Tesla battery partner Panasonic will ‘study investments over 35 GWh’ for Gigafactory 1

An aerial shot of Gigafactory 1 outside Reno, Nevada, taken during a flyover on March 12, 2018 and showing Tesla's ongoing construction of a rooftop solar array. [Credit: Teslarati]

Following reports from the Nikkei Asian Review alleging that Panasonic and Tesla have decided to freeze investments on Gigafactory 1, the Japanese battery provider has stated that it is studying further investments for battery cell production in the Nevada-based facility.

Citing no sources, the Nikkei report claimed that financial problems have forced a rethink of Tesla and Panasonic’s plan to increase Gigafactory 1’s capacity by 50% next year. The facility reportedly has a capacity of 35 GWh today, and plans had intended for this to be raised to 54 GWh by 2020. The Japanese publication did not disclose a specific reason behind the alleged suspension of investments for Giga 1, but the news agency did cite concerns in Wall Street about the alleged weakening demand for Tesla’s electric vehicles.

As a response to the report, Panasonic stated that it is evaluating additional investments for the facility. “Panasonic established a battery production capacity of 35GWh in Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 by the end of March 2019 in line with growing demand. Watching the demand situation, Panasonic will study additional investments over 35GWh in collaboration with Tesla,” the Japanese company said in a statement to Reuters.

Tesla has not issued a response to the Nikkei report so far, though the electric car maker did provide a statement to the Japanese publication in its report. “We will, of course, continue to make new investments in Gigafactory 1, as needed. However, we think there is far more output to be gained from improving existing production equipment than was previously estimated,” a Tesla spokesperson said.

The claims outlined in the recent Nikkei report stand in contrast to previous statements released by Panasonic six months ago. Back in October, Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga stated that the company is considering “further investment in North America, keeping in step with Tesla.” During that time, Panasonic was reportedly considering investing an additional 100-150 billion yen (~$900 million to ~$1.35 billion) for the Nevada-based facility.

The Nikkei Asian Review is an established Japanese news publication, and the publication has cited insiders from Panasonic in the past. Nevertheless, some aspects of the recent report about Gigafactory 1 are a bit strange. Apart from the lack of sources, the report also notes that Panasonic will suspend its investment for Gigafactory 3 in China. Tesla is yet to announce its battery partner for Gigafactory 3, and speculations have pointed to local battery suppliers being tapped for the upcoming facility. Panasonic’s involvement in Tesla Energy was also not mentioned, despite Tesla indicating that demand for its battery storage products like the Powerwall 2 remains strong.

Panasonic is currently Tesla’s sole battery partner, with the company producing cells for the electric car maker’s vehicles like the Model S, Model 3, and Model X, as well as energy storage products like the Powerwall 2 home battery unit.

The market has reacted strongly to the Nikkei report, with Tesla shares (NASDAQ:TSLA) dropping over 4% on Thursday’s pre-market.

Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.

"Simon Alvarez : @https://twitter.com/ResidentSponge Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.."
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