Tesla wants to add pouch cell production at Giga Shanghai with latest expansion application

Tesla’s Giga Shanghai will soon be getting larger as the automaker has applied with authorities in China to expand the factory to increase powertrain production, and also to add pouch cell production.

Giga Shanghai opened in December 2019, just one year after construction first began. Since then the factory has become Tesla’s workhorse and is the automaker’s most productive factory, accounting for more than half of the company’s total vehicle production in 2022. It’s productivity has also allowed the factory to become Tesla’s global export hub, with new Model 3 and Model Y cars being exported to other markets, including Canada for the first time.

There have been indications Tesla was going to expand the factory even further, and today the company has applied to do just that. This expansion will allow Tesla to increase powertrain production by 40%, from 1.25 million to 1.75 million units per year. In addition, Tesla has also applied to begin pouch cell production at the factory, as well as set up new chemical waste-water treatment facilities, according to a public notice reported by Reuters.

Unlike Tesla’s 2170 and 4680 cells which are cylindrical cells housed in a rigid metal container, pouch cells are contained in a flexible metal bag. Pouch cells made a name for themselves last year when GM had to recall every single Bolt EV and EUV ever made due to an issue with their pouch cells that caused them to ignite. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has strongly warned against using them, even before the GM recall, due to what he said was a “dangerously high probability” of thermal runaway.

The question then becomes why is Tesla applying to produce pouch cells at Giga Shanghai when the CEO has such a strong viewpoint against their use. Pouch cells have other applications than just for electric vehicles (EVs), and as noted by Musk above, the danger comes in when they are large pouch cells. This means Tesla will be producing smaller pouch cells, and the expansion application shows the pouch cell production line will, at least initially, only have an annual capacity of 20,000 amp-hours, about the size of a single battery pack in one of their Long Range vehicles.

We may learn more about Tesla’s intentions with this new production line at the annual shareholder meeting at Giga Texas later today.

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