Battery cell maker Panasonic says it will boost the energy density of the electric vehicle batteries it supplies to Tesla by 20 per cent over the next five years, and aims to deliver a cobalt-free battery by 2022-2023, Reuters reports.
Achieving greater battery density is important for the electric vehicle industry to reach price parity with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, as discussed in this article today: The road to EVs with lower sticker prices than petrol cars – battery costs explained
Also, the more energy that can be stored in a battery, the lighter the electric car will be, and therefore either more efficient or with longer range.
Panasonic was once Tesla’s exclusive battery supplier, but it is now in competition with LG Chem and CATL, who have both inked battery supply deals with the EV maker.
Panasonic has recently re-signed an agreement with Tesla that will lock in pricing until 2023, but the new announcement reveals the Japanese electronics giant is feeling the heat.
Revealed by the head of Panasonic’s EV division Yasuaki Takamoto, it is the first time the battery supplier has outlined targets for increasing energy density.
Reuters reported that in addition to boosting energy density, Panasonic says it will introduce a battery chemistry that does away with the use of cobalt.
Tesla’s impact statement release recently stated its “ultimate goal [is] to eliminate cobalt completely from our cells, and Chinese battery maker CATL is already supplying cobalt-free batteries to Tesla for its China-made Model 3.
As noted by Takamoto to Reuters, the lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) batteries that CATL supplies to Tesla have significantly less energy density than the NCA batteries Panasonic makes for Tesla.
Takamoto told Reuters that Panasonic has already trimmed cobalt in the NCA cathode of its 2170 cells by 5%, and that in September the company would start converting assembly lines at the Nevada factory.
The EV battery boss would not divulge any details about how its battery plans would play into Tesla’s future models.
Perhaps not coincidentally, this is the same month that has now been confirmed for Tesla’s highly anticipated Battery Day at which it is expected to reveal the secrets of a “million-mile battery” it has developed jointly with CATL.
Whether or not this day will also reveal news about Panasonic’s developments was not discussed by Reuter’s report.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.