Panasonic’s upgraded electric car battery could launch in 2024 — paving way for cheaper models

Panasonic Holdings Corp. plans to roll out the newest iteration of its electric vehicle battery cells with improved capacity as early as this calendar year, the chief technology officer for EV batteries said.

A revamped version of its 2170 cells will begin production at its manufacturing plant in Nevada sometime during 2024 or 2025, CTO Shoichiro Watanabe said in an interview.

The Osaka-based electronics maker can deliver on its promise to quadruple production capacity by the 2030 fiscal year, according to Watanabe, and it doesn’t need to rely completely on building a new factory or heavy investments to do so.

Panasonic has been working to boost the energy density of the 2170 cell, Watanabe said, adding that it could help reduce the overall cost of an electric vehicle.

“We will expand battery capacity and improve productivity at the same time,” Watanabe said.

Panasonic set its sights on North America, with plans to improve and expand production there as part of its goal to one day provide 200-gigawatt hours of energy in electric vehicle batteries.

Panasonic is also developing another battery that’s thicker and more voluminous, called the 4680 cell.

Raising manufacturing capacity 10% by the 2025 fiscal year doesn’t necessarily require the addition of new production lines or further investment, according to Watanabe.

Decisions on the production timing of next-generation EV batteries at the Nevada plant, which is jointly operated with Tesla Inc., will be made “not unilaterally, but together,” he said.

Panasonic has invested heavily in the development of EV batteries to ensure it doesn’t fall behind in the global push to phase out fossil fuels and shift to clean, carbon-neutral energy sources.

Panasonic shares fell less than 1% in morning trading in Tokyo on Monday. The stock is mostly unchanged this year, after climbing 26% last year.

It’s currently building a battery plant in Kansas — its second in North America — and will reveal the location of a third by the end of this fiscal year ending March.

The company has pledged to raise its battery production capacity to 200 GWh by the 2030 fiscal year from its current limit of 50 GWh.

While Watanabe declined to comment on the future location of the forthcoming plant, he said running the new facility “will require thousands of employees.”

Panasonic said in December it had turned down almost $700 million in state incentives to build a manufacturing site in Oklahoma.

Earlier that month, Panasonic announced an agreement to buy nano-composite silicon anode material from Sila Nanotechnologies Inc..

The materials will be obtained from Sila’s facility in Washington state as Panasonic looks to strengthen its battery supply chain in North America.

“Decisions about where to position new facilities are extraordinarily complex and are based on a wide range of factors,” a Panasonic spokesperson said, adding that the decision won’t impact operations in Nevada or Kansas.

The Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act offers subsidies for battery cells made in the US, offering an advantage to global brands such as Panasonic, which forecasts an ¥85 billion ($587 million) bump in operating income during the fiscal year that ends March 2024.

Japan made its own move in 2022 to foster a domestic market by pledging to increase annual lithium-ion battery production capacity to 150 GWh by 2030.

Though Panasonic doesn’t make cars, it’s the country’s top battery maker and major supplier for Subaru Corp., Mazda Motor Corp. and Telsa.

On Japan’s efforts to raise domestic production, Watanabe said, “if possible, making them ourselves would be ideal.”

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Panasonic’s upgraded electric car battery could launch in 2024 — paving way for cheaper models