Tesla has already made it clear that it's making its own 4680 battery cells, which it plans to use in Tesla Model Y crossovers coming out of its new factory in Texas. However, the US electric automaker will have to lean on other companies as it has in the past if it expects to have enough new cells to ramp up production. This is where Panasonic comes in.
Panasonic, Tesla's primary battery partner, already announced that it will be producing 4680 cells for Tesla, though it has noted that it's currently only in the testing stages, and full-scale production won't begin until next year. The company also announced that its Energy division will produce the new 4680 cylindrical lithium-ion batteries in Japan, "in order to expand its business globally."
According to a recent article published by Teslarati, CEO of Panasonic’s Energy division Kazuo Tadanobu provided some details and insight about the 4680 battery cell situation to date. He told Bloomberg that these new cells have the potential to spark major progress in the automotive industry by potentially lowering the cost of EVs while maintaining safety and improving performance. However, the process thus far hasn't been easy.
The CEO explained that this isn't just about simply making a bigger battery. It's not as easy as some people may assume. He said that Panasonic has been at it for well over a year now, and it has been rather intense. Per Teslarati, Tadanobu shared that the 4680 development process has “taken an immense amount of stamina," and that changing the cell's shape required “considerable nerve.” This, all while Panasonic really had no idea how Tesla would feel about its version of the company's 4680s.
The good news is, Tesla has taken notice of Panasonic's work on the cells, and the electric automaker has already reportedly called them viable. The cells, while not coming in full production until next year, already perform as Tesla and Panasonic had hoped.
Tesla's in-house 4680 cells are being produced on a pilot line at a facility on Kato Road, near its Fremont, California factory. However, Tesla appears to be all set up to produce the cells at its Gigafactory in Austin, Texas. Tesla says the Kato Road plant will be capable of producing 10 GWh per year, which is impressive for a "small" pilot facility, but not nearly enough to meet Tesla's global demand.
This will likely become especially true once the automaker begins delivering Model Y vehicles with the new structural pack and 4680 cells, and Tesla will become significantly more constrained once the Cybertruck comes to market.
Tadanobu went on to talk about Panasonic's lead as Tesla's main battery supplier. As Tesla becomes more and more constrained, it's looking at other companies and various battery chemistries. Currently, the EV brand is also partnered up with LG Energy Solution and CATL. However, Panasonic works alongside Tesla at the massive Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, and the battery maker has long been considered Tesla's main partner for the technology.
The Panasonic Energy CEO made it clear that the company doesn't want to lose to its rivals. He touted the quality and safety of Panasonic's batteries as the reason he believes it will continue to lead, saying the technology speaks for itself.