Stellantis, Panasonic & BMW consider joint battery plant in the USA
Stellantis and BMW consider opening battery plants together with Panasonic in North America. According to American media, talks are already underway.
Stellantis has already started building battery factories in North America: one with LG Energy Solution in Canada and another with Samsung SDI in the US state of Indiana. A third one could now be built jointly with Panasonic, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing insiders. However, according to the newspaper, the talks are still at the very beginning and it is unclear if, when and where the two companies will open a joint plant.
While many details surrounding the negotiations are not yet known, one thing is highlighted in the report: Stellantis and Panasonic are said to be talking about the production of cylindrical cells of the 4680 format.
According to the WSJ, BMW is also in talks with the Japanese battery manufacturer. Previously, the carmaker had announced its intention to work with Envision AESC. At the end of last year, the Chinese-Japanese cell manufacturer announced the construction of a new plant in the US state of South Carolina, from where the BMW plant in Spartanburg will be supplied with cylindrical cells. Envision AESC (along with Chinese manufacturers CATL and Eve Energy) is so far one of three battery partners for BMW’s New Class.
The background to BMW’s talks with Panasonic is that the Munich-based company might refrain from cooperating with Envision AESC for large cylindrical cells due to stricter battery procurement requirements in the US and political tensions with China, and rely on Panasonic instead.
BMW’s ‘New Class’ not only relies on an 800-volt architecture, but BMW is also switching from prismatic cells to cylindrical cells with a diameter of 46 millimetres for the new platform. According to the information available so far, the flat sedan and estate models will use cylindrical cells 95 millimetres in height, while the SUV models with more space in the underbody will even have cylindrical cells 120 millimetres high.
Panasonic has been offering cylindrical cells for electric cars for many years; as is well known, the Japanese company was Tesla’s first battery partner – for example, 2170 cells for the Model 3 and Model Y are produced in the jointly operated Giga Nevada. Panasonic is already producing 4680 cylindrical cells on a pilot line at a plant in Japan and has already delivered the first sample cells to Tesla in mid-2022.
It had already been announced that series production of Panasonic’s 4680 cells will take place in the USA – the Japanese company already announced a plant in Kansas, which may become the location for 4680 production. But a new battery plant is also planned in Oklahoma. It is not yet known whether Panasonic will be able to produce taller cylindrical cells with a diameter of 46 millimetres there (as currently planned by BMW) or whether the German carmaker will have to switch to 80-millimetre-high cells in the USA.
According to Reuters, neither carmaker has commented on the rumours yet. Panasonic is also keeping a low profile, telling the news agency: “We are examining various growth strategies for our automotive battery business, but there is no further information that we can share at the moment aside from what we have already announced.”