Samsung? Who's Samsung? That's what Panasonic is asking as the electronics conglomerate makes it clear it is looking to secure its position in Tesla Motors' plans to build a huge car-battery factory over the next three years.

Panasonic is now saying it expects to be the only battery manufacturer partner for Tesla's so-called gigafactory, Reuters says, citing comments from Panasonic senior executive Yoshio Ito. Ito says his company has been in talks with Tesla about its construction plans, and while Samsung started supplying Tesla's batteries last year, Panasonic, which makes Tesla's lithium-ion cells, is looking for solo billing once the $5-billion factory goes live in 2017. All Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said so far is that he expects Panasonic to be the main partner in the gigafactory. Tesla, when contacted by AutoblogGreen, declined to comment on Ito's comments.

Last fall, Panasonic and Tesla reached an agreement in which Panasonic would increase its supply of battery cells to Tesla by a factor of 10 within the next three years, and Panasonic says its already doubled its battery-production investment this year largely because of the California automaker. That said, Panasonic president Kazuhiro Tsuga said in March that there was significant risk involved in any investment in the gigafactory and hadn't committed to any investment as of that time. So Ito's comments may merely be a negotiation ploy. Tesla is looking for partners to shoulder about $3 billion of the $5 billion gigafactory cost.

Earlier this month, Lux Research estimated that Panasonic has a 39-percent global market share for plug-in and hybrid batteries. NEC has 27 percent and LG Chem has nine percent.


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  • 33 Comments
      • 1 Year Ago
      The Li-Ion battery is a has been. A relic of the past.....way to think ahead Elon
      purrpullberra
      • 1 Year Ago
      So now we know what is taking so long. Doesn't this mean that Panasonic are extremely interested in becoming part of the gigafactory as opposed to being leery about it? I know, it can be both. But it sounds like Panasonic realize that there is going to be a HUGE amount of profit to be made due to the gigafactory and they don't want to share with any competitors. So does anybody believe the Sacramento airport site has a chance? I'm still betting on Nevada.
        Weapon
        • 1 Year Ago
        @purrpullberra
        I have been saying this for months and I will say it again. What Panasonic was leery about was investing a lot of money only to be "just another battery provider". Panasonic was negotiating their "share" of the factory. And now it is clear Panasonic wants to have exclusivity which is not surprising considering that Tesla was the reason Panasonic was profitable.
          purrpullberra
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Weapon
          I wonder then if Panasonic is also negotiating on behalf of their partners that Tesla wants to bring in? Is this going to happen with those businesses too? I definitely would want to be the sole source for my component in a factory like this but is that feasible? So many questions....
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Weapon
          Will they be profitable at 30% less per battery?
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Weapon
          30% is the cost reduction... not the profit reduction. Margins may need adjusting.... but margins can be low, if volume is high... and it will be high.
        sebringc5
        • 1 Year Ago
        @purrpullberra
        NV makes the most sense logistically. Elon always said he wants to source as many components as close as possible. I for one would like to see it in CA first and TX second. All the best, Aaron Lephart www.smartcar451.com
        james
        • 1 Year Ago
        @purrpullberra
        The Future is Here, I wouldn't discount the Sacramento site. Its at the former Mather Air Force Base and has onsite rail and air access and is only about 100 miles from the Tesla Factory. It has plenty of buildings and already has all utilities and plenty of open land for new buildings. The Sacramento region has a large and educated workforce including plenty of high tech. Could be a win, win.
        james
        • 1 Year Ago
        @purrpullberra
        The Future is Here, I wouldn't discount the Sacramento site. Its at the former Mather Air Force Base and has both immediate rail and air access and is only about 100 miles from the Tesla Factory. It has plenty of buildings and already has all utilities and plenty of open land for new buildings. The Sacramento region has a large and educated workforce including plenty of high tech. Could be a win, win.
        EVSUPERHERO
        • 1 Year Ago
        @purrpullberra
        They need someone to take up approximately three billion slack for the gigafactory. What ever happened to Apple and all it's cash?
          JakeY
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EVSUPERHERO
          @purrpullberra Even Apple's largest laptop (the 15-inch Macbook Pro) uses custom shaped lithium polymer cells. http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/MacBook+Pro+15-Inch+Retina+Display+Late+2013+Teardown/18696 The factory can be flexible for the applications Tesla is targeting, automobiles and stationary storage, which use either large format prismatics or small cylindrical. The chemistry type is lithium-ion (not lithium polymer) and can extend to metal-air or lithium sulfur. That gives them plenty of options already that can overlap with each other, but they don't overlap with Apple's batteries. The problem is Apple's cells use a different "jelly roll" (the electrolyte later of a lithium polymer battery is different than a lithium ion one), a different cell size/shape (multiple sizes too from the picture), a different pack size/shape, and different enclosure material. That means maybe only the anode/cathode sheets can be shared (assuming the same chemistries are suitable) and nothing else. That's a lot of equipment that doesn't overlap, and a lot of special built equipment just to make Apple's cells and packs. A partner that either uses the cell/pack format that Tesla uses, or at the very least the same lithium-ion chemistry (with different cell/pack format) would be a much better fit.
          purrpullberra
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EVSUPERHERO
          From reading other reports on this subject I'm getting the sense that Tesla intends to continue researching advances in battery types (of uses and make-up). And that the gigafatory is going to be built in a way that manufacturing can be more easily switched between them. That's supposed to be a huge part of what will make the factory so revolutionary. Supposedly. In that regard it seems reasonable to me that the gigafactory could potentially help advance the state-of-the-art in some Apple batteries. Especially in the larger laptops, that's what their current batteries are based on of course. Even more so now that it seems like Apple is going to get into home automation. They'll need battery back-up and other power needs will become quite varied, I assume. Same thing with Google, I could see them needing exceedingly kick ass batteries for their frickin' war robots. ;-)
          JakeY
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EVSUPERHERO
          I'm not sure why people keep bringing up Apple. The size of the cells being made in this factory are not suitable for cell phones, small portable devices, nor the type of thin laptops Apple is making. For that, Apple uses flat lithium polymer cells and even custom shaped cells. The 18650s are definitely a no-go, only the even smaller 16650 format might work, but for a lot the the newer ultra-thin laptops even those don't work. If Apple invests, it'll purely be for diversification, but there's not a lot of other related benefits.
      Grendal
      • 1 Year Ago
      Elon created Tesla and SpaceX with a lot less than $3 billion. I wouldn't bet against the guy for pulling this thing off. It will be an interesting dance for the Gen III car versus the completion of the factory which creates the batteries to power those cars.
        lad
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Grendal
        Like to see Tesla offer replacement battery kits for Leafs; Nissan really needs help getting of the dime and building upgraded batteries. Been three years without drivers knowing anything about what Nissan has planned; this leads to a loss of confidence in the car and the company. they are building EVs but are still using old ICE management policies. It's going to take a long time for them to understand the vast difference. Perhaps Elon can give them some management lessons.
      EVSUPERHERO
      • 1 Year Ago
      Okay CEO Ito you can't have it both ways. Mitigate your investment exposure by letting Samsung in. Or put a sizable chunk down and take a chance on this giga factory. So right now Tesla's are being manufactured with Samsung and Panasonic batteries? Probably Panasonic's chemistry and manufacturing process is used by Samsung, IDK?
      purrpullberra
      • 1 Year Ago
      Another side topic: did anyone else read about how Elon has supposedly been talking personally with mine owners about getting raw material directly from them? The story I read had an interview with a mine operator and he was astonished that Elon/Telsa would go to such lengths to secure a better deal for themselves. The man said he thought Tesla would save an enormous amount of money per ton by buying it at the source and shipping it themselves. Which sort of dovetails with a story this weekend that had a few skeptics talking about the 30% savings on the battery packs: for that discount the only way to get there would be to source the raw materials in a much cheaper way, that they (Panasonic/Tesla) supposedly have no other room to lower costs much (the last part is a claim I find hard to believe). Now maybe this info isn't true, I'm sorry I have no sources, but if I'm putting this together how is it that so many other people, especially 'professionals', are still so convinced Tesla has no chance of pulling this off? I'd just like to hear a more informed bear case before I believe Tesla won't do exactly what they are setting out to do. For a corporation, they are as close to flawless as any I can think of on delivering the wonders they promise. One issue I see has to do with the potential lack of rail car capacity and whether Tesla could secure the number of trains they'll need to ship all this raw material. I understand they'll be using a LOT of railcars-full per year. But aren't big contracts like the one Tesla will need to sign the ones that get the best rates? So Elon, withTesla, is once again, maybe, getting ready to cut out the middleman in an effort to make his dream come true. If so, I am even more enthralled with and impressed by the man and the company.
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @purrpullberra
        Now this is interesting. If Tesla is talking to the miners then he is really going vertically integrated. But since he is still a tiny niche car-maker, I don't think antitrust people would worry about it at all. Besides, most of our antitrust department has been asleep since 1980. So if it goes mine->gigafactory->Tesla car factory, that could really streamline things and cut costs by cutting out middlemen.
          NestT
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          Scrapping lithium with a shovel is the Bolivian way of "mining" thanks to Evo Morales. I can assure you Western Lithium in Nevada is not scrapping lithium with a shovel. Evo will not ship lithium abroad only finished batteries. So Tesla will not be sourcing lithium from Bolivia. If US sources are not enough or not price competitive then Chile is the way to go.
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          That is the idea. I just watched a more recent talk by Marc Tarpenning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDCYoAQmmAA Where he describe the mining techniques used by modern lithium miners which is still being done old school. People go out to a dry lake and scrape the lithium up with shovels and wheelbarrows. So he thinks there is lots of growth out there for using modern mining techniques. With what I too have read about Elon talking to miners, he is trying to change the entire lithium ion mining food chain for making batteries. I expect that will be pretty important for where the factory will end up.
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          Elon Musk = John Galt
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          Nevada has enough Lithium for several Gigafactories. It just needs developing. We don't need to assume that Tesla would need to use the current Lithium mining geographical areas.
        lad
        • 1 Year Ago
        @purrpullberra
        Wise to have second source provider for every material; depending on a single source is not a good business practice. Never know when an asteroid or lousy management might take out a critical component of the supply chain.
      Grendal
      • 1 Year Ago
      No big surprise there. If Panasonic is going to be using there battery chemistry for the gigafactory then they want the partners to not be competitors. It's going to get tough to find partners for $2 billion more. Slightly non sequitur aside here: One of the Democratic candidates is using the New Mexico quest for the gigafactory against the current Republican governor. There are attack ads out saying that wooing corporations is a bad thing. There is a video of someone that looks like Elon getting on to a corporate jet that has the attack ad running over it. Tesla is not mentioned specifically but the implication is there.
        Grendal
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Grendal
        their.
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Grendal
        That's pretty funny. The WSJ just had an op-ed whining about how they thought California would get the gigafactory because of California lobbying hard & cutting taxes to get it. But that is strange because GOP governors are the kings of the 'race to the bottom' game of tax cuts and union bashing.
      Kris Kuehl
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hi Everyone! I've got a better solution! My name is Kris Kuehl. I am merely one man. I want to give you my invention that you can make too. There's no patent on it. First one to get a patent shall be the inventor. I just want the world to accept my gift for free. It only cost me about 777.00 dollars to make. It generates free electricity forever, without the need for oil, gasoline, friction, pollution, a supercollision, NOR IRAN. Somebody tell Tesla to start engineering "living" cars using my technology, to save themselves from building charging stations. Here's How: 1. A 12amp car battery from wal-mart 2. A power inverter to plug step 3 into it. 3. A skilsaw circular saw that spins at least 3600 rpms. If the powersaw is too loud, try www.leesonmotors.com to get a quiet electric motor but you'll need to get an online 40amp tractor battery to power it, and it would have to be pulley driven, unless we can all convince leeson motors to bore a 5/8 inch thread hole in the axle. 4. A 5/8 inch axle bolt. 5. A generator head from www.northerntool.com part no. 165913 or 165928 for dryers and house needs. 6. A battery recharger from wal-mart. Simply link those components together in that order and back into the battery, and everyone shall have infinite free electricity. PLEASE visit my website to see video evidence. I also have other SIGNIFICANT scientific discoveries there. Bless you, and I hope you have a very casual day! Sincerely, Kris Kuehl www.silvermix.org please come...
      Ben Crockett
      • 1 Year Ago
      Whichever the location maybe they could licence the rights to build Ryden Batteries from Power Japan Plus - which sounds like the biggest close to market ready revolution in battery technology I have read in a long while. http://powerjapanplus.com/about/news.html
        Joeviocoe
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Ben Crockett
        Sounds like vaporware... put it on the pile with the other thousand. Maybe one will pan out
          Ben Crockett
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          I can understand your scepticism. I too are quite sceptical when it comes to battery advances which I like yourself have heard many - but this seems different in a few ways. 1/ battery main ingredient is abundant carbon so no rare earth materials. 2/ little or no thermal management required. 3/ using today's technology so not waiting on a future breakthrough and they have a good experienced team together. 4/ doesn't appear to have any shortfalls or compromises like most batteries do: ie. good power & energy density, high lifecycle and low cost and another plus much quicker charging. I am much more optimist than usual on this breakthrough being a game changer for EVs.
      Lancelot
      • 1 Year Ago
      Telsa + SolarCity + SpaceX = Made in California = #1 + Teabagger-free! Thank You Elon Musk and President Barack Obama! USA = #1 Innovators World = #1 Imitators
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