This year, Panasonic could upgrade one of its battery factories in domestic Japan to produce not only the 18650 battery cells for the Tesla Model S and Model X, but also the newer 2170 cells for the Model 3.
The production lines would only require minor changes for this, according to insiders quoted by Reuters. Panasonic said in a statement that nothing had been decided yet. The background to the considerations is that the expansion of production capacity for 2170 cells at Gigafactory 1 in Nevada has stalled and is affecting the production of the Tesla Model 3.
For classification purposes, Panasonic, to date Tesla’s exclusive battery cell supplier, produces cells for its vehicles at both Gigafactory 1 and two plants in Japan. While the newer 2170 cells come off the production line at the US plant, the Japanese plants are replenishing the cylindrical 18650 cells for the S and X models.
A potential battery shortage in the Gigafactory became public two weeks ago through a media report. The report said Panasonic and Tesla wanted to put the internal plans to increase production capacity for battery cells at Gigafactory 1 from 35 to 54 GWh on hold because of financial problems at Tesla and uncertainties about future demand. While Panasonic reacted with the statement that by the end of March 2019 a battery production capacity of 35 GWh had been built up in Gigafactory 1, Tesla boss Elon Musk wrote on Twitter shortly after that the cell production in the factory had only been running with a real capacity of about 24 GWh per year so far and that the production of the Tesla Model 3 had already been affected since July. And: Tesla will not invest any money in a further expansion of capacities until the target volume of 35 GWh has been reached with the existing production lines.
The Tesla boss thus contradicted parts of Panasonic’s presentation. Against this background, it would fit the picture if the Japanese were now to create additional capacities in Japan to ease the situation and in addition to the incentive to get the plants in the Gigafactory fully up and running.