The construction of Tesla’s Gigafactory 3 in China is moving in a rapid pace. Not long after the facility’s groundbreaking ceremony, the company’s 864,885-square meter plot of land in Shanghai’s Lingang Industrial Zone has become abuzz with activity. If recent reports are any indication, though, it appears that work is also underway to ensure that the company has all the partners it needs to produce batteries on the upcoming facility.
Citing individuals reportedly familiar with the proceedings, Reuters recently published a report suggesting that Tesla has reached a preliminary agreement with China-based battery provider Tianjin Lishen to supply batteries for Gigafactory 3. The publication’s sources have noted, though, that Tesla and Tianjin Lishen have reached no official, definitive deal as of date.
Among the details reportedly being worked out by Tesla and the battery supplier is the size of Tesla’s battery orders, as well as the specific size of the cells that would be produced in the Shanghai-based factory. Inasmuch as news of a possible battery supplier is compelling though, a Tesla spokesperson has denied that any official agreement between the electric car maker and the Chinese battery provider has been reached.
“Tesla previously received quotes from Lishen, but did not proceed further. We have not signed any agreement of any kind with them,” a Tesla spokesperson said.
Lishen, for its part, has noted that there is no agreement between itself and Tesla for Gigafactory 3’s batteries, at least for now.
The update suggested by Reuters’ sources point to Tesla tapping into the local Chinese market for a possible battery partner. So far, Tesla’s sole battery partner has been Panasonic, which has been producing the 18650 battery cells for the Model S and X in its Japan-based facilities, and the Model 3’s 2170 cells in Gigafactory 1 . Considering the size of the Chinese market, though, Panasonic’s resources would not be enough to meet the demand in the country. Elon Musk described this in a prior tweet.
Tesla will manufacture all battery modules & packs at China Giga, as we do today in California & Nevada. Cell production will be sourced locally, most likely from several companies (incl Pana), in order to meet demand in a timely manner.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 2, 2018
While reports of Tesla’s preliminary agreement with Tianjin Lishen are undoubtedly interesting, some aspects of the information provided by Reuters’ sources were a tad bit strange. For one, Elon Musk has stated that the first vehicle set to be produced in Gigafactory 3 is the Model 3, an electric car powered by 2170 cells. Despite Gigafactory 3 only producing the affordable versions of the electric sedan, it doesn’t make much sense for Tianjin Lishen and Tesla to be still undecided about the types of battery cells that would be needed for the upcoming facility.
If any, these recent reports of Tesla and it’s possible battery partner in China teases the accelerated pace of Gigafactory 3’s development and construction. The facility, after all, is currently following an incredibly ambitious timeline, with Tesla aiming to finish the initial construction of the factory by the end of summer. Tesla also aims to start producing the Model 3 before the end of 2019.
Perhaps the most notable factor in the construction of Gigafactory 3 though, is the apparent favor currently being extended to Tesla by the Chinese government. For one, Tesla was allowed to become the sole owner of Gigafactory 3 — a privilege not given to any other foreign carmaker operating in the country. Apart from this, Tesla was also granted low-interest loans from local Shanghai banks to fund part of the facility’s construction. China Construction Third Engineering Bureau Co., Ltd, the company tasked with the facility’s buildout, is also a subsidiary of China Construction, a government-owned company.