When Tesla tapped Panasonic to provide the batteries for the Tesla Model S, its unlikely that executives expected the level of success and acclaim Elon Musk has achieved. With the ambitious Gigafactory project breaking ground, Panasonic executives say that the Gigafactory could bring some “acceleration to this industry,” especially among European automakers.
Speaking with Bloomberg, Panasonic’s Laurent Abadie said that German automakers are “trying to catch up” in the electric vehicle battery market. So far Germany hasn’t produced any spectacularly effective battery technology, leaving Daimler to turn to Tesla to power the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric. Volkswagen meanwhile has turned to LG Chem to supply batteries for its future electric vehicles, and LG also has deals with Ford, GM, and Renault among others. Nissan is also rumored to be in talks with LG about a battery deal after their own battery plans fell short, though the Japanese automaker has denied the rumors.
The Tesla Gigafactory is supposed to be capable of building 500,000 battery packs annually by 2020, though those batteries may not necessarily be destined for Tesla vehicles. Without reading too much into Panasonic’s statement, it seems the company is hoping (banking?) on European automakers wanting a piece of the Gigafactory action. On the same token, LG Chem seems to be making major inroads with some of the biggest names in the auto industry. If the Gigafactory doesn’t deliver the promised-for price reductions, where does that leave Panasonic and Tesla?
On the other hand, if the Gigafactory does deliver the lowest-cost, highest-density batteries? There could be a lot more “Powered by Tesla” cars on European roads in the not-too-distant-future.