Shifting smaller vehicles like the Model 3 and Y from 400 volts to 800 volts would make zero economic sense, Tesla execs say.
By: Dan Mihalascu
Tesla’s Q1 2022 earnings call revealed plenty of positive updates from a financial and manufacturing perspective, and even when it comes to new products, with Elon Musk confirming that the dedicated robotaxi will enter production in 2024.
On the product side of things, the webcast’s Q&A session included a question on why Tesla avoids adopting an 800-volt architecture for its vehicles.
As it turns out, the EV maker is considering running some of its EVs on 800 volts, namely the Cybertruck and Semi. Why not more models, seeing as Tesla rivals such as the Porsche Taycan, Audi e-tron GT, Kia EV6, Hyundai Ioniq 5 and others use 800-volt architectures, not to mention the Lucid Air which runs on 900 volts?
Well, Tesla believes that the benefits of switching to 800 volts are massively outweighed by the overall cost of doing so. Tesla SVP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering, Andrew Baglino, noted that there is little incentive for the company to shift smaller vehicles like the Model 3 and Model Y on an 800-volt architecture.
“For the smaller platform vehicles like 3 and Y, there’s some wins and losses with 800 volts. Not everything is better. And so, we look at that platform, and we’re not like ignoring the reality that you can go to a higher voltage, but there’s nothing really encouraging us to do so on that platform.”
That said, Baglino admitted that the high-voltage platform offers advantages, but mostly for larger vehicles, which require higher charging power or more torque. Therefore, the upcoming Cybertruck pickup and Semi Class 8 truck may end up running on 800 volts if Tesla decides that’s the best way forward—unless that decision has already been made and the management doesn’t want to make it public yet.
“On bigger vehicles, where you’re talking about higher power on the charging side or higher power from the battery to the power electronics or you need more torque, the current requirements go up. There’s a little bit more semiconductor and actual conductor savings of going to the higher voltage. And so, we do consider that for Semi and Cybertruck. But for the 3/Y platform where we’ve got everything running, the benefit is questionably small.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk chimed in during Baglino’s intervention, saying that going from 400 to 800 volts might save the company $100, but it would add huge costs since the vehicles’ charging infrastructure and entire vehicle system would have to be changed to work with the higher voltage.