Panasonic confirmed being a partner in Tesla’s battery factory early in the development of the project, but other than some estimates from Tesla, the electronic giant never committed to a dollar amount in investment until today.
Tesla made clear its plan to remain in control of the project and to contribute the majority of the estimated $4 billion to $5 billion investment required to build its massive battery factory. Panasonic confirmed today that it plans to invest between $1.5 billion and $1.6 billion in the Gigafactory.
Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga made the comment while talking with the WSJ at CES in Las Vegas. He added:
“We are sort of waiting on the demand from Tesla. If Tesla succeeds and the electric vehicle becomes mainstream, the world will be changed and we will have lots of opportunity to grow.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk had estimated that Panasonic’s contribution will be $1.5 billion to $2 billion. Even if Panasonic is only confirming an amount in the low-end of the estimate, it’s still a welcomed commitment from a major player in battery manufacturing.
It should definitely calm some notorious Tesla naysayers who often used the lack of official commitment from the company as a sign of “doom” for Tesla.
Panasonic recently announced its intention to invest 50 billion yen ($412 million) in China to build a lithium-ion battery factory expected to go online in 2017. Unlike the Gigafactory, which is expected to produce cylindrical battery cells, Panasonic’s new Chinese factory will produce rectangular-shaped batteries.
The Gigafactory will start producing cells later this year, but it already started producing battery packs for Tesla’s stationary energy storage products.
The factory is currently in the first of 8 development phases and it’s not expected to be complete until 2020. We learned late last year that Tesla’s Gigafactory will be nearly 40% larger than expected, but the company has yet to update the production output since the unveiling of the project. Considering Tesla both increased the planned floor space and said that the project is more “space efficient” than initially expected, it is fair to assume that the planned production output is now more than the initial 35 GWh of battery cells and 50 GWh of battery packs.
Tesla is not officially at CES this year, but Panasonic brought a Model S to its booth. Seth stopped by to take a few pictures: