Editor’s Pick: Did Tesla overpromise explain need cells from Samsung for 100MW SA project?

Published on: October 12, 2017 9:58 amBy: Jade Beevor


Energy storage system maker Tesla has confirmed it will use cells from South Korean firm Samsung SDI rather than its long term Japanese partner Panasonic to ensure it meets its promise to build a 100MW/129MWh project in South Australia within 100 days.

The news was broken by Japanese newspaper Nikkei in a report on September 30, which stated ‘Tesla turned to the South Korean company since it could swiftly supply the cells’. The implication being that Panasonic, which is currently making cells at Tesla’s Nevada plant, would not be able to meet the demand for the project.

A Tesla spokesman confirmed to ESJB that although Panasonic was their main battery production partner, they also source cells from other suppliers.

Nikkei reported the cells would be shipped from South Korea to Nevada for final assembly in powerpacks before being shipped back across the Pacific to Australia, although the spokesman did not confirm this when ESJB put the question to them.

Instead, in typically guarded answers, including staying quiet on why Tesla had had to turn to Samsung to supply batteries for the South Australian project, the spokesman replied: “This is the extent to what we are sharing on the South Australia battery. These Powerpacks were manufactured at the gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, in the US using cells produced by Samsung.”

The move indicates Tesla has some way to go to meet the boast of its CEO Elon Musk, who, referring to the gigafactory, told the company’s annual shareholder meeting on June 6 that: “Within a few years it will have the capacity equal to all other lithium-ion battery factories in the world combined in one building.

“Out of everyone, the US, China and Europe and everywhere else. This factory will output more than all of them combined.”

The green light for the SA project, which will be the biggest of its type once completed, was made in July following a series of Tweets by Musk that he could deliver the project in 100 days or waive all costs.

Tesla won a competitive bidding process from a list of 90 bidders to provide the system, which will be paired with French renewable energy provider Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm near Jamestown, South Australia.

In January Panasonic confirmed that it had officially started making cells at tesla’s Nevada plant, although at the time Panasonic’s North American CEO Joseph Taylor said the batteries would go to battery farms and then for use in the Tesla 3 car.

The Japanese firm has been working with Tesla as far back as 2014 when it formed Panasonic Energy Corporation of North America to produce cells for the firm. In 2015 Panasonic sent employees to the US to prepare the gigafactory.

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