Panasonic is close to completing the product development of the new 4680-type cylindrical battery cells that will be used by Tesla.
Battery division CEO Kazuo Tadanobu told Nikkei that "In terms of product development, the technological goals have largely been achieved."
The prototype was shown alongside smaller 2170- and 1865-type cells in October, and currently the company is building a prototype production line in Japan "that will come online in stages."
According to Kazuo Tadanobu, the mass production will require new techniques:
"We will conduct trials toward mass production and hone the process in Japan until it can be deployed quickly."
Panasonic officially admits that it is developing the 4680-type cylindrical cells at "Tesla's request" and that it was in discussions on the project with Tesla since before the event in September 2020. That alone should give the company quite an edge over other potential battery suppliers.
"The 4680 was decided to be the optimal size of battery after looking at costs, the balance of the vehicles themselves, and other possibilities posed by cylindrical batteries."
The company assumes that once the production is ready, Tesla will place an order:
"We are working on the new battery at Tesla's request, and we assume we will be doing business with the company."
Of course, Tesla has also its own, in-house 4680 battery project, which - as we understand - will be supplemented by external suppliers.
When asked about other customers, Panasonic treats Tesla as a priority, but leaves a possibility to sell 4680-type cells to other manufacturers (if there is interest):
"As a principle, Tesla, our close partner, is our main priority. But we won't rule out the possibility of branching out to other companies that share our values if we can do so without overextending our resources."
One of the most interesting parts of the interview was also the one about investments. While other companies are investing billions, Panasonic remains quiet. According to Kazuo Tadanobu, Panasonic will step up its game once a new product and technologies arrive:
"I question whether the quantity of investment really matters. We need to make a certain level of investment, of course, but we will avoid making hasty moves that scatter our resources. We will work on developing new batteries and technologies ahead [of our rivals] and use them in fields where we can add value."
The LFP battery chemistry was excluded from the equation and is not being considered.