Tesla has reached a new pricing agreement with its longtime partner Panasonic on battery cells manufactured in Japan for the period Oct. 1, 2020, through March 31, 2022, according to a now-released filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Financial details on this were not disclosed. Tesla uses the 18650 Panasonic cells imported from Japan in the Model S and Model X, and they should not be confused with the 2170 cells produced at the jointly operated Gigafactory 1 for the Model 3 and Model Y. The new pricing agreement suggests that there could be updates to these battery cells.
In addition to pricing, the agreement apparently addresses the capacity to be provided by Panasonic, the volumes to be purchased by Tesla and planned capital expenditures over the life of the agreement. In addition, Tesla Motors Netherlands BV is also a contractual partner alongside Tesla Inc. Teslas are assembled from prefabricated parts at the Dutch assembly plant.
The SEC release does not provide further details. It is thus unclear whether Tesla continues to source the familiar 18650 cells from Japan, such cells with updated cell chemistry, or it is a different cell format. Panasonic is said to also want to manufacture the new 4680 cells presented at Battery Day on its existing facilities in Japan.
In mid-December, Tesla stopped the production lines for the Model S and Model X at its main plant in Fremont for several weeks. This had led to speculation that the two models were facing a more extensive model update and that the production lines were being retooled during the break. Accordingly, production of the two large models is scheduled to restart on 11 January 2021.
Demand for the two models was fairly constant last year, with deliveries and production moving in a corridor of 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles for both model series combined, depending on the quarter, while the Model 3/Model Y duo now reaches well into six figures per quarter.
Rumours of a refresh of the Model S and X have persisted, and not just since the production pause. Most recently, a Model S with some changes was spotted in the US. However, it is unclear whether this is a test vehicle for the general changes or specific adaptations for the Plaid model announced for late 2021. Details like the rear apron with diffuser and the apparently somewhat wider body speak for the latter. However, the new headlights and the “Chrome delete” look introduced on the Model 3 speak for general changes independent of the powerful powertrain. If the production break was indeed used for the modifications, we will probably see the result in the coming weeks – possibly also with new battery cells.
With reporting by Cora Werwitzke, France.