Tesla executives recently met with South Korean based electronic giants Samsung SDI, LG Chem and SK Innovation presumably to discuss options that will extend the electric carmaker’s source for batteries beyond its existing and long-standing relationship with Panasonic.
This report comes after Hankook Tire was said to be selected as the manufacturer for Model 3 tires, giving signs that Tesla is setting its sights on South Korea as a major supplier for its upcoming mass market electric vehicle. As reported by Korea Times,
“Tesla intends to use more Korean technology on its Model 3. It decided to use tires manufactured by Hankook Tire and LG Display will possibly be supplying its OLED panels for the automotive systems. Additionally, Tesla is testing the manufacturing capability and production of LG Chem, Samsung SDI and SK Innovation,” said an official, Tuesday.
A deal with LG Chem wouldn’t be new to Tesla as it has previously contracted with the company to produce a battery upgrade for the company’s first production vehicle, the Roadster. In the face of stiff competition from Samsung SDI and SK Innovation, LG Chem’s existing relationship with Tesla could solidify the South Korean company to become the leading battery and parts supplier for Tesla.
Currently LG Chem and Samsung SDI produce a cylindrical shaped 18650 battery cell, a design that Tesla has adopted into its existing fleet of vehicles. Though Tesla is working with Japan-based Panasonic on building the world’s largest battery production facility, the Gigafactory, inking a deal that will allow the Korea-based battery suppliers will ensure Tesla has adequate inventory levels to meet what’s expected to be high demand of its affordable Model 3.
Tesla has indicated in its recent Q1 financial statement that the company has advanced its guidance of producing 500,000 vehicles per year from 2018 to 2020, two years ahead of schedule. The company expects to deliver 1 million vehicles in 2020. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the company intends to finalize design of its Model 3, which alone has seen over 400,000 reservations since its March 31st unveiling, by June of this year, and hold its suppliers to a final delivery deadline of July 1, 2017.