Panasonic could add 4680 production to new Kansas plant

Panasonic is reportedly considering an additional investment in its battery factory under construction in Kansas to produce 4680 cells for Tesla. A final investment decision has not yet been made, but is expected by the end of 2024.

Image: Panasonic

The fact that the Japanese company will produce 2170 cylindrical battery cells in Kansas was already known before the start of construction in De Soto (near Kansas City) in November 2022. This cylindrical cell template is used by Panasonic’s major customer Tesla in some versions of the Model 3 and Model Y, for example, and these cylindrical cells are also produced in the jointly operated Gigafactory 1 in Nevada.

Even before construction began, there were rumours that the large-volume 4680 cylindrical cells for Tesla could also be produced there. At that time, Panasonic had already put its pilot line in Japan into operation and also delivered the first 4680 sample cells to Tesla. Officially, however, the Kansas plant has remained a pure 2170 production facility to this day.

According to a report by Nikkei, however, this could change in the course of this year. According to a person familiar with the matter, the investment could be “roughly the size of Panasonic’s current De Soto plant”. So far, there has been talk of an investment of around four billion US dollars, the equivalent of 3.65 billion euros. If the informant’s statement is correct, the Japanese would be investing a total of up to eight billion dollars in Kansas.

The additional capacity is to be used for the production of 4680 cylindrical cells. So far, Tesla in particular has favoured this cell format. Although other car manufacturers are also switching to large-volume cylindrical cells with a diameter of 46 millimetres, they use a different format. BMW is also using cylindrical cells in the upcoming New Class, but these are higher than 80 millimetres.

In its article, the portal Teslarati refers to earlier reports according to which Panasonic is said to have already spent a considerable part of its original investment budget on the De Soto site due to the construction costs in the USA. An expansion would therefore probably not be possible with funds from the original budget, which is why a new investment decision must be made.

The latest information fits in with the rumours from 2022 and the long-standing partnership between Panasonic and Tesla. However, it is not known if and when Panasonic could supply 4680 cells from Kansas to Tesla. Although the plant has been under construction for almost a year and a half, no cells have yet been produced there. If the basic infrastructure is already in place, an expansion could presumably be realised more quickly. However, it is also clear that not only Panasonic wants to ramp up 4680 production, but also competitors such as LGES. (paywall),


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