Tesla, Panasonic collaborate on EV batteries

The maker of electric cars plans to use Panasonic's nickel-based lithium ion cells for its battery packs.

Tesla's Roadster could soon be sporting a Panasonic battery. Tesla Motors

It seems that when Panasonic President Fumio Ohtsubo said in December that his company would invest $1 billion in green technologies for the home, he may already have had a deal in the works for the garage.

Panasonic will be collaborating with Tesla Motors to develop next-generation nickel-based lithium ion battery cells for electric vehicles, both companies announced Thursday.

"Combining Tesla's rigorous cell testing and understanding of EV requirements with Panasonic's cutting-edge battery technology will result in custom cells optimized for use in EVs," JB Straubel, Tesla's chief technology officer, said in a statement.

The deal should not be much of a surprise to those who follow these two companies.

While Panasonic is probably most famous for its TVs, the company is also a leading manufacturer of battery cells for electronics. In his December conversation with Bloomberg, Ohtsubo said that Panasonic planned to expand its interests in lithium ion batteries for cars, as well as solar panels, smart appliances, and home energy monitoring systems.

As for Tesla, it's long maintained that it would like to supply its battery packs to other automakers, and last January made a deal to provide Daimler with batteries for its Electric Smart EV.

Panasonic also announced Thursday that it's halfway through a 3-year project to overhaul its lithium-ion battery cell research and production facilities companywide, including a completely new plant scheduled to open in Suminoe, Japan, in April. The company said the entire overhaul represents about a $1 billion investment.

While Panasonic seems proud of its new turn into green tech, Tesla seems eager to assure existing partners they still have a place as the company expands. Tesla specifically announced that it will continue to source cells for its battery packs from multiple suppliers, and that the new Panasonic cell will be compatible with other cells and components.

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