After initial reports earlier this month, a new story claims Panasonic is reportedly in talks over the site for a new US battery plant to supply Tesla and potentially other EV makers with next-generation lithium-ion 4680 battery cells.
According to a fresh report from Bloomberg citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, the Japanese corporation is looking at several locations for the multibillion-dollar factory, including one in Oklahoma and another in Kansas. The new facility could start operating as soon as 2024.
Both locations would be close to the new factory that Tesla is inaugurating in Austin, Texas. Panasonic is said to be weighing potential plant locations based on land and labor prices and the availability of state subsidies, according to one of the sources.
If the report is accurate, it means Panasonic is taking a bold step as it has been slower to build scale so far compared to rival suppliers LG Energy Solution and Contemporary Amperex Technology Co (CATL).
One of the sources said Panasonic plans to build a bigger and more powerful 4680-type cylindrical cell in the new US plant, although it may also install lines for other batteries at the new facility depending on customer demand.
Gallery: Tesla 4680 Batteries
The unnamed insider also said the Japanese company wants to sell the batteries to other automakers, making it unlikely for Tesla to invest in any Panasonic plant in the US.
Panasonic will start mass production of 4680 batteries at its Wakayama facility in Japan in the fiscal year starting April 2023, but it plans to set up a prototype production line for the batteries before that, also in its home country.
Panasonic is hoping that its experience of almost a century in making car batteries and its reputation for safety will give it an edge over rivals in producing 4680 cells, which are considered particularly difficult to mass produce.
Given the larger volume of 4680 batteries, fewer cells and related parts are needed to power an electric vehicle. Elon Musk said the technology is key to unlocking $25,000 Teslas, although he later denied that Tesla is even working on an entry-level car. The first Tesla EV confirmed to use 4680-type cylindrical cells is the Model Y made in Texas.
While Tesla plans to make the 4680 structural cells in-house, it has asked Panasonic to start manufacturing them as well. The two companies have a longstanding partnership, jointly operating the Gigafactory battery plant outside of Reno, Nevada.
Panasonic's official position is that it has not announced plans to build a new battery factory in the US, a company spokesperson said on March 14.