Panasonic wants to start the production of prototypes of the new 4680 battery cell presented by Tesla at Battery Day as early as 2021. Production is most likely to take place in the company’s Nevada Gigafactory.
Tesla initially announced the new battery cell format at their Battery Day earlier this year. The benefits of the new cells designated 4860 are that they are bigger and claimed to be better, not the least because of advances in production. The key here is the use of a dry electrode, to rely primarily on nickel, and a ‘tabless’ design. The cells will also integrate into the vehicle as an entirely structural component. The overall goal is a range increase of up to 54% and simultaneous reductions in kWh price by 56% and the investment per GWh by 69%. The 56% cost reduction would bring Tesla within reach of $50/kWh battery price.
While Tesla is also launching its own in-house production, they will have to rely on suppliers as well to deal with the planned battery and vehicle mass production. Elon Musk also confirmed this on Twitter just before the Battery Day itself: “We intend to increase, not reduce battery cell purchases from Panasonic, LG & CATL. However, even with our cell suppliers going at maximum speed, we still foresee significant shortages in 2022 & beyond unless we also take action ourselves.”
At the end of October, Panasonic CFO Hirokazu Umeda confirmed that a prototype production line is planned. According to the newly issued report, this is to be built in an existing plant. The most likely location for this is considered to be Gigafactory 1 in Nevada. The investments in this project are said to amount to “tens of millions of dollars”. Further, he explained that the company will add one more production line at the Tesla Gigafactory 1 for 10% more battery output (from 35 GWh to 38-39 GWh per year) around the year 2022. The profit margin target for Panasonic’s battery production for Tesla stands at 5% within 2-3 years.