Cybertruck was the last Tesla vehicle to be unveiled for a while and with that behind us, the next major event is Battery Day. These kinds of large-scale events, really became a focus, after Autonomy Day last April, where Tesla detailed to investors (and the world) just how far advanced the company was. in its efforts to create the first self-driving production car.
That sets the stage for another similar scale of announcements that will help investors understand the progress the company has made regarding battery chemistry and battery control modules, which will power the next decade of their business.
Before Covid-19 arrived, we expected Battery Day to be in the first few months of 2020, however that has now been delayed. Obviously, the Tesla community is really keen to get a revised timeline, so Elon was recently asked on Twitter.
While we don’t have an exact date yet, this response raises a series of questions. That cryptic response of “there’s a lot to see” doesn’t immediately make sense. Batteries are sealed units and the 2170 battery cell in Model 3 and Model Y today, looks like an oversized, uninteresting AA battery.
When the cells are combined into the battery pack that forms the bottom of the car, it’s external packaging again makes it fairly uninteresting to look at and something that could easily be explained during a streaming presentation online.
So, what about this rumoured advancement in chemistry that could unlock longer range, longer life or even deliver cheaper batteries? Those advancements are each significant, however, they too could be detailed using a presentation, as we’ve seen in the past, Tesla is great at detailing even advanced concepts like AI training, through PowerPoint slides and short videos.
So why then would Elon suggest so strongly that it has to be an in-person event?
It is possible that Tesla has big plans for a demonstration of this new battery type (dry electrode / solid-state) in an actual vehicle?
For years now, Tesla has been successfully streaming their events live, and that’s worked incredibly successfully. Sure, without a big crowd, it’d be less interactive and certainly a lot less enjoyable for the presenters, but it could definitely be done.
What would be difficult to convey on a live stream would be speed.
Think of that 2020 (now 2021) roadster with its 200kW pack and sub 2 second 0-100km time, accelerating off the stage, or through a car park. Sure, Tesla could stream at up to 4k60 (the upper limit of YouTube), but even then, it may not capture just how fast the car is.
There’s also the possibility we see the Tesla Semi, or the Cybertruck back for another demo, both of which look great on a live stream.
While I wish I could be at every Formula 1 race, the second-best option of streaming it remotely is also completely acceptable and in some ways, a better experience for the audience members.
Now let’s consider another aspect of Tesla’s battery business, that’s home storage. The company recently filed a patent in Europe for bi-directional battery management, which could suggest we’re looking at a Vehicle-to-Grid, or a Vehicle–to-Powerwall-to-grid combination.
V2G technology isn’t a new concept, but hasn’t yet been done by Tesla and as we know they’re likely to take a different, better technology approach to this opportunity. The issue right now is that the batteries in our cars have a fairly limited number of charge cycles and spending some of those cycles to power our homes is not particularly viable.
The battery in a Tesla Model 3 is 75kWh or up to 100kWh in a Model S or Model X, while the battery in a Powerwall 2 only offers 14kWh. It’s possible that Tesla could move to a Virtual PowerPlant model, combining the storage capacity available from all Tesla vehicles.
There would have to be some kind of incentive for a vehicle owner to allow Tesla to essentially borrow their battery, something like really cheap or basically free charging would be a great start.
Trading this distributed energy on the open market could be handled by Tesla’s new Autobidder platform that has helped the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia.
With Tesla’s solar offerings for the home, both solar roof, and solar panels, they are likely to integrate solar customers into this scheme as well from the production side. It would be great to see them release Powerwall 3 at a more affordable price, to enable more Tesla owners to add battery storage that is currently hard to justify. A Powerwall 3 that can directly charge the car, could also eliminate the need to also install a wall charger.
Whatever the reason, the reality is that the majority of the audience for a Tesla event will always be remote. Even without Coronavirus, a few hundred, maybe a thousand people attend an event in person in America, while millions across the world can and do watch online.