Panasonic Invests $30 Million in Tesla

EV maker calls battery developers stake a powerful endorsement of our technology"

Tesla Motors has taken a $30-million common-stock investment from Panasonic Corp., the world’s largest manufacturer of rechargeable batteries, and the supplier of battery cells for Tesla’s luxury electric sports car. Cofounder and CEO of Tesla Elon Musk called the investment “a powerful endorsement of our technology.”

“Panasonic offers the highest energy-density cells and industry-leading performance with cutting-edge nickel-type cathode technology. We believe our partnership with them will enable us to further improve our battery pack while reducing cost,” according to Musk.

Panasonic develops and manufactures various electronic products for consumer, business, and industrial use. Naoto Noguchi, president of Panasonic’s battery cell subsidiary Electric Co., stated: “Panasonic aims to be the number one green innovation company in the electronics industry by 2018, the 100th anniversary of our founding. Our sophisticated lithium-ion battery cell technology, combined with Tesla’s market-leading EV powertrain technology, helps us fulfill this goal by promoting sustainable mobility. We are proud to strengthen our relationship with Tesla Motors.”

Earlier this year Panasonic and Tesla announced a joint research project to develop lithium-ion batteries to power electric cars. Panasonic supplies battery cells for the advanced battery packs used for the Tesla’s current model, the $109,000 Roadster, and it is collaborated with the automaker to develop a new battery cell technology designed specifically for electric vehicles.

Tesla’s current battery strategy incorporates proprietary packaging using cells from multiple battery suppliers, but it has selected Panasonic as its preferred lithium-ion battery cell supplier for its battery packs.

Tesla is retooling the former New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant in Fremont, Calif., as the site where it will produce its more affordable Model S electric sedan. It hopes to produce up to produce up to 500,000 cars/year there as soon as 2012.

The ownership share represented by Panasonic’s Tesla investment is not yet clear. Reports estimate it collected 1.42 million shares at the $21.15/share price announced by Tesla.

In June, another Tesla venture partner took a $50-million investment from Toyota. Also, Daimler Corp. invested $50 million in 2009.

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