Automotive

1,100-hp Model S Plaid and other highlights from Tesla's Battery Day

1,100-hp Model S Plaid and oth...
Tesla CEO Elon Musk onstage at Battery Day 2020
Tesla CEO Elon Musk onstage at Battery Day 2020
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk discusses the new tabless battery architecture on stage with SVP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering Drew Baglino
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk discusses the new tabless battery architecture on stage with SVP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering Drew Baglino
Tesla CEO Elon Musk onstage at Battery Day 2020
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk onstage at Battery Day 2020
Tesla's tabless battery architecture
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Tesla's tabless battery architecture
The Tesla Model S is now available to order with an Plaid high-performance powertrain and chassis, bringing it to over 1,100 horsepower
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The Tesla Model S is now available to order with an Plaid high-performance powertrain and chassis, bringing it to over 1,100 horsepower
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Like many events to take place in 2020, Tesla’s Battery Day and annual shareholder meeting looked a little different to what you might expect, with attendees listening in from parked cars much like a drive-in movie theater. What was similar to Tesla events of the past, however, was the foreshadowing of big leaps in battery technology, the promise of affordable electric cars and the unveiling of a mind-bending new performance option, with the Spaceballs-inspired name of Plaid mode.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk began his part of the presentation by talking of his team’s achievements in overcoming the manufacturing issues that plagued the company throughout 2017 and 2018. He displayed images of the Shanghai Tesla factory breaking ground in January of 2019 and mass-producing vehicles in March of 2020, just 15 months later, to show how far the company had come.

“Tesla was really the first US company in a century, in the US, to reach volume production and be sustainably profitable,” Musk told the crowd. "The crazy thing is this has not really happened in 100 years.”

A little further along, Musk welcomed Tesla’s SVP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering Drew Baglino onstage to discuss what the team had been working on in terms of battery design, and its ambitions for the coming years. A major goal of Tesla’s is to produce electric vehicles that are affordable for the masses, and it follows that the batteries inside them be increasingly cost-effective as well.

The plan? To halve the cost per kWh by designing and building its own batteries in house. As it stands, Tesla gets its lithium-ion batteries from Panasonic, but has plans to shift to its own “tabless” battery architecture over the coming years. This new cell does without the "tabs" that typical lithium-ion batteries rely on to power whatever it is they’re connected to.

In doing so, the design involves fewer parts, allows for far simpler manufacturing and a much shorter path for the electrons to travel, making for a better power-to-weight ratio despite the larger cell size. It also overcomes some of the thermal issues associated with larger cell types and allows for the “absolute lowest cost form factor.”

Tesla's tabless battery architecture
Tesla's tabless battery architecture

“It’s kind of a beautiful thing,” said Baglino.

The upshot of this new tabless battery architecture, lowered cost aside, is that they could be six times as powerful, hold five times the energy and allow Tesla vehicles a range increase of as much as 16 percent.

“For people that really know cells, this is a big breakthrough,” said Musk.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk discusses the new tabless battery architecture on stage with SVP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering Drew Baglino
Tesla CEO Elon Musk discusses the new tabless battery architecture on stage with SVP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering Drew Baglino

Expanding on this battery architecture and what it could mean for Tesla’s cars, Musk said he is “confident that long-term we can design and manufacture a compelling US$25,000 electric vehicle … about three years from now.” This would be fully autonomous with an electric powertrain that costs less than combustion engines.

Musk and Baglino then went into what these electric powertrain leaps could mean for performance and range. Last year, Tesla took to Laguna Seca with a Model S fitted out with a Plaid powertrain and chassis, which is a step up from the automaker’s Ludicrous mode. It propelled the car around the notoriously challenging circuit in 1:36.555, which was claimed as a record for a four-door sedan at the time.

A few more specs emerged during the presentation. We know now Plaid mode will afford the Model S a 0-60 mph (96.5 km/h) time of less than two seconds, a top speed of 200 mph (321 km/h), a sub-nine-second quarter-mile (402-m) time, more than 1,100 horsepower and a range greater than 520 mi (836 km).

The Tesla Model S is now available to order with an Plaid high-performance powertrain and chassis, bringing it to over 1,100 horsepower
The Tesla Model S is now available to order with an Plaid high-performance powertrain and chassis, bringing it to over 1,100 horsepower

This latest version of the Plaid powertrain was again taken to Laguna Seca on the weekend just gone, where it apparently lapped the circuit in a time of 1:30.3. “We think probably there is another three seconds or more to take of that time,” Musk remarked, which would put the Model S Plaid in some truly fearsome company including the Porsche 911 GT2 RS and current record holder for a production car, the 789-hp McLaren Senna.

“We’re confident the Model S Plaid will achieve the best track time of any production vehicle of any kind, two-door or otherwise,” said Musk.

Tesla also tweeted out some footage of the Model S Plaid on the track at Laguna Seca. The car is available for order now at a price of US$139,990 and will arrive in late 2021.

You can also watch the entire three-hour Battery Day presentation below.

2020 Annual Shareholder Meeting and Battery Day

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17 comments
Daishi
There was a headline from August about Licid Air's 517 mile range beating Tesla and the Plaid has 520. The Licid dream addition will have 1,080 HP and start at $162k vs the Plaid at 1,100 HP at $140k. The dream addition has a 2.5 second 0-60 vs the Plaid at < 2 seconds. The Plaid edition will beat Licid to market with better specs on paper and a lower price and Lucid still needs to finish building their factory and setting up a support network. I commented on the Lucid article that new BEV companies are in a race to find niche areas of the market faster than Tesla can close the gaps in their product line and it looks like Tesla won this race which could cost Lucid potentially everything. I know Tesla doesn't have perfect quality but there is really no chance I would choose the $180k Lucid Dream Edition over the $140k Plaid even if they were the same price.
Mzungu_Mkubwa
I've often wondered why they don't "roll" these cylindrical batteries into a hexagonal cross-section profile. It would have a similar density benefits yet allow the finished cells to nest nicely into a honeycomb framework. But, I'm sure there's a good reason not to, right?
vince
Great breakthroughs but they are 18 to 36 months in the future. Not current. Therefore disappointing.
AbsolutJohn
I love it. “Plaid Mode”
For those that still don’t get it - great “Space Balls” reference to a ridiculously fast warp-speed, used thusly:
“Holy sh#t! They’ve gone plaid!!”
BlueOak
0-60 mph in 2 seconds requires some impressive rubber-road interfaces simply to achieve the required traction in a sedan.

We’ll believe the $25K price when we see them actually getting delivered. $30k & $40K price promises were also elusive.

Musk truly never sleeps.
Username
I'd like to know when a vehicle with the "56%" battery is projected to roll out of the factory. Same for the two part cast supported by the structural battery car.
FB36
IMHO, all Tesla vehicles really need range extenders! Not everybody always have easy access to charging places etc!

& it would be best, if it can be a gas turbine generator (add-on) that can use almost any kind of fuel (especially (bio)diesel)!
Nobody
Something about 5X the energy and 6X the power but only 16% more range doesn't add up for me. I'm also sure that a heavy foot would drastically reduce range. I'd like some data on range vs. speed. My 500+ HP Corvette gets 28-30 mpg if I stay light on the gas pedal but quickly drops to 8 mpg if I feel frisky. I could see that 500 mile Tesla range dropping dramatically if driven hard.
Ferdi Louw
"six times as powerful, hold five times the energy and allow Tesla vehicles a range increase of as much as 16 percent"
Who is lying?
Grunchy
A Corvette loses gas mileage when you stomp the gas a lot because gas engines are efficient only in a tight rpm band. Electric motors are highly efficient over a much wider rpm band because the efficiency of electric energy conversion isn't dependent on motor speed.
So keep in mind kinetic energy = 0.5 * mass * speed^2, so a 4000 lb car going at 60 mph has kinetic energy of 0.18 kW*hr. That's the energy it takes to accelerate from 0 mph to 60 mph and has nothing to do with the rate of acceleration, unless it's a combustion engine which unfortunately is inefficient at wide open throttle.
So if a Tesla has a battery capacity of 75 kW*hr that means you can accelerate 0-60 mph about 400 times before the battery runs out, notwithstanding regenerative braking each time you do that, because pressing the brakes puts some of that 0.18 kW*hr back into the battery.
(75 kW*hr ÷ 0.18 kW*hr = about 400 times).

I'm not buying any of these high-price EVs because the manufacturers make them unserviceable, and are doing their best to make it a crime to service your own electric vehicle (see Louis Rossmann's famous warnings on Youtube, and all the problems Rich Rebuilds has with his Tesla also on Youtube).