Tesla's planned battery event could be one of the most important in the company's history.
During the first-quarter 2020 earnings call Wednesday, CEO Elon Musk was asked about the planned event. The "Battery Day" has no fixed date or location, but the company's recent moves in this area suggest it will cover big advancements in the battery technology that underpins its vehicles. That could mean vehicles that move further than the Model S' 391 miles per charge – perhaps an underestimation, as Musk suggested during the same call. It could also mean solar energy farms that offer a more comprehensive alternative to fossil fuels, and batteries rolling out faster than ever.
In response to a question about the day, including "steps Tesla is taking to improve cell energy density and timeline for introduction," Musk said:
We don't want to preempt Battery Day. We want to leave the exciting news for that day, but there will be a lot of exciting news to tell. And I think it would be one of the most exciting days in Tesla's history. We're just trying to figure out the right timing for that. We think probably the right timing will be probably the third week of May. Not giving a firm date, but we think that probably that's the right timing. And depending upon what we're allowed to do, it'll either be in California or Texas.
The answer is perhaps one of the biggest indications that Tesla has something big planned for the battery event. Musk described the event during the July 2019 conference call as “a comprehensive review of cell chemistry, module and pack, architecture, and a manufacturing plan that has a clear roadmap to a terawatt-hour per year.”
"Terawatt-hour" has become a big focus for Tesla. While the company currently produces tens of gigawatt-hours of energy storage per year – Musk placed the figure at 35 in July 2019 – the goal is to start producing multiple terawatt-hours of storage. This can be used for electric vehicles, as well as supporting renewable energy sources like wind and solar by enabling them to deliver 24-hour energy.
But perhaps the most interesting part of Tesla's battery day will be its rumored "Roadrunner" project. This looks set to bring Tesla's battery production in-house, instead of depending on Panasonic as it has done with its previous vehicles. A February report claimed the team had tested a "Roadrunner" battery internally, planned to produce them in three continents, and was aiming to show the battery running inside a Model S or Model X at the Battery Day.
Tesla was originally expected to also cover its powertrain technology in the event. The company is set to roll out the Plaid powertrain, an upgrade on the system that powers its vehicles. The new system has been tested on circuit laps and shows the potential to offer big improvements. The new powertrain is expected to debut on the Model S late this year, before making its way to the Model X and second-generation Roadster.
The Inverse analysis – Anticipation is high for Tesla's battery event. At a previous investor event, held in April 2019, the company detailed its advancements in autonomous car technology. The event included detailed plans about the company's robo-taxi solution, plus an explanation of the "Hardware 3" computer powering its self-driving solution.
The battery event could be one of the first times Tesla explicitly speaks publicly about rumored plans to build its own batteries. As one of the biggest and most expensive components of an electric car, any advancements that Tesla makes in this area could help it extend a lead over traditional rivals.