- Your Tesla has one of four battery types: 18650-type, 2170-type, 4680-type, or prismatic.
- All Tesla batteries are lithium-ion.
- There are three cathode chemical makeups: NCA (nickel-cobalt-aluminum), NCM (nickel-cobalt-manganese), and LFP (lithium-iron-phosphate) for prismatic cells.
- Most Tesla batteries are supplied by and developed in partnership with Panasonic. CATL and LG Energy Solution make up the rest, and Tesla produces some of their own, too (4680-type).
Tesla uses a series of cells in its EV batteries. These provide electrical power to the appliances, including the motors that drive the wheels.
Over the last decade, the world has seen an incredible amount of investment in electrical power generation, spurred mainly by Tesla. This has resulted in ever-increasingly efficient electric cars, with today's batteries far outperforming earlier units.
Tesla Battery Types
Tesla has traditionally used four different lithium-ion battery types in the production of its cars.
- 2170- type
The first three types mentioned above (those with four or five numbers) are cylindrical cells. The numbers refer to their dimensions. For instance, the 2170-type is 70 mm long with a 21 mm diameter.
The battery in your Tesla depends on its model and age. With time, research revealed that a smaller number of larger cells worked better. They need less casing, can be produced faster, and theoretically lead to fewer electrical 'delays' at the tabs.
Each battery is (generally, at least!) used in the following Tesla models:
- 18650-type - Roadster (discontinued); Model S; Model X
- 2170-type - Model 3; Model Y
- 4680-type - some Texas-made Model Y cars (expected to expand to others soon)
- Prismatic - base Model 3 and Model Y
As mentioned, each of these is a lithium-ion battery. Different cathodes are in use, though, including nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA), nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM), and lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP). Find more details on these below.
The 18650 - sometimes called the 1865 for simplicity - was the original battery cell used in Tesla's first car, the Roadster. It's still used in the Model S and Model X today!
18650-type batteries have an 18 mm diameter and measure 65 mm in length. Each one weighs 47 grams and holds up to 3,500 mAh.
They're primarily designed for general use but have been adapted slightly to meet the needs of an EV. Of course, as smaller cells, Tesla needs more of them to produce the necessary power for the cars they're still used in (the Model S and the Model X).
Most 18650-type batteries for Teslas were and are produced by Panasonic.
The 2170-type was the first significant upgrade to Tesla's existing 18650-type system. In short, it's bigger, with a 21 mm diameter and a length of 70 mm. Each cell weighs 68 grams and stores up to 4,800 mAh.
You'll find 2170-type cells in many Tesla Model 3 and Model Y units. They're used in direct contrast to the LFP prismatic-type cells, bringing higher performance and range options in comparison. However, they cost more in exchange.
The 4680-battery type was released by Tesla in 2022. This one's massive, a huge five times bigger than the 2170-type. As should be clear by now, the 4680-type batteries have a 46 mm diameter and measure 80 mm in length, with a reported 9,000 mAh of storage.
We have yet to learn much more about it at this point. Its exact chemistry is unknown. We do know, however, that producing unique batteries of this size is expensive, hence Tesla's own in-house research and development on the topic.
The most significant advancement with the 4680-type battery is that it's tabless. Tabs are where current (electrons) flow out of and into the cell, such as the + and - ends of the AA batteries in your TV remote. Under intense demand, such as that required by an electric vehicle, the electrons 'jam up' at the tabs, interrupting the flow of current and generating excess heat.
Due to a tabless design in the 4680-type, Teslas should be able to hold more power and, even more crucially, deliver it much quicker with far fewer electrical delays or glitches. Tabless cells also mean charging should be quicker, with the low limits of older EVs all but history.
Finally, it's worth noting that 4680-type cells have been developed by Tesla. As a result, they're now part of the car's actual structure. This is a further way to save weight and means the manufacturing process involves fewer steps, meaning future Teslas might be even cheaper.
Prismatic batteries are the alternative to cylindrical types. They use lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) technology, meaning they're cheaper and less ethically negligent, but aren't as energy dense.
As a result, prismatic batteries are used in basic, entry-level models where affordability is the most critical factor, such as the Model Y and the standard Model 3.
With time, Tesla will likely continue to focus on LFP prismatic cells. As cheaper options, they'll allow the company to build more affordable cars. More importantly, the lack of cobalt and nickel means a more stable market that's less reliant on damaging mining or human rights abuses and a safer EV battery on the whole.
How Do You Identify the Type of Battery Installed in Your Tesla?
The first thing to check is your model. Driving a Model S or a Model X means you most likely have 18650-type battery cells.
If you have a Model 3 or a Model Y, go into the settings. Follow the instructions below:
- Go to Controls on the central touchscreen.
- Select Software.
- Choose Additional Vehicle Information.
If you have a prismatic LFP-type cell, it'll be listed here. If not, it won't say specifically. The chances are that you have a 2170-type series of cells if you don't have prismatic LFP-type batteries. It's possible that you have a 4680-type if you drive a Model Y AWD built in Texas, but these are still the exception, not the norm (as of early 2023).
Materials Used in Tesla Batteries
All Tesla batteries are lithium-ion, commonly used in EVs due to their energy density.
A typical lithium-ion cell uses lithium salt as its electrolyte. The charge imbalance (the transfer of lithium ions) in this liquid creates the electrical flow. The increasing demand for lithium is projected to result in a global shortage by 2025.
Most have anodes (positive terminals) made of graphite. However, cathodes (negative terminals) are seeing the most significant development at the moment. Tesla currently uses three different chemical makeups:
- NCA - nickel-cobalt-aluminum; Panasonic; 18650-type and 2170-type
- NCM - nickel-cobalt-manganese; LG Chem's LG Energy Solution; 2170-type
- LFP - lithium-iron-phosphate; CATL; prismatic
Note that Tesla's 4680 battery (developed in-house in California) remains a company secret at the time of writing. Its exact chemistry is undisclosed, although it must be energy-dense in some way!
As well as the cathode chemical makeup, Tesla (and other EV producers) are also investing in anode and electrolyte development.
Who Makes Tesla Batteries?
Tesla batteries are currently produced by four manufacturers, including Tesla itself.
- LG Chem's LG Energy Solution
- CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited)
Panasonic is Tesla's leading battery partner. They work together on most projects at the jointly funded Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, where 18650-type, 2170-type, and 4680-type cells are all manufactured.
However, CATL is Tesla's next most important supplier. They produce the LFP-type prismatic cells used in the standard Model 3 and Model Y.
Finally, LG Energy Solution (an offshoot of LG Chem) supplies 2170-type batteries to Tesla, primarily for the Asian market. It's also considering developing a factory in Arizona to provide a greater supply for Tesla's North American production.
The lithium electrolyte used in all Tesla batteries eventually degrades, becoming less effective at transporting the ions ('charge'). Some ions also get 'stuck' in the anode or cathode.
You'll get an eight-year battery warranty when you buy a new Tesla. Depending on the model, there's also a mileage limit between 100,000 and 150,000 miles. Watch out for the battery condition when buying a used Tesla!
A Tesla battery system should last as long as the average car - about 200,000 miles - despite losing about 20% of its original capacity (approximately).
Its exact condition depends on several factors (such as the charging method - DC fast charging degrades batteries faster) and some element of chance. Hotter climates also tend to see EV cells wearing out more quickly.