According to a report today from CNBC, Tesla is working on research and development of battery cells in a lab near its manufacturing facility in Fremont, Calif. Five anonymous current and former employees said the R&D is focused on “designing and prototyping advanced lithium-ion battery cells,” as well as systems that could help the company produce cells at high volume.
Currently, Tesla has a partnership with Panasonic to make the battery cells it uses in its cars and stationary batteries. That relationship extends out to Tesla’s Buffalo, NY-based solar panel factory, which Tesla also co-owns with Panasonic. But recently, the fraternity between the two companies seems to be wearing thin.
In September of last year, a Panasonic executive said that the bottleneck for Model 3 production had been the speed at which Panasonic could manufacture battery cells. In October 2018, Panasonic reported that it lost $65 million to the part of its business that makes battery cells for Tesla’s vehicles. In April 2019, the Nikkei Asian Review reported that Panasonic would not make additional investments into Tesla’s Gigafactory beyond what it had already committed to. Tesla’s recent purchase of Maxwell Technologies, which makes automotive- and utility-grade battery components, may also have driven a wedge between the companies.