Tom Gebhardt, CEO of Panasonic Corp. of North America, said his company is prepared to add a lot more battery production capacity worldwide as electric vehicle demand increases.
The question will be where.
EV batteries are complex to make and delicate to deliver. So far, the industry's batteries are being produced in plants dedicated to nearby customers. Panasonic is Tesla's partner in the world's largest automotive lithium ion battery plant: the $5 billion gigafactory near Reno, Nev., 260 miles from Tesla's assembly plant in Fremont, Calif.
But the EV market is heating up as automakers roll out plans for multiple new vehicles. The question facing battery producers will be how many more plants will have to be built around North America — not just for the added capacity, but to continue minimizing their delicate logistics. Special Correspondent Jim Henry interviewed Gebhardt last month about the new world of battery plants.
Q: The gigafactory is building batteries for Tesla in Nevada. Will Panasonic have to build another gigafactory as more automakers introduce electric vehicles, or will the company use smaller battery plants closer to each customer?
A: We are adding battery factories. And the gigafactory is still evolving. It continues to build out. And we also have expanded facilities in Japan.
But you can see that, in a global vehicle market of 85 million units-plus, the growth of electric vehicles as a percentage of that total means you're going to have to size to that much battery capacity.