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Tesla's Battery Supplier Panasonic is Close to Selecting the Site of its New U.S. Battery Plant

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【Summary】In March, Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported that Panasonic Corp was looking to purchase land in the United States for a "mega-factory" that will churn out advanced electric vehicle batteries for electric automaker Tesla. Now after two months, the Japanese company is reportedly close to selecting which U.S. state will be the home of its new factory.

FutureCar Staff    Jun 03, 2022 12:10 PM PT
Tesla's Battery Supplier Panasonic is Close to Selecting the Site of its New U.S. Battery Plant
Panasonic currently produces batteries for Tesla at its jointly operated gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada.

In March, Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported that Panasonic Corp was looking to purchase land in the United States for a "mega-factory" that will churn out advanced electric vehicle batteries for electric automaker Tesla. Now after two months, the battery maker is reportedly close to selecting which U.S. state will be the home of its new factory, a top executive at the company said on Friday.

"We've been making various considerations, but we are starting to evaluate," Panasonic's Energy Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Tadanobu said while speaking to reporters during a round table event. However, he added that no decision had been made yet as to where it might be located.

Two people with knowledge of the plan have said in March that Panasonic is looking at potential factory sites in Kansas and Oklahoma, due to the pormixty to Tesla's new assembly plant in Austin, Texas, which also now Tesla's global headquarters after Chief Executive Elon Musk moved the automaker's headquarters to Texas.

Reuters reported that Tadanobu told investors and analysts on Wednesday that the company has already shipped samples of its more powerful '4680' format electric car battery to Tesla.

Panasonic's new 4680 format battery cells (46 millimeters width and 80 millimeters tall) - is about five times bigger than those that Panasonic currently supplies, meaning that Tesla could be able to lower production costs while still increasing the driving range of Tesla vehicles. 

Panasonic says the new and improved nickel-cobalt-aluminum 4680 cells will store more energy, reduce battery costs by up to 50% and drive a 100-fold increase in battery production by 2030. 

Once a location is selected, Panasonic said mass production of the new 4680 batteries could begin before the end of March 2024 at its plant in Wakayama, western Japan, before production moves to North America.

The Japanese company has partnered with Tesla for more than a decade, supplying batteries built at the jointly operated gigafactory in Nevada. Tesla also uses batteries from China's Contemporary Amperex Technology Co (CATL) and South Korea's LG Energy Solution.

Panasonic's competitor CATL aims to become the world's biggest supplier of EV batteries.

Last summer, CATL said it wants to rapidly expand its partnership with Tesla in China and become its biggest battery supplier. The company aims to supply half of the battery cells Tesla uses globally in electric vehicles and roof energy storage, according to a senior source at the company.

In March of last year, Panasonic sold its stake in Tesla that was worth at the time about 400 billion yen ($3.61 billion). Panasonic bought 1.4 million Tesla shares at the bargain price of $21.15 back in 2010, two years before Tesla introduced the Model S sedan.

A Panasonic spokesperson told Reuters last year that the decision to sell its stake in Tesla was made as part of a review of shareholdings in line with corporate governance guidelines. 

However, Panasonic said there will be no charge in its business partnership with Tesla going forward and the two companies will continue to produce batteries in the U.S. for Tesla's electric vehicles in Nevada and a soon to be selected new state.


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