Tesla Motors has been working closely with Panasonic Corporation to source lithium-ion cells for electric vehicle battery modules. Yesterday, the two companies extended and expanded that agreement.
After all, as with all complex assemblies, without the Panasonic 18650, there would be no Tesla Model S. Each Tesla Model S 85kWh uses about 7,000 individual cells, mounted in 16 modules in the underbelly of the vehicle. As of October 23rd, nearly 27,000 VIN [Vehicle Identification Numbers] have been released for buyers who have ordered their Tesla Model S. If all of these were 85kWh versions, this could mean that some 182 million Panasonic 18650 cells have been installed, or at least allocated for installation, into Tesla Model S [This doesn't include all the cells that were installed in the Tesla Roadster during its production run].
In a press release, yesterday, Tesla Motors announced that it was extending and expanding its contract with Panasonic Corporation to provide the 18650 for the next four years. Extending is good, but the expansion numbers are breathtaking, and could shed some light on where Tesla Motors is heading with its production and future models. First, knowing that the Tesla Model S uses around 7,000 cells per vehicle, we can guess how many vehicles Tesla Motors plans on producing with two billion Panasonic 18650 cells. I figure at least 278,000 vehicles over the next four years of the contract.
Considering that Tesla Motors is making about 20,000 vehicles per year, that’s about 14 years’ worth, so the only logical assumption is that Tesla Motors is going ramp up production in a big way. The Tesla Model X is coming in early 2014, and Elon Musk has been hinting at a smaller mass-market vehicle. Tesla Motors’ expanding its Panasonic 18650 supply could only point to mass-production. Of course, the mass-market vehicle isn’t going to use 7,000 cells, so the number could easily top 500,000 vehicles over the next four years of the agreement.
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