Tesla suggests switching to 800V in Cybertruck and Semi, not Robotaxi or 3/Y

Tesla redesigned its Model Y around ease of fabrication, using a body package, new format 4,680 cells, and massive front and rear body sections.

Despite all this innovation, the switch to an 800-volt architecture isn’t planned for any of Tesla’s smaller models any time soon. But based on comments from CEO Elon Musk and chief key officer Drew Baglino on the company’s first-quarter call with analysts and investors Wednesday, that’s a clear potential for the Cybertruck, Semi, and any other larger or higher-powered vehicles.

Pagliano explained of the Model 3 and the Model Y: “There’s nothing really encouraging us to do that on that platform. It’s really about mass and power…and when you look at the larger vehicles, there are some advantages.”

2022 Tesla lineup (Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.)

Baglino described it as a case-by-case consideration – that “there are some gains and losses with 800 volts; not everything is better”.

Musk also explained that it makes sense years from now to use 800 volts, “but it really needs a very large volume of vehicles to pay for the change from 400 to 800 volts.”

“On larger vehicles, where you’re talking about higher power on the charging side or higher power from the battery to the power electronics or you need more torque, so the current requirements go up, and there is little actual savings in semiconductors and conductors going to higher voltage,” Baglino said. “So we consider that for Semi and Cybertruck.”

Tesla Semi (Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.)Tesla Semi (Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.)

The company gave itself some extra time for both of these products. Citing first battery tightness, and then more recently supply chain delays and chip shortages, Tesla has been delaying those two products — along with the new Roadster — until 2023.

At Tesla’s recent official opening of its massive plant in Texas, Musk promised those products next year, while also teasing a “completely futuristic” Robotaxi project that — he explained on the call — aims to harness the self-driving capabilities of automakers while cutting time. A mile less than the cost of subsidized public transportation.

But don’t expect the Robotaxi to also run on 800V.

“For the 3/Y platform, where it all runs, the benefit is questionably small,” Baglino added, with the musk’s voice ringing, “It’s basically zero for Robotaxi.”

Other automakers that don’t have to factor in the “old costs” of upgrading Tesla’s Supercharger grid may come to some different conclusions,

Tesla Supercharger V3 station, Las VegasTesla Supercharger V3 station, Las Vegas

Baglino’s explanations – for investors – have focused almost entirely on the car’s cost, not efficiency. Meanwhile, rival electric car maker Lucid emphasized that efficiency (in terms of power and packaging) was what drove its choice over 900 volts, with the performance advantages that result from that fundamental decision. As Porsche found with the Taycan, getting a complete system of components to make the most of the 800-volt capabilities can be particularly challenging — which is part of the reason why Lucid has turned to engineering a full suite of core components in-house.

The 800V package layout will allow for faster charging. Before the Supercharger V3, Musk seemed to be raising that possibility with the idea of ​​recharging 350 kilowatts in 2016, when chirp: “Just 350 kilowatts… what are you referring to, just a child’s play?”

Most executives have come to a consensus that high voltage systems are the future—particularly for large vehicles and performance models. As early as September 2020, a Delphi supplier confirmed a widespread transition to 800V systems for luxury electric vehicles by 2025.

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