Panasonic is sending samples of new EV batteries to Tesla ahead of the production ramp-up.

Panasonic said mass production of the new battery is expected to begin in its new fiscal year, starting next March, at its plant in Wakayama, Japan, before production is moved to North America.

“A pilot line, created for the first time in Japan, started the production of large-scale prototypes in May,” said Kazuo Tadanobu, CEO of Panasonic’s energy business, which manufactures automotive and industrial batteries, during the meeting. the first day of the company’s annual investor event.

His remarks at the presentation were the clearest indication Panasonic has given so far that it will build a new factory in the US to power Tesla’s EV expansion plans. The Japanese conglomerate is studying potential factory sites in Kansas and Oklahoma that would supply the Tesla factory in Texas, two people with knowledge of the project said.

The Japanese company already has a factory in Nevada that supplies smaller Tesla batteries. Generating capacity there has recently been increased to 39 gigawatt hours (GWh).

Tesla Inc is currently Panasonic’s only customer for the new cells, which are about five times larger than those the company currently supplies. They should help Tesla reduce production costs and improve the autonomy of its vehicles.

Panasonic expects sales of power units, which currently represent a small portion of overall revenue, to grow 10% in fiscal 2023. However, it expects operating profit to contract further. by a fifth, as it injects money into the expanding business and has to deal with rising material costs.

Panasonic CEO Yuki Kusumi warned in April that rising metal prices, especially nickel and copper, accelerated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, were having a “significant” impact and that he would pass on some of these costs to its customers.

The company said last month that it expected no profit growth for this fiscal year.

In presentations made to investors by other business units, executives of its automotive business, which makes sensors, car consoles and other auto parts, said they expect auto production to pick up. worldwide during this fiscal year.

They also predicted that a shortage of semiconductors caused by supply chain disruptions related to COVID-19 would persist.

“We will manage our business taking into account the risks of fluctuations in vehicle production,” said Masashi Nagayasu, CEO of Panasonic Automotive.

Panasonic, which derives around 14% of its total revenue from the automotive unit, expects sales from the automotive business to grow 19% in the year to March 2023.

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