Lishen is under discussion as a possible supplier of battery cells for Tesla’s Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai. Tesla has confirmed a corresponding offer from Lishen but insists they had not signed any agreement yet.
In a report from Reuters, two sources not mentioned by name assert that a preliminary agreement already exists, despite official statements from both companies to the contrary. This may be because certification processes for suppliers take a lot of time.
Panasonic is known to be the exclusive Tesla partner for battery cells, but Tesla apparently wants to purchase cells from several suppliers, at least in China. CEO Elon Musk had already indicated this via Twitter in November when he wrote on opening the Shanghai operation: “Cell production will be sourced locally, most likely from several companies (incl Pana), in order to meet demand in a timely manner.” The other battery manufacturers applying for contracts could be CATL and LG Chem.
While Panasonic is also a potential supplier, of course, the company has also expanded their business elsewhere. Just this week they detailed a new joint venture with Toyota regarding cell production in Asia (we reported), not the least to keep up with local competition.
Lishen’s customer base is growing and includes Apple, Samsung Electronics, Geely and Hyundai. According to Reuters, the group has merged with other battery manufacturers to negotiate aggressive contracts with the surging electric car industry. Interestingly, Lishen started series production of cylindrical battery cells in 2017 in Suzhou – about 100 km from Shanghai – the same cells Panasonic also produces for Tesla’s Model 3.
Tesla’s Gigafactory 3 in China will not only produce batteries, but also entire electric cars. The EV maker officially laid the foundation stone for the factory at the beginning of the month. The plan is to complete the first stages of the construction work as early as this summer.
Additional reporting by Nora Manthey.