Panasonic exec talks about developing new 4680 battery cells for Tesla
Tesla showed off its new 4680 cell—a tabless battery cell with a new chemistry that promises to boost efficiency and reduce costs—at 2020’s Battery Day, and Panasonic and other battery suppliers have been working to develop the new cells since then.
Above: A look at a Tesla Model S at Panasonic's offices (Source: Industry Week)
Panasonic plans to begin full-scale production of the 4680s in Japan in 2023. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Kazuo Tadanobu, CEO of Panasonic’s Energy Division, offered some details about the innovative cells.
Tadanobu stressed the difficulty of developing the new cells, which he said has “taken an immense amount of stamina” over the past months. Changing the format of the cell took “considerable nerve,” Tadanobu said, adding that “we didn’t know how they would be received.”
Tesla has now declared Panasonic’s new cells to be viable, and certified that they meet the required level of performance. Panasonic is setting up a prototype production line in Japan, and will start mass production in the fiscal year starting April 2023. The company plans to establish two additional production lines at its Wakayama factory in western Japan.
Japanese broadcaster NHK recently reported that the company is considering the construction of a new factory in the US to supply Tesla with cells. However, Tadanobu told Bloomberg that nothing has been decided yet. Locations for possible new plants will be considered based on partnerships and the economics of certain areas, he said, adding that for now Panasonic is focused on building a “solid foundation” for future 4680 production at Wakayama.
The larger volume of the 4680 cell could reduce pack-level costs for a given capacity, but its size also makes it more susceptible to particle contamination, which can cause battery fires.
Tadanobu says Panasonic’s attention to safety will help it maintain a competitive edge, even once Tesla, and possibly other battery-makers, begin producing 4680 cells. Panasonic’s ability to “use craftsmanship to maintain safety even while raising the performance of a battery” gives it an advantage, he said, adding that Panasonic has led development of the cells, and doesn’t want to lose its status as the top producer.
Tadanobu told Bloomberg that the new cells have the potential to change the world of transport. They will have a “considerable impact” in helping reduce the cost of EVs. “Electrifying vehicles is the most impactful revolution that’s happening within our society.”