Tesla Model Y with BYD batteries headed to Europe – report


Chinese electric car brand BYD’s batteries will soon power Tesla Model Ys built in Europe, according to an overseas report, with improved safety and a new production method.

The Tesla Model Y electric SUV will soon be powered in Europe by battery packs from one of Tesla’s closest electric-car rivals, BYD, according to an overseas report – but plans for examples sold in Australia for now are unclear.

European Union approval documents seen by German website Teslamag indicate Tesla has certified a new Model Y variant powered by BYD’s ‘Blade’ battery pack, slated to be built at Tesla’s new factory on the outskirts of Berlin.

The new BYD-powered, rear-wheel-drive variant is said to offer a capacity of 55kWh, and up to 440km of estimated driving range, according to the website.

That compares to a circa-60kWh battery and 455km WLTP-rated driving range of the rear-drive Model Y sold in Australia – and certified for sale in Europe last year, but never launched – which uses battery technology from Chinese company CATL.

This CATL-powered rear-wheel-drive Model Y is built exclusively at Tesla’s Shanghai, China factory – where all Australian models are built. It’s unclear if the Chinese factory will switch to BYD batteries for cars bound for our market.

Known as the Blade, BYD’s battery adopts the same lithium iron phosphate (or LFP) chemistry as the rear-drive Australian Model Y’s CATL battery – but is claimed to offer improved safety, in a pack only 10cm thick (vs up to 20cm for some other batteries).

BYD claims that in a “nail penetration test”, its Blade battery did not emit any smoke or fire, and its surface only heated up to between 30 and 60 degrees – compared to temperatures up to 500 degrees, and “violent” flames for some ternary lithium and LFP packs it tested.

Of particular interest to many electric-car fans will be the claimed integration of the BYD battery into the Model Y as a “structural” pack, as reported by Teslamag.

Whereas in many electric cars the battery cells are assembled into modules, and then bundled into a pack that is mounted to the vehicle, Tesla’s structural pack does away with the modules, and uses the battery in the core structure of the car.

With the battery cells used to provide strength to the entire car, the battery pack effectively serves as the centre floorpan of the vehicle, with the front seats and interior carpet mounted directly to the assembled battery.

The structural pack design is claimed to streamline production – given it requires less metal to assemble – in turn lowering weight and boosting driving range.

According to Teslamag, the BYD-powered Model Y weighs 2087kg – 66kg less than the CATL-powered variant certified for Europe last year, which tipped the scales in at 2153kg.

Tesla is using a similar structural battery pack design at its factory in Texas, where Model Ys are being fitted with a new lithium-ion battery cell designed by Tesla, known as the 4680 – named after its dimensions (46mm by 80mm).

Teslamag says the electric car maker wanted to build cars with the 4680 cells at its German factory from its opening in March, though delays forced it to begin with traditional ‘2170’ lithium-ion battery cells sourced from China.

It now appears Tesla has paused plans to offer 4680 battery packs at its Berlin factory – at least in the entry-level variant, as the factory also builds Model Y Long Range and Performance grades with larger circa-80kWh lithium-ion batteries.

A higher-capacity version is possible, given BYD’s recently-revealed Seal electric car – a rival to Tesla’s Model 3 – is powered by a Blade battery offering up to 82.5kWh.

It remains to be seen if Tesla-BYD battery deal will spread beyond Germany, to the Chinese factory which supplies Australian cars.

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