Back in September of last year, Tesla had its Battery Day presentation (full video below). In January of this year, Electrek wrote an article about the Tesla structural battery. So why am I writing about this now? The structural battery pack was just a gleam in Elon Musk’s eye at that time, but soon, there will be cars that incorporate the new design. Here’s what you should think about if you’re considering buying a Model S Plaid or a Cybertruck with the structural battery pack.
As Elon said during the presentation, the structural battery pack was inspired by the airline industry. They used to put gas tanks in the wings of airliners. The tanks added weight. More weight meant more fuel needed to fly. Eventually, the aircraft manufacturers figured out that they could save weight if the wings were the gas tanks. They saved weight that way. It’s the same with battery packs. Right now, there are battery cells that are put together in modules. The modules add weight. Then the modules are put together into a large battery pack. That adds more weight. Then all that stuff is put into the structure. More weight means less range.
Tesla engineers figured out that they could save lots of weight if they eliminated modules and if the battery pack was the structure. They do that by making a honeycomb structure with all the wiring and cooling coils inside it. Then they drop in the 4680 cells and epoxy them to the honeycomb structure. For those of you who are not aware, the designation, 4680 refers to the 46mm diameter of the battery cells and the 80mm height of the Tesla cells. Those battery cells are larger than the ones currently in use by all previously made Teslas so they store more power in each cell. For comparison, visualize the current Tesla battery cells being like AA batteries and the 4680 cells being like D batteries. Remember D batteries?
The following picture is from the article in Electrek cited above. You can appreciate the honeycomb pattern of the pack, a structure known for strength and light weight. The coolant loops are built into the sides of the pack.
So saving weight, stronger cells, less of them. More battery, less other stuff. It’s all good, right? Maybe.
Here’s the bad part.
If the car gets in an accident and the battery pack is breached, you can’t just take out the old pack and drop in another pack. That might not matter because chances are pretty good that an accident bad enough to damage the battery pack will total the car. From an individual’s perspective, that’s why you get insurance. But there are other considerations if you care about the environment you’re leaving to my grandchildren.
Batteries should be recycled. So far, they’re not designed for recycling. With technology at its current state, it’s cheaper to mine new materials than it is to recycle the materials from used batteries. The ability to recycle gets worse when the batteries are epoxied into a big honeycomb structure. I’m not a chemical engineer so I can’t offer any suggestions about how battery cells could be designed to make recycling cheaper than mining new materials, but they should be designed that way.
The other bad thing about the structural battery pack is that cells don’t all deteriorate at the same rate. With the current battery packs, bad cells can be detected and switched out for good cells to rejuvenate the range of an old Tesla. That won’t be feasible with the structural battery pack. That may or may not be important. It depends on whether the cells last as long as the rest of the car or not. Time will tell, but it’s something to think about if you plan to keep your car for the million miles that Tesla claims their cars are designed to last.
Here is Tesla's 'Battery Day' presentation. If you care exclusively about the structural battery, you can jump to the 1 hour, 19 minute mark.
Henry Farkas is a retired country doctor. He bought his Tesla Model 3 in the middle of the pandemic.
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This week we take a look at Tesla's upcoming update, 2023.20, Tesla's improvements to Autowipers and its latest app update
Join us as we take a look back at this week's top Tesla stories. From an early look at the features included in Tesla's upcoming 2023.20 software update, to Tesla's latest app update, we dive into the top stories of the week.
An Early Look at Tesla's 2023.20 Update and Its Features
Tesla is introducing the ability to track your tire mileage in update 2023.20
Preparations are underway for Tesla's next software update, version 2023.20. Although currently in testing, this update has been drawing attention since it was first noticed last week. Considering Tesla's 2023.12 update brought numerous new features, it appears this next may be smaller. However, we now have our first look at some of the features included in Tesla's 2023.20 update.
A noteworthy improvement under the upcoming update pertains to tire service tracking. Post-update, vehicle owners can track how many miles have been driven since their last tire service.
Tesla Updates App to v4.21.5, Adds New Loot Box, Referral Rewards and References New Features
Tesla has updated its app to 4.21.5
Not a Tesla App
This week Tesla updated their iPhone app to version 4.21.5. The updated features include a new Loot Box design and a notice to Canadians using their Superchargers. Tesla also hints at several upcoming features including Boombom v2.
Tesla's Model Y With Hardware 4.0 Doesn't Include Radar: We Take a Look at Why
Tesla's Model Y with HW4 is coming without radar
As Tesla continues to redefine the automotive industry, insiders have revealed that the company's upcoming Hardware 4.0 (HW4) will not include the radar module in its Model Y vehicles, at least not initially. This marks a shift in the company's approach towards autonomous driving, relying more heavily on vision-based systems. This strategic decision builds on the recent introduction of HW4 in the luxury Model S and Model X models.
Previously, the integration of HD radar in the Model S and Model X indicated an evolution in the company's Full Self-Driving (FSD) hardware.
Tesla Reduces FSD Beta Suspension Duration With FSD Beta 11.4.2
Tesla has reduced the FSD suspension to one week with FSD Beta 11.4.2
Tesla is again modifying the Full Self Driving (FSD) Beta suspension policy. Initially, the system, which is based on a strike policy, suspended users until Tesla reset strikes globally, which ranged from about every three to nine months. The driver has up to three strikes for vehicles without a cabin camera and five for those equipped with them.
More recently Tesla changed their policy to reset FSD suspensions on an individual basis after "approximately two weeks," according to Tesla. But with the introduction of FSD Beta 11.4.2, Tesla has now reduced the suspension interval from two weeks to approximately one week.
Tesla and Ford Forge New Partnership: Ford To Incorporate Tesla Charge Port (NACS) in Future EVs
Ford will add a Tesla (NACS) port to its future EVs
In a move that attests to Elon Musk's words on fostering industry collaboration over competition, Tesla and Ford have announced a partnership to enable the latter's electric vehicles access to Tesla’s extensive Supercharger network.
Contrary to earlier speculations that Tesla's move to open its proprietary charging connector might be a futile attempt at standardization, Ford has embraced the North American Charging Standard (NACS) - Tesla's charging system. With this, Tesla’s charging plug design, known for some advantages over the current CCS standard, might start gaining traction across the North American EV sector.
Tesla Upgrades Autowipers to v4, Musk Apologizes for Poor Performance
FSD Beta 11.4.2 introduces Autowipers v4
For Tesla owners, the auto wiper system has been a contentious feature. Loved by some for its attempt at autonomous convenience yet criticized by others for its hit-or-miss performance, the system has often had trouble with extreme light conditions or misty weather. Now, Tesla has introduced v4 of their autowipers system that aims to correct past issues and enhance the user experience.
Tesla to Deliver Cars at 50% Charge, Offers 150km Free Supercharging
Tesla will now give owners a 150km Supercharger credit
Tesla has recently come up with a new way of doing things when it comes to delivering cars. The company claims this change has been made to align with some new rules in the industry. In the past, Tesla always delivered cars with a full charge. Now, they are to be delivered with only half charge.
When electric vehicles are being transported from one place to another, having them fully charged can pose a risk. Keeping the state of charge (SOC) at 50% during shipment reduces the chances of battery fires. This practice is not new. Other battery-operated devices, like e-bikes, are also shipped at a lower SOC for the same safety reasons.
Tesla Model 3 Refresh Reveal Rumors Coincide with Elon Musk's China Visit
Is Tesla getting ready to unveil the refreshed Model 3?
Tesla CEO Elon Musk's recent visit to China, his first in three years, has set the stage for widespread conjecture around the unveiling of the revamped Tesla Model 3. Dubbed Project Highland, this model refresh has been a topic of discussion for some time. Industry insiders believe Musk's significant stop at the Shanghai Gigafactory might be strategically timed to coincide with a potential sneak peek of the new Model 3 design.
Tesla Screen Size Comparison for All Tesla Models, Including Size, Resolution and Aspect Ratio
A good view of all the displays available in a Model S
Tesla is a pioneer in the automotive industry, and one of the most defining features of its vehicles is the use of large touchscreens. These screens are a central hub for most vehicle functions, including music, vehicle settings, navigation, and more. Tesla's commitment to a minimalist and user-friendly design is evident through integrating these screens, which have become iconic in electric vehicles.
Between 2012 and 2020, the Model S and Model X were equipped with vertical screens, which stood out due to their impressive size and orientation.
NHTSA closes its investigation into Tesla's 'Passenger Play' feature
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has concluded its investigation into Tesla's 'Passenger Play' feature, stating it will not pursue a recall of the scrutinized vehicles. Passenger Play allowed passengers in the vehicle to play certain games like the Sky Force Reloaded while the vehicle was in motion. Tesla was quick to respond to NHTSA's concerns and issued an update that requires the vehicle to be in park before games can be launched.
The closure of the probe comes amidst continuing concerns over the potential for driver distraction.
Investigation Ends, Still Leaves Room for Future Actions
While NHTSA's conclusion signifies a milestone in Tesla's ongoing scrutiny, it does not entirely absolve the electric vehicle maker. The administration emphasized that the end of the investigation does not mean a safety-related defect doesn't exist. Furthermore, the NHTSA's decision opens the possibility for future action if additional concerns arise.
NHTSA's apprehensions were primarily rooted in Tesla's decision to allow video games to be played on the front center touchscreen of the vehicle while in motion. Having acknowledged these concerns, Tesla voluntarily took action by disabling the 'Passenger Play' feature through an over-the-air software update soon after NHTSA launched its investigation in December 2021.
Tesla's Voluntary Disabling of Feature Commended
The administration confirmed that Tesla reported a 97% completion rate of the software update disabling 'Passenger Play', within a month of its release. The agency lauded Tesla's swift action, which showcased a responsible approach toward ensuring driver safety and mitigating distractions. This action appeared to significantly address NHTSA's concerns, as the agency cited the importance of "affirmative technology-based lockouts" as more effective than merely using labels or disclaimer screens.
Ongoing Scrutiny of Tesla's Autopilot System
Despite the conclusion of this specific probe, Tesla remains under the lens of the NHTSA, which is currently investigating Autopilot. The investigation, covering approximately 830,000 Tesla vehicles, aims to understand better human factors concerning Tesla interfaces and the dynamic driving task.
A History of Safety First
Tesla has always portrayed itself as an automaker that prioritizes safety. From advanced driver assist systems to top-tier safety ratings, the electric car manufacturer has consistently sought to revolutionize transportation safety norms. The swift action in disabling the controversial 'Passenger Play' feature further underscores the company's commitment to road safety and user well-being.
Tesla’s case serves as a potent reminder for all automakers that in-vehicle infotainment devices must balance entertainment and safety. In 2014, the NHTSA issued guidelines encouraging automakers to design in-vehicle devices so the driver can’t use them to perform inherently distracting secondary tasks while driving. As the lines between automobiles and technology blur, the importance of these guidelines will only grow.
Although the 'Passenger Play' investigation has concluded, Tesla’s journey with the NHTSA is far from over. The ongoing probe into Tesla’s Autopilot system indicates that the auto giant will remain under close watch to ensure the highest levels of safety for users and fellow road users alike.
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