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Tesla Motors is about to get another stakeholder partner. Reuters is reporting today that Panasonic, which is already working with Tesla to provide lithium-ion cells for the Model S, will invest in the California automaker. Citing the Nikkei business daily, Reuters says Panasonic, "aims to work with Tesla to develop battery systems for next-generation EVs." An official statement on the tie-up could come tomorrow.

There's another piece to the puzzle, since Toyota is also working on an electric vehicle with a Panasonic/Tesla battery pack. This vehicle the latest in a partnership that Panasonic and Toyota started in December 1996 with the Panasonic EV Energy joint venture. That JV played a role in the introduction of the Prius. Reuters says Panasonic's stake in Tesla will be smaller than the $50 million that Toyota invested in the company in May.

*UPDATE: The official press release has come out, and the total investment is $30 million. Details after the jump.

[Source: Tesla, Reuters]

PRESS RELEASE

Panasonic Invests $30 Million in Tesla: Companies Strengthen Collaborative Relationship

PALO ALTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Panasonic Corporation and Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) today announced that Panasonic has invested $30 million in Tesla. The investment was made through the purchase of Tesla common stock in a private placement at a price of $21.15 per share. The investment builds upon a multi-year collaboration of the two companies to accelerate the market expansion of the electric vehicle.

Panasonic is the world's leading battery cell manufacturer and a diverse supplier to the global automotive industry. Tesla currently uses Panasonic battery cells in its advanced battery packs and has collaborated with Panasonic on the development of next generation battery cells designed specifically for electric vehicles. While Tesla's current battery strategy incorporates proprietary packaging using cells from multiple battery suppliers, Tesla has selected Panasonic as its preferred lithium-ion battery cell supplier for its battery packs.

"Panasonic aims to be the number one Green Innovation Company in the Electronics Industry by 2018, the 100th anniversary of our founding," said Naoto Noguchi, President of Energy Company, a unit of Panasonic responsible for the battery cell business. "Our sophisticated lithium-ion battery cell technology, combined with Tesla's market-leading EV powertrain technology, helps us fulfill this goal by promoting sustainable mobility. We are proud to strengthen our relationship with Tesla Motors."

"It is an honor and a powerful endorsement of our technology that Panasonic, the world's leading battery cell manufacturer, would choose to invest in and partner with Tesla," said Tesla CEO and cofounder Elon Musk. "Panasonic offers the highest energy-density cells and industry-leading performance with cutting edge Nickel-type cathode technology. We believe our partnership with them will enable us to further improve our battery pack while reducing cost."

In addition to producing its own vehicles, Tesla also builds electric powertrains, including battery packs, for other automobile manufacturers. Panasonic and Tesla intend to explore joint marketing and sales of battery packs that would be designed and assembled by Tesla using Panasonic's battery cells.

About Panasonic

Panasonic Corporation is a worldwide leader in the development and manufacture of electronic products for a wide range of consumer, business, and industrial needs. Based in Osaka, Japan, the company recorded consolidated net sales of 7.42 trillion yen (US$79.4 billion) for the year ended March 31, 2010. The company's shares are listed on the Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and New York (NYSE:PC) stock exchanges. For more information on the company and the Panasonic brand, visit the company's website at http://panasonic.net/.

About Tesla Motors

Tesla's goal is to produce a full range of electric cars, from premium sports cars to mass market vehicles – relentlessly driving down the cost of electric vehicles. It is currently the only automaker in the U.S. that builds and sells highway-capable EVs in serial production. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tesla designs and manufactures EVs and EV powertrain components. Tesla has delivered more than 1,300 Roadsters to customers in North America, Europe and Asia. The Tesla Roadster accelerates faster than most sports cars yet produces no emissions. Visit Tesla online at www.teslamotors.com.

Safe Harbor Disclosure

Certain statements in this press release, including statements relating to Tesla's expectations regarding its partnership with Panasonic, including anticipated battery pack improvements and cost reductions, and anticipated joint marketing and sales of battery pack by the parties are "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 that are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors. Without limitation, among the factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements are: the parties' ability to jointly improve battery performance and cost, successfully conduct joint marketing and sales of battery packs, and other risks detailed in Tesla's quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended June 30, 2010 and other publicly available filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. All forward-looking statements reflect Tesla's expectations only as of the date of this release and should not be relied upon as reflecting Tesla's views, expectations or beliefs at any date subsequent to the date of this release. Tesla disclaims any obligation to update information contained in these forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise
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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 31 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I should add to my above comment that not each and every cell need have a circuit on it. You can put one of the cells with the circuit at the start of a string to take the whole string off line as needed during charge/discharge or bad cell. But you risk taking other cells out in the string doing it this way. I still think it much better than the way the roadster deals with it.

      Tesla will use the same number of cells in the Low range and Med range but double the number for the high end 300mile pack.
        • 6 Months Ago
        Actually what I have heard it is another battery type for 300 mile version with same quantity as mid-level, and variable amount of cells for small and mid-levels.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The magic will be in the circuit Panasonic add's to each cell. This will let the cars computer take cells in and out of the pack as needed for discharge/charge and or a bad cell. So each cell will have a small circuit on it adding to the cost of the cell. But this is vital for dealing with a ton of cells as Tesla does. Lot of IP to lock up and it seems Panasonic has taken note of this and wants to lock up the ip for its use as well.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Tesla already monitors each sheet:

        "Each of the 11 modules carries a monitoring PCB (with its own microprocessor) that communicates with the rest of the vehicle microcontrollers, broadcasting the voltage and temperature measurements of its module over a standard CAN bus."
        http://webarchive.teslamotors.com/display_data/TeslaRoadsterBatterySystem.pdf

        and they double-fuse each battery.

        Adding the monitoring and signaling to individual batteries would allow even more precise control, and might allow simplifying the electronics for each "sheet". But adding just a dollar to the cost of each cell would make the Roadster ESS $6,831 more expensive...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Nah, the Choad is on to something. Ala Jack Ricard, the BMS will be inside the cell, eliminating many connections and potential hazards from those connections. The future could include the batteries serial numbers, cell voltage level, cell temp being transmitted via RF to a head unit in the dash, Internet, or a cell phone if within 20 yards of the car.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That sounds like the worst, and most expensive solution ever.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Interesting, do you have any patent numbers or more information about it?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Tesla battery pack has twice more energy per pound than Nissan Leaf. This could also mean half the cost and the advantage of the already mass produced format.

      In theory, if you put Tesla/Panasonic pack in the Leaf, you could get 200 miles range. That should open some eyes.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Some numbers from what I could find on the web:

        Tesla Roadster 54 kWh pack: ~450kg - 120 Wh/kg
        Nissan Leaf 24 kWh pack: ~300kg - 80 Wh/kg

        So on the surface the Tesla pack appears to be significantly more energy dense, but some are suspecting that the 24 kWh of the Leaf pack is only the usable capacity and the real capacity is somewhere between 24 kWh-30kWh. Unfortunately it's hard to tell as Nissan hasn't been exactly forthcoming on the nitty details of their pack.

        It's also somewhat comparing apples/oranges since you only get the full capacity of the Tesla pack when you charge in range-mode - something they don't recommend you do unless you need to. The regular charge mode reduces "capacity" by 20%.

        Anyway, AESC (Nissan's JV battery partner) lists modules on their website with 130 Wh/kg energy density. 24 kWh of those would weigh about 180 kg which would imply that either the supporting structure of the Nissan pack weighs 120 kg (highly unlikely), or they are using less energy dense modules. GreenCarCongress reported a couple years back on AESC modules in the 80 Wh/kg range.

        Until someone gets a Leaf and tests an individual module, we won't know for sure - I suspect that Nissan is guarding the details as long as possible to avoid giving competitors an edge.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That 450kg of Tesla battery pack is entire pack, cooling and everything, not just the cells or cell packaging. It has rather heavy structure to make it safe at collision, and cooling system is liquid cooling which weights also pretty much. It is more advanced than Leaf battery pack, but also bit heavier for structure.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Tesla will be using higher capacity 3.1 Ah Panasonic cells for the Model S. Those new cells packs over 250 Wh/kg.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I just think they try to get into too many things.

      Trying to sell the roadster in so many countries, having a right hand drive roadster, a recent suv announcement... the list seems very long. There are only so many smart, capable people at a company. You need to focus their efforts on completing a few projects not having them dance from thing to thing.
        • 6 Months Ago
        I don't take the SUV talk too seriously. Seems very forward looking statements typical of Elon.

        The engineers are obviously focusing on Model S at a top priority right. The sales team right now has the Roadster as the top priority to bring in more revenue while the Model S is being developed. The expansion to other countries may be profitable since the Roadster tends to sell for significantly higher in other countries. The designers seem to be pretty much done with exterior design on the Model S, and moving on to interior design. After this is done, they may have some free time to work on other cars, like the SUV.
        • 6 Months Ago
        As far as I can tell the SUV is very easy to design after Model S. Model S is a platform design (not quite skateboard) which allows wide variety of models using same principle of design. SUV is just basically taller version if Model S. There will be also pick-ups, new Roadster and stuff like that, all build on same basic plan with change of body (though Model S will be quite big, so Roadster design would need a bit more work).
      • 4 Years Ago
      Tesla is looking better and better with each passing day...if this Model S thing takes off, things could get crazy.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm afraid not. I think Tesla motors' death is a given at this point. they are running on cash infusions, getting above 1bn. but one day it's payback and tesla is not heading for profitability from what I can tell. it looks like a long shot. I'm guessing it's critical aroubd Q2 2013.
        the only thing I think that might save tesla on their IMO foolish heavy steel course is if Toyota offers to sell Tesla from their dealerships. that could make a significant difference. otherwise I don't see it happening. not even close.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes, his expertise in business is equal to his expertise in manufacturing cars! And how many cars has Fredriksen Motors made?
        Nada, nil, bupkis, nuttin, zilch, the big goose egg.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Attention everyone, Dan knows more about the future of Tesla than Panasonic. A company with yearly sales of nearly 80 billion dollars.
        Business genius we got here.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Dan why do you have to be so negative mate?

        Just think Tesla is not a corrupted pro-gasoline automaker playing with a EV on the side like a toy while still selling gas guzzling SUVs and trucks to the masses.

        Tesla's foundation, present and future is BEV - be happy and support a EV game changer.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Tesla is in need of some cash infusion, as capital outlays are starting to ramp up due to the Numi plant coming on line soon. The tell tale sign of their business strategies weakness is in their yet to be announced retail marketing strategy. They will have to get private capital markets to align with their estimation of profitability being a little further out, than they originally anticipated, with the launch of the Model S. If share price isn't above $ 30.00 by 2012 then they are at risk of getting snapped up by a group of PE investors.
        • 6 Months Ago
        wh.ames complained about Tesla's "yet to be announced retail marketing strategy" being a sign of their doom.

        The problem with that claim is that Tesla has already announced their retail marketing strategy. In fact, they've gone into long detail about how they can increase profits by selling Tesla's out of Tesla owned sales centers. Tesla explains how eliminating the traditional dealership/franchise model used by all current car makers will give Tesla a market advantage over existing brands like GM and Nissan.

        In fact, Tesla has already started building out their retail market locations, with more planned when the Model S, Model X, etc start selling.

        Next time, before you announce the doom of a company, try getting to know something about them first.
        • 6 Months Ago
        Yea you got their strategy right, but I never suggested or even inferred DOOM! I was not clear in my uninformed questioning of their already stated business model. Their "sales centers" approach is new and yet unproven in its self sufficient profitability. If this approach is to be advantageous over the traditional Dealer/Franchise network, they have yet to demonstrate and provide a "Profitable" sales center approach that is currently working for the roadster. I will be patient for another 18 months, but investors will have to decide the next move and I hope it preserves the legacy of Elon and his vision.

        Tesla has an awesome "sales center" here in West Los Angeles, I just hope they can lure in enough customers for their Model S and turn a profit on what looks to be an excellent and hopefully well received vehicle. I am concerned about the initial price point and the estimated/projected sales/lease volume for this sweet upscale ride.
        • 6 Months Ago
        major announced investment(s) = imminent bankruptcy

        got it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      Does this mean jumbo 18650s? 186500's? hehe.

      That would certainly cut down the amount of wiring, weight, and incredible complexity of the Tesla pack... even better, prismatic cells that don't waste space!

      Producing them with good economies of scale ( as with the current Panasonic batteries ) would mean selling to other companies..

      Fingers crossed that these become an option to other companies and the conversion market.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Well, I guess Tesla will be using thousands of 18650 format batteries forever.
        • 4 Years Ago
        only until the bankruptcy shortly after model S launch :)
        but if Panasonic is adapting their batteries for EV use then I really hope they go to pouch cells. their high density chemistry in a 40Ah pouch could be very interesting. pretty sure it could clean house.
        pouch cells appear to be a bit lighter than metal cylinder so might reach as high as 260Wh/kg which would be such a good quality. and they stack so neatly to form a square pack

        a Leaf pack would only weigh 100kg
        • 4 Years Ago
        Tesla chose those 18650 cells because back then they had both the highest energy density AND the lowest cost per Kwh stored for any LiIon batteries, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't change if something better comes along. Larger cells certainly have the potential for reducing costs and even improving energy density slightly, provided that heat dissipation isn't a problem.

        It's not unusual for a company to invest in their best customer, but this is a very big investment. That makes me suspect that Panasonic already has plans for improved larger format batteries for Tesla and Toyota.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Chris,
        You're more optimistic than I am right now. It would be so easy for Panasonic to keep pushing 18650s with all the investment they have in them and the announcements they've made about the new cells coming the next two years. Great advances by the way and I'm excited to see them coming and very pleased with Panasonic for making the investments to get there.

        But I'm still worried they will stay with the 18650 format and not move to the large format pouch cells that could help so much. I hope YOU are right about this one and I am proven wrong.
      • 4 Years Ago
      As part of the deal to take over Sanyo, Chinese competition authorities required Panasonic to divest their holdings in PEVE. This has now occurred and the company renamed itself to Primearth EV Energy. It's basically a Toyota subsidiary.

      Panasonic buying Tesla stock is therefore a bit more significant than it might appear at first.
        • 6 Months Ago
        Excuse me, but both Panasonic and Sanyo are Japanese companies, so "Chinese competition authorities" have no say in the matter. That fact makes the rest of your story to be a bit suspect, particularly since we haven't heard anything about this supposed "divestment" or "Primearth EV Energy" through Panasonic press releases or the regular news media.

        Sorry, but until I get some independent confirmation, I'm assuming you're repeating an urban legend.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The first Car maker to make something like the 2011 Renault Kangoo Z.E.
      but with higher sitting/roof position to both sit people in comfort or carry a
      commercial load priced around a VW GOLF GTI or subsidised by Governments
      to help with the air pollution issues worldwide, will have a winner.

      eg. Trendy high roof Mini Van that can be modded to suit the following:
      Outdoor interest, Commercial delivery, Commuter or Tradesman

      Something that doesnt date but easier to park and fit in tight spots through traffic
      eg. a narrow high roof version of a lowlight VW Kombi or early Honda Step Van
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