Earlier this month, Tesla battery cell supplier Panasonic announced that it will delay the commercial production schedule of 4680 cells. Some wonder if the news could affect the production of the Tesla Cybertruck, which is set to begin deliveries later this year.
Above: A Tesla Cybertruck (Image: Casey Murphy / EVANNEX).
According to Panasonic's previous guidance, the company planned to begin production of its 4680 cells between April 2023 and March 2024. However, the electronics manufacturing giant now plans to start 4680 cell production between April 2024 and September 2024 (via Reuters).
Panasonic has decided to delay production to enhance 4680 cell performance even further. The company has been working on producing 4680 battery cells for years in collaboration with Tesla but the two have yet to do so at high volumes.
Tesla introduced the new 4680 form-factor cells at its Battery Day event in 2020. The automaker set up a pilot production facility for the cells at its Fremont factory, codenamed Roadrunner at the time.
Shortly after Battery Day, both Panasonic and Tesla announced plans to set up a joint pilot production line at Tesla's Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada. However, Tesla hasn't commented on how many cells this pilot plant is actually producing.
Panasonic has another pilot production line for 4680 cells at its factory in Wakayama, Japan. Tesla also started a production line for the cells at its Gigafactory in Austin, Texas in 2021. Since then, the automaker has constantly upgraded the facility to speed up cell output.
According to Tesla's latest report on 4680 cells, the electric carmaker was producing 868,000 units of these cells per week. This would barely be enough to make 1,000 Model Y battery packs, and Giga Texas alone recently reached a weekly production rate of 5,000 Model Ys.
Panasonic's schedule change is likely to impact the integration of the new cell into existing vehicles, and it could also affect Cybertruck volume production. In February, Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the Cybertruck is slated to begin production later this year.
Tesla is already manufacturing alpha prototypes of the Cybertruck at Giga Texas. Using Giga Press casting machines from Italian manufacturer IDRA, Tesla is getting closer to the Cybertruck's final production start each day.
The automaker is continuously trying to scale 4680 cell production, both at Giga Texas and at its Kato Road building near the Fremont factory. However, it isn't yet clear how many Cybertruck battery packs the facilities can support per week/quarter/year.
Tesla's internal 4680-cell production may not be adequate to supply enough cells for volume production of the Cybertruck. Previously, Tesla was aiming to scale up Cybertruck production in 2024, though it's also unclear if this will be affected by Panasonic's delays.
Alternatively, Tesla could discontinue the sale of Model Y with 4680 cells in them and divert the supply to Cybertruck production. Still, a Model Y has a roughly 70 kWh battery pack, while the Cybertruck is set to be much larger than the Model Y, requiring a larger battery pack. Tesla hasn't yet disclosed the capacity of a Cybertruck battery pack.
Tesla and Musk have yet to comment on how Panasonic's decision might affect plans to scale up Cybertruck production. However, the two have collaborated closely for years, so Tesla may have already been aware of Panasonic's plans.