Panasonic and Tesla finally agree to a battery partnership on US ‘gigafactory’ plant

Nikkei:
OSAKA — Panasonic has reached a basic agreement with Tesla Motors to participate in the Gigafactory, the huge battery plant that the American electric vehicle manufacturer plans to build in the U.S. Tesla aims to begin the first phase of construction this fiscal year. The plant would start making lithium-ion cells for Tesla cars in 2017. The automaker is shouldering the cost for the land and buildings.     Panasonic likely will invest 20 billion to 30 billion yen ($194-291 million) initially, taking responsibility for equipping the factory with the machinery to make the battery cells. An official announcement on the partnership will come by the end of this month.     Capacity at the Gigafactory will be added in stages to match demand, with the goal of producing enough battery cells in 2020 to equip 500,000 electric vehicles a year.     The total investment is expected to reach up to $5 billion, and Panasonic’s share could reach $1 billion.     The Japanese company owns a stake in Tesla and currently makes the batteries for Tesla cars. In a contract reworked in October 2013, the two agreed that Panasonic would supply Tesla with 2 billion battery cells between 2014 and 2017.
The partnership wasn’t ever a secret or really ever in doubt. Panasonic, I think, spent some extra time negotiating better terms. Both company’s stocks are spiking on the news.

Elon Musk says mass market Tesla car (Model 3) will have a ~48kWh battery, be 80% the size of the Model S

There is a lot of interesting info from a talk that Elon Musk gave at the CPUC last week. Of particular note, Musk gave some spec estimates for the mass market “Model E” vehicle expected to be released in 2017 with batteries coming from the Gigafactory. In the video above he says the car will have a 200 mile range and be 20% smaller than the Model S. Therefore the battery will need to have about 80% of the energy of the current Model S (Musk’s words). To be clear, since Tesla uses the constant sized 18650 cells (and looks to continue to do so) physical size and Watt-hours are fairly constant.

So given that a 60kWh Model S has a range of around 200 miles (EPA 208), that means that the Model E would need to have a battery around 80% the size of the Model S or 48kWh.

That’s still about double what leading ‘mass market’ electric cars have today. The Chevy Spark EV, with a range of 82 miles has a 21.3 kWh battery. The Nissan LEAF which has a 75 mile EPA range rating has a 24 kWh battery. The Chevy Volt has a 16kWh battery while the BMW i3 is 18.8.

Tesla cancelled its $49,000 40kWh battery Model S before it got an EPA estimate but most guesses were that it would get around 150 miles.  Add another 8kWh to the battery and take off 20% of the overall car size and 200 mile range seems doable.

Musk also mentions that besides the 20% drop in price, he expects economies of scale and other innovations to drop the price another 30% on the battery alone helping to get the Model E to around 50% the cost of the Model S at $35,000.

Below is a snippit of Musk talking about the upcoming battery swap: Read more

Panasonic and its partners to invest $1B in Tesla’s Battery Gigafactory, how does Tesla fund the rest?

You’ll recall that I picked Panasonic and Solar City to be among partners in Tesla’s upcoming Gigafactory announcement back in mid-January. I went on Bloomberg earlier this month to re-iterate those claims. Today, Panasonic got a little bit more official.

Reuters picks up a Nikkei report:

Panasonic Corp is inviting a number of Japanese materials suppliers to join it in investing in a U.S. car battery plant that it plans to build with Tesla Motors Inc, with investment expected to reach more than 100 billion yen ($979 million), the Nikkei reported.

The plant, expected to go on-stream in 2017, will bolster Panasonic’s supply of lithium-ion batteries to the U.S. electric-car maker.

Last week, Tesla shed some light on its plans for building a lithium-ion battery plant, or “giga factory,” that will cut battery costs and allow the company to launch a more affordable electric car in 2017. However, it said at the time that further details would be announced this week.

The U.S. plant, which will handle everything from processing raw materials to assembly, will produce small, lightweight batteries for Tesla and may also supply Toyota Motor Corp and other automakers, the Nikkei said.

Battery costs have been a major stumbling block to widespread electric car adoption in the United States, according to analysts. Tesla’s giga factory will lower costs by shifting material, cell, module and pack production to one spot.

In Tesla’s earnings conference call last week, Chief Executive Elon Musk said the electric car maker expects to build the factory with more than one partner, but a “default assumption” was that Panasonic, as a current battery cell partner, “would continue to partner with us in the giga factory.”

“The factory is really there to support the volume of the third generation car,” Musk said on the call. “We want to have the vehicle engineering and tooling come to fruition the same time as the giga factory. It is already part of one strategy, one combined effort.”

The pieces are starting to come together. The biggest question now is how Tesla funds the other $4B in costs. Will it issue more stock? Will it bring in some very rich partners like Apple? On that note we go to last week’s earnings call for more color on that: Read more

Tesla gets its name back in China as CEO Elon Musk expects it to become Model S’s biggest market

China is going to be big for Tesla according to CEO Elon Musk, who comes off a win in a Chinese court against a squatter who was trying to extort the automaker for its name. 

Tesla had resolved a trademark issue that had long prevented the company from using “Te Si La” – the Chinese name best known among Chinese consumers, which Tesla wanted to use in China. “We went to court and we won,” she said. “The court has given use right to use the name, which is why you see the Chinese name in our store now.” The name had been registered by a local businessman who had refused to give up the trademark. The U.S. company had started offering its popular Model S sedans in China, but with no Chinese language name.

We discussed the relatively low price earlier this week. Musk talked to Bloomberg on China:

Tesla’s billionaire co-founder and chief executive officer, will travel to China in late March to inaugurate the company’s entry there, he said in a phone interview.

For Tesla, “it could be as big as the U.S. market, maybe bigger. I don’t want to get overexcited about it,” Musk said yesterday. “Even without building there locally, it’s always going to be the second-biggest market after the U.S.”

After a rocky start ramping up Model S assembly in 2012, Palo Alto, California-based Tesla surprised analysts and investors this month when it said fourth-quarter deliveries were 20 percent above its target. Musk, 42, has pinned his goal of selling hundreds of thousands of electric autos annually to a global strategy in which China, Europe, Japan and other markets bolster its U.S. business.

If all goes well, Model S shipments to China can match U.S. sales by 2015, Musk said. “It’s not my firm prediction — it’s more like a low-fidelity guess.”

Expectations are high and Musk is certainly

You can now drive across the country or the whole Eastern Seaboard on the Tesla Supercharged highway

Screenshot 2014-01-17 12.05.33

Tesla updated the Supercharger map again this morning and it now appears that all of the major gaps on the east coast (Savannah,Georgia) and the biggest cross country (Macedonia, OH, Wyoming) have been filled and it is now theoretically possible to drive a Tesla from Vancouver BC to San Diego California to Boston Massachusetts down to Miami Florida. Theoretically…if you are very easy on the accelerator.

Tesla hasn’t officially announced the milestone yet because that 302 mile Wyoming-Colorado jump is probably too big to drive without some range extending mode happening. The imminent Cheyenne, WY station should cut this to 164 miles. Also the altitude climb here is significant.

The Newark, Delaware to Somerset PA is 224 miles and  Somerset PA to Macedonia Ohio length is 171 miles so driving to Wyoming from Boston is now pretty doable with a 85kWh Model S.

Tesla’s Q4 financial results, where they are also expected to announce the battery giga-factory would be a good time to mention the transcontinental super(charger)highway. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is going to ride across the country with his 5 kids in March so there’s still lots of time to fill those gaps.

Maps of the 3 biggest cross country and two biggest East Coast gaps, below (or if you want to map out future stations which close these gaps, check out the TeslaWiki): Read more

Panasonic and Solar City would be likely partners in Tesla’s US Battery ‘Giga-factory’

tesla-giga-factory-battery

Tesla CEO Elon Musk yesterday said that the company was partnering with other companies in building its battery Giga-factory, a plant that he said that is far larger than any other battery factory on earth. Why? If Tesla is going to go mas market with its Model E, it is going to need to get far more battery power than is available on earth right now.

Musk said they were looking for a US state where the factory was going to be built and would announce plans at next month’s Q4 earnings call. He also said Tesla would be partnering with ‘other companies’ on the plant.  Here’s why I think Tesla will partner with Solar City and Panasonic on the plant:

Read more

When a recall isn’t a recall. Tesla is replacing plug adapters on charging cables

TESLA-14-50-adapter-recall

Oh lordy. The press has gotten ahold of a lunker with its latest TESLA RECALL! meme. Unfortunately for the sensational, Tesla has already announced (last week) that it would be replacing the NEMA 14-50 adapters on its built-in charging cables (pictured above, circled). It also issued a software update that would step down charging if it had detected thermal resistance. Here’s the official letter (PDF).

It is the equivalent of Apple replacing its iPhone USB cable AC adapters.

All of this was in reaction to a garage fire that was likely caused by bad internal wiring (the investigation is still pending).

Today’s formal announcement says “recall” so the dimmer of us is running with that even though the facts on the ground are this:

  • No cars are being recalled or have to go anywhere.
  • Tesla will mail the $10 (guesstimate) adapter to customers
  • The press is not properly educated on electrical engineering concepts
  • Stock traders are. The “news” along with better than predicted production numbers has sent the stock upwards

TSLA share price drops on news it is sending out replacement car chargers that will protect shoddy wiring

fire_hazard-wiring-teslaI kid you not. Bloomberg:

The charger connectors, which tether Tesla-issued cables to wall outlets, will be mailed out in the next two weeks, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said in an interview today.

“These are very rare events, but occasionally the wiring isn’t done right,” Musk said. “We want people to have absolute comfort, so we’re going to be providing them with an upgraded adapter.”

Tesla fell 2.6 percent to $143.72 at 12:20 p.m.

Tesla also upgraded the Model S firmware last month to prevent cars from drawing too much power from inadequate wiring.

At first blush, you might be thinking (as I had) that this is silly. My house is wired properly so I shouldn’t ever have issues like the person in California whose garage caught on fire after a short in the wiring in November.

But what if you go to a vacation rental or visit the family/relatives for a weekend. Can you be sure that the electrician that did their wiring was competent?

Good on Tesla for covering this; ‘Short sighted’ on investors for seeing this as a sign of weakness and not strength.

Update: Press release follows: Read more

Tesla ends the year with 50 US superchargers and most of the East and West Coast covered

Screenshot 2013-12-31 18.09.16

What you are looking at above is the state of the Tesla Supercharger network on The last day of 2013/first day of 2014.  Tesla counts 50 Superchargers in the US (1 per state!) and another 14 in Europe. While Elon Musk originally planned to take his family on a Christmas holiday across the country, there are still some rather big holes to fill.

Those holes all fall in the “coming soon” category and if you take a look at this helpful 3rd party map, you can see a lot of the country is still being built.