Why A Gigafactory? Tesla Used 1/3 Of All Electric-Car Batteries Last Year Page 2

Tesla Motors - Model S lithium-ion battery pack

Tesla Motors - Model S lithium-ion battery pack

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This may give credence to speculation that Tesla and Apple may partner in developing the GigaFactory, and that batteries may have been discussed when executives of the two companies met secretly last year.

While Tesla and Apple use different battery chemistries, economies of scale may allow a GigaFactory to produce batteries of any chemistry more cheaply.

Apple-Tesla logo

Apple-Tesla logo

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Other makers

Though the Chevy Volt outsold the Tesla Model S in 2013, its much smaller battery led to a much lower lithium-ion cell consumption, at about 450 MWh.

This was still enough to put the Volt's battery use into third place among plug-in electric carmakers.

The diminutive battery of the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, on the other hand, meant that 2013's fourth-highest selling plug-in vehicle ranked only eighth in lithium-ion battery use, behind the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Renault Zoe, Renault Kangoo ZE, and BYD E6.

The Chinese BYD E6 was the only other electric vehicle featuring a Tesla-size battery; its 60-kWh pack propelling it into seventh place in consumption, despite modest sales estimated at 1684 vehicles.

BYD (of which famed investor Warren Buffett owns a minority share) doesn't hesitate about going big; its electric buses pack an eye-popping 324 kWh, providing 150-plus miles of range and allowing operators to recharge just once a day. 

Chinese battery electric crossover: BYD e6 test drive, Los Angeles, May 2012

Chinese battery electric crossover: BYD e6 test drive, Los Angeles, May 2012

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Charging forward

Given the growth to come in the plug-in electric vehicle sector, it seems a matter of only a few years before electric vehicles represent 20, 30, even 50 percent of global lithium-ion battery use.

In only three years, electric vehicles look to have gone from zero to about ten percent of the lithium-ion battery market. Imagine where they may go in just the next three--not to mention by 2020.

[NOTE on calculations]

Per media reports, the old iPad and iPad mini had batteries of about 42 Wh and 16 Wh, respectively, for an average of 29 Wh. The newer iPad Air and retina iPad mini have batteries of 32 Wh and 24 Wh, respectively, for an average of 28 Wh.

However the sales were split, an estimate of 30 Wh as the average battery size for Apple's tablet products is probably in the ballpark.

Apple's fiscal-year 2013 runs from September to September, so phone sales would have been dominated by the iPhone 5, 4S, and 4. Their battery sizes are 5.45 Wh, 5.3 Wh, and 5.3 Wh, respectively. As such, an estimate for 5.4 Wh seems reasonable.


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