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Tesla Gigafactory Nevada: Panasonic talks expansion with new production line

Panasonic has confirmed plans to expand at Tesla Gigafactory Nevada with a new production line, resulting in more battery cell production next year.

Over the last year, there have been many reports that Tesla’s relationship with Panasonic, the automaker’s longtime battery supply partner, has been deteriorating.

The problems started around the time we started to get clear indications that Tesla plans to make its own battery cells, despite the fact that the automaker needs any battery supply it can get its hands on for the foreseeable future.

However, the situation seems to have improved during the second half of the year.

The Japanese giant announced that it is finally making money at Tesla Gigafactory Nevada, where it manufactures battery cells exclusively for Tesla, and the two partners signed a new contract shortly after.

Over the last few months, following the new contract, there have been reports coming out of Japan about Panasonic planning to increase its investment in Gigafactory Nevada to boost production.

Carl Walton, vice president of production engineering and facilities for Panasonic Energy of North America, has confirmed the news.

He told the Reno Gazette Journal:

There’s some construction work that needs to take place over the next couple of months. Then early next year, we’ll be installing new equipment with production starting shortly after that.

The comment is in line with a previous report of Panasonic deploying a 14th production line at Gigafactory Nevada and starting to build new, more energy-dense battery cells at the plant.

It is expected to increase capacity by about 10% at the factory.

Walton confirmed that Panasonic is hiring 100 more people for the expansion:

The expansion will increase our staffing by about 100 positions. We’re excited to continue our investment in the northern Nevada community and our people here.

The executive also confirmed that Panasonic has started upgrading its current equipment to produce a new battery cell with less cobalt:

That work is starting now and we’ve already started to convert current equipment to be able to make those batteries for us.

He refused to confirm, but the rumor is that the new battery cell results in a 5% bump in energy density that could increase to 20% in the coming years, and it is cheaper to produce.

Previous reports have stated that Panasonic is now investing $100 million in Tesla Gigafactory Nevada to make those changes.

More on this project could be announced at Tesla’s Battery Day coming up on September 22 as Tesla elaborates on its plan to secure battery supply long term.

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