Tesla Asks Panasonic for Faster Development of 4680 Battery Cells

Hirokazu Umeda, chief financial officer (CFO) of Panasonic, said during a post-results briefing that the company is being asked by Tesla to increase the supply of 2170 battery cells and to speed up the development of its next-generation 4680 batteries — reports Bloomberg.

Following news of Panasonic pondering a new U.S. battery factory in Oklahoma or Kansas back in March and a Tuesday report indicating that the Japanese electronic giant was closing in on Oklahoma as the location for its new plant, the world was expecting an official announcement for the expansion.

Instead, the Panasonic CFO touted strong, ongoing demand from Tesla for 2170 battery cells and faster development of 4680 batteries.

“We can’t say more than what has been released, but we are getting many requests,” said Umeda on Wednesday. “We seeing continued strong demand from Tesla, for 2170 batteries, but also for faster development of the 4680.”

According to people familiar with the matter, Panasonic will primarily manufacture 4680 batteries at its planned U.S. factory. Panasonic is slated to start producing 4680 batteries, which are bigger and more powerful than the 2170 cells Tesla has been using, in 2023, with mass production expected to begin by March 2024.

Panasonic is the world’s third-largest electric vehicle (EV) battery supplier with a market share of 12% in 2021. The Japanese battery maker is hoping that the next-generation 4680 battery technology will open up doors to supply other automakers in addition to Tesla.

Tesla does not have an exclusive relationship with Panasonic for the supply of 4680 battery cells, but the latter has promised to make Tesla its “top priority.”

Oklahoma and Kansas have both been working on financial incentive packages to draw Panasonic’s attention (along with the job the factory would bring). Regardless of which state Panasonic decides to settle down in, the battery maker will be fairly close to Tesla’s newly-opened Gigafactory in Texas.

Panasonic currently works out of Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory to produce batteries for the U.S. automaker. In April, Panasonic announced a $4.9 billion investment in EV batteries and supply chain software, among other areas CEO Yuki Kusumi sees as critical to the company’s growth.