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What happened at Tesla's Battery Day, and more tech news you need to know today!
Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Wednesday, 23 September 2020, just ahead of the Samsung Galaxy Fan Edition reveal.
1. Tesla: No batteries to show, but Battery Day all the same
Not for the first time, Tesla and Elon Musk delivered some big promises and details, but in true Tesla fashion, much is still years away. (To be fair, Musk did admit this in the lead-up!)
- Catch up on the event here if you missed it and all the honking from the drive-in shareholder meeting and presentation — the shareholder event starts at about the 41-minute mark, Musk takes the stage at about the 1:06:30s.
- The Battery Day presentation starts at about 1:40:30s.
- Some high-hopes weren’t met: the “million-mile” battery that can last 10 years or more wasn’t mentioned.
- And Tesla didn’t give specific cost reduction targets. In the industry, this is a dollar per kilowatt-hour figure.
- The path has been a drop from $400 per kW/h in 2010, then considered a significant barrier, towards the more difficult $100 per kW/h barrier in 2020.
What Tesla announced— battery:
- Tesla said it has plans to manufacture its own “tabless” Li-on batteries, working on self-made batteries itself.
- A lot of detail was given about the cell design, which now measure 46mm by 80mm, giving them their name, the 4680.
- The company said this will give the cells five times the energy density, six times the power, and enable a 16% increase in range, but didn’t give published performance metrics.
- The company also didn’t show off a prototype, but confirmed it has built a pilot battery production facility at its Fremont factory, but it’s not yet working, although the cells are not just designs but real, working components.
- Musk said it will take “about a year” to reach scale production at the planned figure of 10 gigawatt-hours per year.
- TechCrunch has probably the best look at the overall presentation of the new battery technology, but the proof is obviously in when this will reach cars and consumers.
- Overall, it’s unclear exactly what Tesla has here, when it will arrive, and what it all means.
- One very good note: Tesla plans to eliminate the use of cobalt in its cathodes, a problematic mineral mined in conditions that violate human rights, commonly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The affordable car is three years away (again):
- Part of the advantages of Tesla’s battery hopes is cheaper batteries, and therefore cheaper cars.
- While Tesla didn’t commit or comment on exact details, Musk promised over the next several years to slash battery costs in half.
- That would then lead to big savings, and deliver Tesla’s first “affordable” electric car. It may reach $25,000 by 2025, a sum first promised in 2018 as being feasible in three years.
- The goal was highlighted again for three-years time: “about three years from now,” said Musk, adding at the end of the presentation: “Tesla will make a compelling $25,000 electric vehicle that is also fully autonomous.”
- Reuters notes that analysts estimated Tesla battery packs cost around $156 per kWh in 2019. Cutting that in half would drop prices across Tesla’s range, and get closer to the $25,000 figure for a new car.
Tesla’s 1,100HP Plaid Model S sport sedan will arrive in late 2021:
- Tesla’s fastest ever EV finally had more details, with Tesla promising 1,100 horsepower, sub-two-second 0-60 MPH time, and a 200MPH top speed, with a 520-mile range (presumably not while doing 200MPH.)
- Videos showed it beating Laguna Seca lap records, logging a 1:30.3 according to Musk.
- It’ll retail for $139,000.
Lithium mining, too:
- After some mentions of Tesla mining its own metals in 2019, Musk said the company is steps towards lithium mining “10,000-acre lithium clay deposit in Nevada”.
- In addition, Tesla will build a cathode plant to make cathodes “76 percent cheaper”.
- Tesla believes it has a more environmentally friendly way of extracting lithium from ore using table salt (sodium chloride).
- “Nobody’s done this before, to the best of my knowledge, nobody’s done this,” claimed Musk.
- Tesla’s Elon Musk promised full self-driving Autopilot beta in ‘a month or so’ (CNET), adding “we had to do a fundamental rewrite of the entire Autopilot software stack.”
Quick thoughts: Anything Telsa, especially those often over-hyped promises from Elon Musk creates a swift reaction, but much of the real detail is yet to be seen, so it’s hard to gauge.
- The nay-sayers point to nothing more announced than a pilot plant some years away from scale production, and lithium mining adding significantly more vertical integration challenges.
- More charitable views are encouraged that the new battery cells are working now, that Tesla didn’t seem to be as over the top as it has been, while accepting verifiable details are short.
- Wired has a pretty good piece somewhere down the middle, leaning skeptical: “Where was the battery at Tesla’s Battery Day?”
2. Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G announced: More choice for affordable 5G (Android Authority).
3. Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite leaks: A rival to upcoming Chromecast? (Android Authority).
4. Samsung Galaxy Tab S7/S7 Plus review: The only Android tablets to buy (Android Authority).
5. Fitbit Sense review: A work in progress (Android Authority).
6. One of the best might be getting better as Jabra announces new Elite 85t earbuds, and ANC update for 75t earbuds (Android Authority).
7. Interview with Satya Nadella and Phil Spencer: How Microsoft’s CEO, Xbox head say they won’t screw up Bethesda (CNET)
8. After delays, Amazon’s Prime Day 2020 will start on October 13 (CNET).
9. Oh no: “It looks like a bunch of soon-to-be-disappointed people accidentally bought Xbox One X’s today” (The Verge).
10. Overview of the state of bundles in 2020: Netflix, Disney, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft (Stratechery).
11. Air Shepherd: Leading rhinos and elephants to safety with the help of drones (reset.org)
12. Spacecraft DAPPER will study ‘Dark Ages’ of the universe in radio waves (phys.org).
13. “ELI5: Why does rubbing your head when you hit it make it feel better?” (r/explainlikeimfive)
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