Japanese news outlet NHK reports that Panasonic is searching for land in Oklahoma or Kansas to build a massive new US battery factory that will manufacture 4680 battery cells for Tesla (and maybe others?) According to Reuters, the factory will cost several billion dollars to construct. The company declined to either confirm or deny the NHK report with Reuters.
At the present time, Panasonic plans to begin mass production of the the new type of lithium-ion battery, which is 46 mm in diameter and 80 mm tall, for Tesla by March 2024 on two new production lines at its western Japanese plant in Wakayama. The 4680 cells are approximately 5 times larger than the battery cells Tesla currently uses to power its electric vehicles. They are expected to reduce battery costs and increase the range of the vehicles they power.
Panasonic was the first battery manufacturer to work with Tesla when it agreed to manufacture battery cells at the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada. That relationship has had its ups and downs over the years and Tesla has forged alliances with other battery manufacturers such as CATL and BYD as it searches for the best combination of performance and price. There are rumors it will begin using the LFP blade battery manufactured by BYD in future models. Last year, sources told Reuters that LG Energy Solutions also plans to manufacture 4680 battery cells.
With Panasonic declining to talk about the news reports, we can only assume the search for a manufacturing site is underway. It will take about two years to build a factory and get production started, so the likely timeline is that a new US factory for Panasonic will not be providing battery cells to Tesla or anyone else much before 2025.
For those who are praying for the EV revolution to move faster, waiting for battery supply to catch up with demand is maddening, but laying the groundwork now will pay dividends in the future. Patience, young grasshopper.