During the recent conference call with analysts for Tesla’s first quarter 2016, co-founder and CTO JB Straubel said that we shouldn’t focus too much on Tesla’s previously stated goal of 35 GWh of battery cell production at the Gigafactory, and 50 GWh of battery pack output.
Straubel said that Tesla was prepared to adjust the battery factory output according to the higher than anticipated demand for the Model 3 after the company received over 373,000 pre-orders. Tesla’s battery output at the factory depends significantly on Panasonic and now the Japanese battery maker says that it would move up its investment schedule if asked by Tesla.
Yoshio Ito, Panasonic’s head of automotive and industrial systems (AIS) division, said earlier on Friday (via Reuters):
“We will do our best to move up the schedule if requested,”
Earlier this year, Panasonic confirmed that it plans to invest $1.6 billion in the Gigafactory. Tesla stated that the total investment required for the plant to reach full production by 2020 would be between $4 billion and $5 billion, the majority of which will come from the automaker.
As of the end of last year, Panasonic had invested $64 million at the plant, but in the last quarter alone (Q1 2016), the company doubled its investment in the Tesla Gigafactory to $128 million.
Panasonic;s responsibilities at the plant mainly revolve around cell manufacturing workers and the necessary equipment. The building itself is Tesla’s responsibility:
The factory is still under construction and currently only the first phase is up with an 800,000-square-foot footprint and 1.9 million square feet of space. Once completed, the Gigafactory is expected to have a total operational space of about 13 million square feet, which should result in the building with the biggest footprint on earth.
The company moved the Tesla Energy production line from its Fremont factory to the ‘Gigafactory 1‘ project in Nevada last October. Tesla has since been ramping up for volume production which reportedly started earlier this year and evidenced by a recent leak from inside the plant. Consequently, we recently started seeing more energy storage projects being installed with Tesla Energy products – both for the Powerwall and the Powerpack.
Now Tesla and Panasonic plan to start battery cell production at the Gigafactory later this year. It would explain Panasonic’s recent investment ramp up, which could even accelerate due to Tesla’s planned production ramp up for the Model 3, as per Ito’s comment today.