Tesla is reportedly working on developing a means to produce its own battery cells for its electric vehicles and energy storage products. This update, which was related by several former and current Tesla employees to CNBC, provides yet another sign that the Silicon Valley-based company is looking to become as independent and vertically integrated as possible.
According to the publication’s sources, Tesla is currently conducting some of its battery cell research at a “skunkworks lab” located in the company’s Kato Road facility, which is situated just a few minutes away from the Fremont, CA factory, where the Model S, 3, and X are produced. The former and current employees also mentioned that Tesla’s battery R&D teams are focused on prototyping and designing advanced lithium-ion batteries, together with new equipment and processes that could open the doors for battery cell mass production.
Numerous advantages could result from Tesla producing its battery cells. The company, for one, could avoid constraints that have plagued it in the past. Having its own cell design could also lower costs, allowing the company to introduce vehicles that are more affordable than the Standard Range Model 3, while giving a performance and range boost for the company’s vehicle lineup.
The publication’s sources did not mention if Tesla is integrating or utilizing some of Maxwell’s technologies in its original battery cell design and manufacturing plans. Nevertheless, Musk did note during Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting that it would be holding a battery and powertrain day later this year to explain how Maxwell’s innovations will be utilized.
Tesla CTO JB Straubel and VP for Technology Drew Baglino, who joined Musk onstage during the shareholder meeting, also spoke about the company’s need to secure large-scale battery cell production. “It’s more obvious now than I think it ever was, we need a large-scale solution to cell production,” Straubel said. In a following comment, Baglino added that “We’re not sitting idly by. We’re taking all the moves required to be masters of our own destiny here, technologically and otherwise. I think through all the experience we’ve developed with partners and otherwise, we will have solutions for this.”
While Tesla’s production of its battery cells would make it more independent of Panasonic, the two companies would likely retain a partnership for years to come. The Japanese firm, after all, has already invested heavily in Gigafactory 1, and during a previous Q&A session, Panasonic Corporation President Kazuhiro Tsuga debunked speculations alleging that the company’s partnership with Tesla is on the rocks. “We are making sure that we have a partnership relationship, not a supplier relationship… We continue to have (a) very solid, very strong relationship with Tesla,” Tsuga said.