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Panasonic could update Japan plant for upgraded Tesla battery production: source

(Photo: Tesla)

Panasonic Corp, Tesla’s exclusive battery partner for its existing lineup of vehicles, is reportedly looking to upgrade one of its Japan-based facilities to enable the production of advanced-format battery cells for the electric car maker. The update was recently related to Reuters on Thursday by a source reportedly familiar with the matter.

Tesla and Panasonic have a close working relationship, with the Japanese company producing the battery cells of Tesla’s electric cars. Panasonic’s battery cells for Tesla come from two sources: Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, which produces 2170 cells for the Model 3, and Japan, where the veteran tech company produces 18650 cells for the Model S and Model X.

The news publication’s source, who opted to remain unnamed due to the private nature of Panasonic’s plans, has noted that Panasonic’s updated Japan-based production lines will require only a few minor changes to enable the manufacturing of 2170 cells. Japanese news outlet Nikkan Kogyo, which also reported on the matter, further noted that the upgrades to Panasonic’s Japan-based plant could take place in this financial year ending in March 2020.

Panasonic has stated that nothing has been decided as of date, though it did confirm that it had completed the installation of new equipment in Gigafactory 1 that allows the facility to have a capacity of 35 GWh. Nevertheless, the Japanese company stated that for now, the newly-installed equipment is yet to enter full operation in Gigafactory 1. Tesla is yet to issue a statement on the recent Nikkan Kogyo report.

The potential transition of Panasonic’s battery plant in Japan to the production of 2170 cells ultimately bodes well for Tesla. Its flagship cars, the Model S sedan and the Model X SUV, were recently given updates, and one of these is more range from their batteries, which are comprised of 18650 cells.

The premise of using the larger, newer 2170 cells for the Model S and X will likely result in even more prominent range improvements. Other features that are made possible with the utilization of 2170 cells, such as the Model 3’s Track Mode, might make their way to the flagship sedan and SUV with a battery upgrade as well.  

Granted, Elon Musk has specifically mentioned in the past that there are no plans to transition the Model S and Model X to 2170 cells, a point he reiterated as recently as the Q4 2019 earnings call back in January. Considering Tesla’s reputation for being a flexible company that is quick to adapt, there is a pretty fair chance that plans for the Model S and Model X’s batteries might have changed over the past few months. 

Panasonic could update Japan plant for upgraded Tesla battery production: source
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