The U.S. electric automaker recently revealed that in light of its plans to acquire SolarCity, it also plans to cooperate with Panasonic on making residential solar panels in New York state.
The move shows the two are laying the groundwork for offering sets of residential solar panels and storage batteries for homes, with an eye on the growing renewable energy market in the U.S.
Tesla and Panasonic will make the storage batteries at the Gigafactory, the US$5 billion plant being built in the U.S. state of Nevada to produce lithium-ion batteries for Tesla's cars. Panasonic's share of that investment could reach as high as US$1.6 billion.
The Gigafactory will begin serious production in November and reach full operation in 2020, when it will be able to make batteries with a total capacity of 35 gigawatt-hours each year -- enough to equip 500,000 cars.
Although the primary role of the Gigafactory is to make batteries for Tesla's Model 3 automobile, the two companies now also plan to use the facility to make residential storage batteries, starting sometime in or after 2017.
By doing so, they can boost the operating rate of the factory and recover their investment more quickly. The factory may also make commercial storage batteries.
Tesla entered the market for storage batteries in April 2015 and is already using a line at the unfinished Gigafactory to ship the products in small volumes. Its standard residential storage battery, which can hold 7 kilowatt-hours of electricity, costs US$3,000 excluding installation -- half that of rival products.
By teaming with Panasonic and leveraging the Japanese company's technologies, the goal is to develop products with greater storage capacity that can be manufactured more efficiently, to lower prices even further.
Tesla and Panasonic will cooperate to market these batteries in North America and may expand sales to other regions.
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