Panasonic confirms that it has sent 4680-type cylindrical battery cell samples to Tesla, ahead of series production.
The Japanese company was recently asked by Tesla to speed up development and it seems that things are progressing. By the way, Tesla is not the only company that is currently evaluating the new type of cells.
According to Kazuo Tadanobu, CEO of the Panasonic's energy business (via Reuters), pilot production of Tesla's 4680-type battery cells started in May. In the next fiscal year (between April 1, 2023 and March 31, 2024), Panasonic intends to launch series production at its Wakayama Factory in western Japan (10 GWh/year according to a rumor).
"A pilot line, created first in Japan, made it possible to start large-scale prototype production in May," said Kazuo Tadanobu, CEO of the Panasonic's energy business that makes car and industrial batteries, on the first day of the company's annual investor event.
It's in the early stage, but it seems that the commercialization of 4680-type battery cells for Tesla is on track.
At first, Panasonic is preparing the product and first production lines in Japan, but the recent news confirms also that the company is willing to invest in North America - potentially in Oklahoma or Kansas.
A separate report by Automotive News indicates that Panasonic might build a quite massive battery factory to support Tesla's needs.
The report says that the output in North America might at least triple by 2029. Assuming that Panasonic's current battery cell production (2170-type) at the Tesla Gigafactory 1 in Nevada is at 39 GWh/year, it would require building at least an additional capacity of 80 GWh/year (for 4680-type and/or other type of cells).
We guess that besides Tesla, there might be other customers interested in Panasonic batteries (cylindrical or prismatic), including Toyota.
"Panasonic expects its North American capacity to triple or quadruple by the fiscal year ending March 31, 2029, Tadanobu said. New customers are currently evaluating the 4680 battery, he added."
The report says also that Panasonic aims to increase local sourcing of battery materials to 50%.
Panasonic: >10 billion cells since 2009, no recalls
Let's now take a look at selected slides from the Panasonic Group IR Day 2022's presentations.
As we can see below, Panasonic has delivered (since 2009) 4.6 billion 1865-type cells and 5.5 billion 2170-type cells for EVs. It's the equivalent of 1.7 million electric car battery packs.
The newer 2170-type already far exceeded the 1865-type and also grow at a much higher rate, while the 1865-type (used in the Tesla Model S/X) are just gliding at more or less the same rate. The next big step will be 4680-type (2023 at a scale).
Panasonic's "initial focus" to be on the North American market, which will be responsible for the vast majority of the company's production and sales of EV batteries.
The 4680-type cylindrical cells produced in Japan will be exported to the US for Tesla, as we understand. At a later point, Panasonic will start local production in the US.