Panasonic Unveils a Large Prototype Battery That's Designed to Help Tesla Lower EV Production Costs
Tesla's battery supplier Panasonic unveiled a new large prototype battery on Monday that's designed to help the electric automaker lower production costs, Automotive News reported. Panasonic Energy President, Kazuo Tadanobu, unveiled the new battery for the first time at a media roundtable.
Panasonic says the new nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) "4860" cell format, which represents the battery's dimensions of 46 mm wide and 80 mm tall, will store more energy, reduce battery costs by up to 50% and drive a 100-fold increase in battery production by 2030.
The advanced prototype battery has five times the storage capacity of Panasonic's 18650 cells (18mm wide and 65 mm tall), which are currently used in the Model S. Tadanobu says the new battery will help deepen business ties with U.S. electric-car maker Tesla.
"We have developed this because of the strong desire of the other party, and we think this can only lead to stronger ties," Tadanobu said.
Panasonic introduced the improved 2170 lithium-ion cells for the Model 3, which went into production in the summer of 2017. The 2170 cells pack are more energy dense and can accept higher charging rates than the 18650 cells.
Panasonic has been Tesla's U.S. battery partner since the Model S was introduced in 2012. The cylindrical cell batteries used in its vehicles are produced at Tesla's factory in Nevada. Panasonic has already established a test line in Japan to make the "4680" battery format, but Tadanobu did not say when it would begin full-scale production of the larger batteries, according to Automotive News.
The announcement of Panasonic's new battery comes as Tesla expands its vehicle production to China and Europe. The California company is seeking supply contracts with rival battery manufacturers, such as South Korea's LG Energy Solution, owned by LG Chem, and China's Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. (CATL).
Tadanobu also said that Panasonic has no plans to make less expensive Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) EV batteries that Tesla is looking to use for its vehicles produced in China. LFP batteries are safer than nickel-based batteries, but have less energy density and need to be recharged more frequently.
Sourcing LFP batteries from local suppliers in China will help Tesla to make its electric vehicles more affordable, while the newer, more energy dense battery chemistries will allow Tesla to increase driving range.
The new lower cost battery format from Panasonic could also be a key component to help Tesla deliver its rumored $25,000 EV.
In March, Panasonic quietly sold its stake in Tesla, a spokesperson for the Japanese company told Reuters. Panasonic's Tesla shares were worth roughly 400 billion yen ($3.61 billion).
Although Panasonic sold a significant position in Tesla, the company said there will be no changes in its business partnership and the two companies will continue to produce batteries in the U.S. for Tesla's electric vehicles.
A Panasonic spokesperson said the decision to sell its stake in Tesla was made as part of a review of shareholdings in line with corporate governance guidelines.
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