Panasonic is one of the leading battery suppliers for the world’s leading electric vehicle manufacturer, Tesla. For the first time, the Japanese group has just unveiled its objectives in order to remain ahead in this highly competitive sector.
In 2017, Panasonic introduced lithium-ion cells “2170” to Model 3. According to experts in this field, this battery already offers the highest energy intensity with more than 700 watt-hours per litre.
The plan for Panasonic is to further increase this density in order to offer even higher capacity on a single charge, and above all to provide smaller batteries to allow more room to be used inside the car.
Tesla doesn’t want cobalt anymore.
At the same time, one of the goals of Tesla and its CEO is to reduce cobalt consumption.
This extremely expensive component poses major ethical problems in the Democratic Republic of Congo (the main producer), where working conditions can be inhumane. Cobalt mines are infamous for being linked to child labour.
Panasonic has already reduced the cobalt level to less than 5%, and plans to gradually improve, said Yasuaki Takamoto, the firm’s U.S.
representative. However, this does not seem to be enough, since Panasonic is no longer the exclusive supplier of Tesla, which has decided to partner in parallel with the South Korean company LG Chem and the Chinese company CATL.
CATL which is able to supply Tesla with cheap lithium-phosphate iron batteries, without any trace of cobalt.
Yasuaki Takamoto defends himself by explaining that these lithium-phosphate iron batteries (LFP) offer an average density less than half that of the last batteries containing less than 5% cobalt proposed by Panasonic.
The Japanese firm continues to develop ever more compact and dense batteries using less cobalt. Takamoto tells reuters that Panasonic adjusts the composition and design for better thermal stability.