Lucid's CEO Says Reputing 4680 Cells as a Breakthrough Is a Fantasy

Peter Rawlinson says that looking at 4680 cells as a breakthrough is a fantasy 7 photos
Photo: Tesla/Lucid
Tesla's 4680 Battery CellTesla's 4680 Battery CellPanasonic's  Financial 2021 Fiscal Results presentationTesla Battery DayTesla's 4680 Battery CellPeter Rawlinson Says That Looking at 4680 Cells as a Breakthrough Is A Fantasy
Peter Rawlinson is still enjoying the laurels Lucid and his team got for delivering the Air, an impressive new electric sedan. In an interview about it with IEEE Spectrum, he took the chance to talk about something people view as a major competitive edge from Tesla: 4680 cells. According to the Lucid CEO, looking at them as a huge breakthrough is a fantasy.
Rawlinson is the second executive to challenge what Tesla presents as its manufacturing advantages. At the Q3 2021 earnings call, Oliver Zipse said BMW would never use massive castings in its vehicles because they would offer no economic gains and probably imply high repair costs.

In the 4680 cells’ case, there’s one more reason to doubt them as an advantage. So far, it has been a hindrance for Tesla. The company designed most of its future products around it. You name it: Cybertruck, Roadster, Semi. The only exception to the rule is the $25,000 car, which will have LFP cells. Tesla’s future factories in Austin and Grünheide were conceived around delivering vehicles with 4680 cells.

Yet, these batteries are not ready for mass production, and even the best forecasts say that will only happen by the end of 2022. The automotive journalist Lei Xing heard from trusted sources that the 4680 cell mass manufacturing will only start beyond 2022. He recently disclosed that in the “China EVs & More” podcast. Without these batteries, Tesla will have to find another way to put its new factories to work.

Rawlinson told IEEE Spectrum that he sees some advantages in larger cell formats, such as reduced internal resistance. However, its main benefit would be in packaging, which delivers some improvements in energy density.

In times when SES presents a hybrid lithium metal cell with 417 Wh/kg, the 4680 batteries may arrive too late. Even if they came right now, some executives do not believe they would deliver the competitive superiority Tesla has been bragging about. Rawlinson was vocal about that, but it is not unlikely that other experts think likewise.
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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
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Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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