Nikkei Asia has reported that Panasonic will begin producing prototypes of a new, cheaper type of battery for Tesla’s electric vehicles — the new tabless 4680 battery cells. Panasonic will start producing them sometime in 2021. Retail News Asia also noted that Tesla has confirmed its new battery cells will be produced by Panasonic in its dedicated facility at the Gigafactory in Nevada.
Although Tesla has plans to make the new cell itself, Nikkei Asia pointed out that those in the battery industry believe that Tesla may find it difficult to handle all of the production on its own and that Panasonic will seek a future partnership to take on some of the load. The article also pointed out that Panasonic will set up a prototype production line at existing facilities — most likely at its dedicated facility at the Giga Sparks facility. This project is expected to cost “tens of millions of dollars,” the article noted.
Back in March, Panasonic recorded $4.57 billion in sales from its automotive battery business, with Tesla as its main customer (by far). Panasonic plans to expand capacity by 10% in 2021 at Giga Sparks and could be considering a new factory in Europe. According to fresh data, Panasonic the the 3rd largest EV battery producer in the world, with 19.2% market share.
Retail News Asia had a bit more to add including that the new 4680 batteries are only being manufactured in the Fremont factory for now — even though Panasonic has its facility inside the Sparks, Nevada Gigafactory.
The article also noted that there were reports claiming that LG Chem was manufacturing batteries similar to Tesla’s tabless batteries and that Tesla could be tapping into both Panasonic and LG Chem production capabilities for these in the future while also doing its own thing as it scales its business to new markets.
More Batteries Quickly are Critical to Tesla’s Mission
Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, made the following comments last year at Tesla Battery Day:
“The fundamental good of Tesla — it’s like, if you look back in history and say, “What good did Tesla do?” The good will be: by how many years did we accelerate sustainable energy? That’s the true metric of success. It matters if sustainable energy happens faster or slower, and so that’s really how I think about Tesla and how we should assess our progress. By how many years did we accelerate sustainable energy? And what we’re going to talk about with batteries and a few other things will really explain how we’re going to make a step-change improvement in the acceleration of sustainable energy.”
Another thing worth rehashing is what Tesla’s contribution is so far. Elon Musk pointed this out at the Battery Day event as well.
“We’ve delivered over a million electric vehicles, 26 billion electric miles driven, and many gigawatt hours of stationary batteries, 17 terawatt-hours of solar-generated. So I think solar is sometimes underweighted at Tesla, but it is a massive part of our future. The three parts of a sustainable energy future are sustainable energy generation, storage, and electric vehicles. So we intend to play a significant role in all three. So to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy, we must produce more EVs that need to be affordable and a lot more energy storage, while building factories faster and with far less investment.”
The critical link between Elon’s three parts of a sustainable energy future is the battery. Energy generation, storage, and electric vehicles are all linked by the battery. And the core of that is in improving battery production and scaling it up much more quickly.
“Tesla is aiming to be the best at manufacturing of any company on Earth. This is the thing that’s actually most important in the long run I think, just from a company standpoint and from basically achieving sustainability as fast as possible. But I think also for long-term competitiveness. Eventually, every car company will have long-range electric cars. Eventually, every company will have autonomy, I think. But not every company will be a great at manufacturing. Tesla will be absolutely head and shoulders above anyone else in manufacturing — that is our goal.”