Panasonic to build electric-car battery cells at Tesla gigafactory this year: report


Tesla gigafactory, March 2016, shown in drone footage posted to YouTube by Above Reno

Tesla gigafactory, March 2016, shown in drone footage posted to YouTube by Above Reno

Enlarge Photo

Panasonic is currently Tesla's sole supplier of battery cells for its electric cars, and a partner in the carmaker's massive lithium-ion cell "gigafactory" in Nevada.

The factory is supposed to allow the economy of scale for Tesla Motors to achieve a promised $35,000 base price (before Federal, state, and local incentives) for its upcoming 215-mile Model 3 mass-market car.

While Tesla now assembles its stationary energy-storage battery packs at the gigafactory, Panasonic may begin fabricating actual battery cells there sooner than expected.

DON'T MISS: Tesla gigafactory grand opening event to be held July 29

Panasonic could start cell production as early as November, according to Japanese news agency Nikkei.

This may be due to greater-than-expected demand for the Model 3, which has already generated about 400,000 pre-orders.

Panasonic "would like to avoid delays in auto production caused by an insufficient battery supply," an unnamed executive at the electronics giant told Nikkei.

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

Enlarge Photo

Tesla will stage an official opening for the gigafactory July 29, and analysts had expected full-scale cell production to start in early 2017.

Model 3 production is slated to begin in the second half of next year, although so far, Tesla has missed every one of its own deadlines for new-car launches.

ALSO SEE: Tesla Gigafactory Jobs, Investments Fell Short Of Projections Last Year

To give Tesla a shot at making that deadline, Panasonic would like have to ramp up to full-scale cell production at the gigafactory no later than next spring.

An increase in the pace of preparations for gigafactory cell production could involve Panasonic funneling more money into the project over a shorter period of time.

Panasonic has reportedly earmarked $1.6 billion for the gigafactory to be released in eight installments, but the timeline of those payments may be compressed.

Tesla gigafactory, March 2016, shown in drone footage posted to YouTube by Above Reno

Tesla gigafactory, March 2016, shown in drone footage posted to YouTube by Above Reno

Enlarge Photo

At the same time, Panasonic is attempting to cultivate relationships with carmakers beyond Tesla.

The Japanese electronics company is partnering with Chinese carmaker Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC) as a way to make inroads into the world's largest new-car market.

MORE: Which battery will Porsche Mission E electric car use?

The companies will initially partner only on electric compressors for air conditioners, but other components will be discussed at a later date.

Panasonic is also thought to be one of two companies (the other is Bosch) being considered by Porsche to supply battery cells for the German carmaker's Mission E electric car, due by the end of the decade.

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