We know Tesla’s plans for the 4680 cells by heart. It would first power the Cybertruck by the end of 2021, perhaps simultaneously to the Model Y made in Giga Grünheide. After that, the Model Y in Giga Austin, the Semi, and the new Roadster last. An incomplete Model Y body-in-white in need of a structural battery in Giga Austin seemed to scream: “Where are my 4680 cells?”
This empty shell was revealed thanks to a flyover Giga Austin made by the YouTuber Joe Tegtmeyer, as we have recently told you. It arrived there in a covered truck that also carried an aligning rig. Although it may seem secondary, it is a fundamental component to get the front and read castings that form this innovative and controversial body-in-white in the right place.
Volkswagen thinks using castings like Tesla will make it more competitive. Daimler said it would study adopting them. BMW already said it sees “much more efficient ways to build a car body” than by integrating large castings to a car structure.
Regardless of who is right or wrong in this discussion, what Volkswagen fears is something Tesla failed to deliver when it said it would. For this simpler body-in-white to work as it should, it needs 4680 batteries. It made all its plans based on this new cell format, which is still something we fail to grasp.
How can the carmaker with the world’s highest market cap base two new factories and all future products around a battery technology that is not ready for production? Tesla conceived Giga Grünheide and Giga Austin to work with the IDRA Groups Giga presses that make its large cast structural parts.
These factories will certainly have traditional steel stamping presses to make other parts of the car bodies, such as doors, hoods, and frunks. Still, they will have fewer robots and welding stations involved in assembling the structures: the front and rear castings were designed precisely to avoid them. This is what would allow Tesla to spend 10 hours building a new EV instead of the 30 hours Zwickau takes to produce each ID.3.
Again, the only explanation for such a move is that someone decided it would be a great idea – probably against its manufacturing engineers’ feedback – and that Tesla would do that as soon as possible. When the need for testing proved the 4680 cells were still not mature enough to be put in production, everything else came to a halt.
Yes, Tesla can keep building up its factories. In Germany, it is still waiting for a final permit yet to be granted. As the images obtained by Tegtmeyer show, it may also keep testing how to manufacture a car with three main castings. But what will these factories do when they are ready, especially if that happens before 4680 batteries can be put into production lines? Giga Austin is not having issues with “irritating” bureaucracy and still had to receive a body-in-white produced in Fremont…
With all that in mind, the image of the Model Y body-in-white with no structural battery pack to become a real car is a metaphor for the current stage of this supposed revolution in car manufacturing. More than that, it also shows that Tesla lacks something crucial. We’re only not sure if it is just proper planning or if testing precedes that.
Tesla’s “deliver now, fix later” policy increasingly demonstrates it is more active than ever. Apart from the issues Tesla’s latest OTA update brought to its cars – such as deactivating headlights and creating “farting” issues – its most recent recall cases also show Tesla’s need more testing.
It might have been okay when Tesla was a small company delivering a few hundred or thousand cars per month. So far, it is recalling 675,059 vehicles, and that number will still increase, raising doubts about how Tesla Service Centers will cope with that. The highest market cap for a car company implies that Tesla can do better than this.