1. As a result, even with its battery, the gross weight of Model 3 is on par with its gasoline-powered counterparts.”

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