Tesla partner Panasonic is working on a prototype 4680 battery cell production line

Tesla Gigafactory 1, where Model 3 battery cells are produced. (Photo: Tesla)

During a briefing on Thursday, Panasonic’s Chief Financial Officer Hirokazu Umeda noted that the Japanese tech conglomerate is preparing to produce 4680 battery cells for Tesla. Umeda also mentioned that Panasonic started working on a prototype manufacturing line for the 4680 cells after Tesla’s Battery Day event last month. 

“We have considerable know-how for that battery. We started working on it immediately after Tesla’s Battery Day and are also preparing to set up a prototype production line in parallel,” Umeda said, as per a NASDAQ report. 

The 4680 cells, which feature 500% times more energy and 6X more power than the company’s existing batteries, are key to Tesla’s plans for the coming years. Tesla executives Elon Musk and Drew Baglino explained on Battery Day that the 4680 cell, which should pave the way for terawatt-hour scale battery production, is pertinent in the company’s push to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy. 

Panasonic’s push to produce 4680 cells for Tesla is a rather bold move for the Japanese conglomerate, especially as the two companies’ joint venture at Gigafactory Nevada has experienced challenges over the years. The challenges experienced by Tesla and Panasonic were so notable that speculations from critics at one point suggested that the Japanese firm might cut ties with the American EV maker. 

Needless to say, these speculations did not come to pass, especially as sales of Tesla’s electric cars stabilized profits for the EV maker and its battery partner. Tesla has so far accomplished five consecutive profitable quarters, and Panasonic, for its part, reported an 11% increase in second-quarter operating profit, beating analyst estimates.

In the recent briefing, the CFO further stated that apart from the prototype 4680 production line, Panasonic is also launching an additional production line at Giga Nevada. This additional line is estimated to boost the plant’s total capacity by 10% to about 38-39 GWh a year by 2022. “We are targeting a profit margin of around 5% at our Tesla battery business within two to three years,” Umeda said. 

Ultimately, Panasonic’s development of a prototype 4680 cell production line for Tesla bodes well for the electric car maker’s rollout of its next-generation batteries. Despite Tesla ramping its own battery cell production activities at its pilot site in Fremont, after all, the company has emphasized that it needs partners like Panasonic, LG Chem, and CATL to produce more batteries than ever before. Panasonic’s prototype 4680 line seems to be a step towards this direction. 

Simon Alvarez: 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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