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Lux Research: Panasonic battery division back to profitability and expanding due to Tesla Model S

Panasonic’s lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery division is resurgent, largely due to the shipments of Tesla Motors’ Model S, notes Lux Research. In Q2 2013, Panasonic’s battery division made about $40 million in profits, a turnaround from one year before, when it lost $20 million in Q2 2012. As a result of its automotive results, Panasonic will invest $200 million over the next year to expand its Li-ion production lines in Osaka and Kasai, making batteries destined for automotive applications.

Battery cell sales for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and EVs. Click to enlarge.

Panasonic’s improved Li-ion fortunes coincide with its customer Tesla’s sales of the Model S and its battery packs ranging from 60 kWh to 85 kWh. About 16,000 Model S units have been sold thus far, accounting for more than $400 million in revenues for Panasonic.

Panasonic’s market share by capacity sold has increased to 54% during the last year, overtaking LG Chem and Nissan’s AESC in the process, Lux notes. This breakthrough has been four years in the making and involved Panasonic investing $30 million in Tesla in 2010.

Tesla now drives more of Panasonic’s battery revenues in the US than the world’s largest automakers including Toyota and Volkswagen, Lux says. 20,000 Tesla Model S units use three times more battery capacity than the US sales of Toyota’s popular Prius hybrid family (which moved about 230,000 units during the past year).

Tesla’s battery demand now outweighs all other OEMs in the US, with 49% of the market share for battery capacity shipped in the US plug-in and hybrid market in Q2 2013.

Although Samsung SDI, BYD, and LG Chem are reportedly in talks with Tesla, they may have to wait for the next model. Mixing cells from different suppliers could be difficult, Lux notes, due to battery management system considerations, and because the Panasonic-Tesla contract stipulates supplying 80,000 vehicles by 2015.


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