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.
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:
Adam Jonas – Morgan Stanley, Research Division
Elon, the stock price and the results have been obviously performing very well lately. You’ve got some great investment opportunities and some growth opportunities ahead of you, not only in the auto business but also in the non-auto business and the battery business. So I’m just wondering, how are you thinking about being opportunistic and pulling in some fresh capital to help derisk the plan, plan for a force majeure, or to see some of these opportunities that you have.
Elon R. Musk – Co-Founder, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Product Architect
Yes, I think that’s a good idea. I agree with that. I think that would be the smart move. We can talk more about that next week with — and also discuss the Gigafactory plans. Unfortunately, I can’t say anything [indiscernible] right now, except that I agree. I think your advice is good.
Adam Jonas Okay. And I don’t want to follow up [ph] or anything, but as a follow-up to that, I guess, is a — would a capital raising be a prerequisite to launch the Gigafactory? Or is that an understatement?
Elon R. Musk I think it’s necessary to have it occur in 3 years. It’s not necessary if we allow that time frame to expand.
Andrea James – Dougherty & Company LLC, Research DivisionRegarding the Gigafactory, are you guys prepared to say you’ve secured a partner yet? And can you give us a sense of what you mean by, you said, “major reduction in pack cost?”
Elon R. Musk – Co-Founder, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Product ArchitectWell, we actually expect that there’d be more than 1 partner in the factory. I mean, obviously, Panasonic is currently our primary partner on cell production, and so the default assumption will be that Panasonic would continue to partner with us in the Gigafactory. But there are also likely to be other suppliers in the factory that provide the pre-cost [ph] materials to the cell, so the anode and cathode materials, separator, electrolyte, that kind of thing. And so — but I don’t want to talk too much about Gigafactory because we’re going to talk about that next week, and there’s a lot of stuff to talk about besides that in this earnings release. Yes, so I think we’ll have to just punt that answer detail to next week.
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