You’ll rarely talk about electric car brands without mentioning Tesla and its impressive battery technology.
They are a fairly controversial brand because of their unconventional designs and ideas in the industry.
However, everyone can agree that this practice has paid off with its batteries.
Let’s review why Tesla batteries are superior to that of its peers.
Table of Contents
Check also: How long do Tesla batteries really last?
1. Teslas Have Bigger Batteries
Tesla batteries are fairly larger than the ones found in other electric cars.
Even the Tesla Model 3 (which is the smallest Tesla) battery capacity ranges from 50 kWh to about 82 kWh. The Model X (Tesla’s flagship SUV) has maintained a battery capacity of 100 kWh over the years.
Let’s compare their capacities with the industry benchmark that ranges from 16 kWh to about 60 kWh. When we do this, it becomes clear that Teslas are significantly above the industry average in battery size.
While many modern EVs have large batteries, they do so at a cost because they weigh more. This is related to energy density, and we’d discuss how that works soon.
Larger batteries mean more battery weight, which translates to more vehicle weight. So although the batteries have better capacities, a downside is that they have to do more work.
When you think about it, the extra power gets canceled out by the extra work that needs to be done.
This is where efficiency comes into play. Thankfully, Tesla has also found a way to be more efficient. This means they’ve been able to get increased battery capacity without adding too much weight.
You can easily understand how electric cars compare to each other from a list of EVs by weight per battery capacity. This is a method of measuring the ratio of battery weight to battery capacity.
The Tesla Model S LR Raven was first on the list with a battery weight of 22.4 kg per kWh. For more, please read our article about how much a new Model S battery costs.
Impressively, many Tesla models appeared at the top of the list. This is largely due to their impressive energy densities.
We may see their larger batteries as the primary reason they perform better (have more power). However, many other factors contribute to their performance. Let’s discuss ‘this’ energy density we keep talking about.
2. Tesla’s Battery Cell Type Has a Higher Energy Density
As we mentioned earlier, Tesla batteries are at the top end of the battery capacity chart with their massive kilowatt-hours. However, it appears other EVs are catching up to them, or are they?
When a cell has more energy density, it means it produces more energy than another cell of equal volume. Please keep that in mind because it’d help you understand the analogy. We’d begin by explaining the major battery cells that are used in EVs.
Pouch cell batteries are helpful because they consume little space since they’re mostly stacked on top of each other. On the surface, they seem like the best battery type to use, but they have the lowest energy densities.
So, although they are inexpensive and lightweight, you’d need several stacks to get sufficient capacity, and this makes them heavy.
Tesla uses cylindrical cell batteries in its cars. Although they are naturally much heavier, their high energy densities make up for their weight. This means with them, you don’t need a lot of cells to produce the desired power you need.
Also, Tesla claims its battery cells have up to 50% more energy density than pouch cells. So there’s no need for excessive stacks upon stacks to get the capacity they require. Believe it or not, this helps them become less weighty in the long run.
As other EVs level up with Tesla battery sizes, they do so at the expense of their battery weights.
If you’re unsure why weight is so important, consider the role it plays in an EV’s speed and range. When cars get heavier, their bigger batteries may not make much of a difference.
That’s because their larger capacities now have more work to do (to pull the car around). However, as you’ve guessed, there’s no need for larger batteries if they don’t make a difference.
Hence, the idea is to increase battery capacity as much as possible without too much increase in weight. Now, that is where Tesla excels.
3. Their Batteries Are More Affordable
The cylindrical cell batteries in Teslas are lithium-ion batteries, which are just like regular laptop batteries. This means they’re quite common, and that’s a fairly big advantage.
Since these batteries are common, Tesla has no trouble getting them at cheaper prices.
Of course, with many people manufacturing them, the prices keep getting lower and lower.
Compare this with the pouch-cell or prismatic-cell batteries used in other EVs, and you’ll observe a great difference.
This helps Tesla because they have more room to tweak their batteries than fairly expensive ones. Also, this means they can try just about anything, as experimentation with such batteries is cheaper.
Since they’re cheaper, Tesla can easily use more cells in their cars should they want more capacity. Recall that Tesla batteries have better energy density, meaning a unit already has more output. When you consider the fact that their units are also cheaper, it gives Tesla an unfair advantage.
So, other than greater output, they can easily put more units in for a lesser price. However, this would defeat the purpose of using fewer total cells with more capacity per cell.
It’s also noteworthy that Tesla has invested heavily in battery production to drive prices further down.
4. Tesla’s Technology Is Always Improving
This is a major reason Tesla’s position is sealed at the top of the EV industry. It is arguably also why they have the best-performing EV batteries. So, when you think about it, all points we’ve discussed eventually lead to this one.
The primary reason their batteries perform well is that they do things differently. This may not sound like the answer you were expecting. However, it’s important to know that Tesla does a great deal of testing beforehand.
Note also that Teslas have many “modes”. The camp mode will help you preserve your Tesla’s battery in traffic.
They are also actively searching for more efficient ways to develop their products. Therefore, they’re able to maintain a low overall battery weight despite the heavy weight of cylindrical cells.
This is also why they’re constantly increasing battery production to make them more affordable and durable. This would have a lot of influence on the EV industry.
Recall that EVs are more expensive than gas-powered cars mainly because of how expensive their batteries are.
With more affordable batteries, Tesla could make their cars cheaper too. This is a potential problem for competitors.
One good way Tesla aims to achieve this is by constantly improving its cell designs. Their idea of using bigger cylindrical cells costs less because of their simpler manufacturing and fewer parts.
The cell design allows stored electricity to travel a shorter distance, hence, they have more energy, range, and power.
While there’s a lot more to what Tesla is constantly up to, we believe we’ve made our point. They are always working on something new, so their batteries always perform better.
Why Won’t Other Automakers Use a Similar Technology to Tesla?
It comes down to a matter of choice and doing what’s best for your brand. Tesla didn’t just get impressive battery efficiency overnight. It came as a product of multiple experiments.
That’s the same way other EV brands are constantly working on their batteries to improve them. When you’re dealing with large companies, a decision is not as simple as switching from one technology to another. Such decisions have more impact on their supply chain network.
Besides, who is to say Teslas have the best batteries?
Prismatic cell batteries are catching up to cylindrical cell batteries. What’s more, they are used in EVs like the BMW I3 and even on Tesla vehicles.
If you’re shocked, it’s simply proof that prismatic batteries are quite great and have impressive energy densities too.
Their major downside was that they were more expensive to produce than cylindrical batteries. However, some prismatic battery types, like the lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery, may even save automakers some costs.
Therefore Tesla has opted for LFP batteries in some of its vehicles, not minding the reduced energy density.
With time, these battery types may even fight for the top spot for the best battery for EVs.
There’s a lot more to electric cars than just batteries. While Tesla models are seen as all-rounders because they excel in many segments, they’re not perfect.
We wouldn’t mention any other electric cars. However, you should know that other EVs out there may solve your biggest EV problem even better than a Tesla. Ultimately, it boils down to personal preference and brand style.