Panasonic plans to increase the specific energy density of its 2170 batteries, which it supplies to American carmaker Tesla Inc, by 20% in five years and commercialize a cobalt-free version of batteries, the head of the US battery business unit told Reuters. Yasuaki Takamoto.
Panasonic introduced "2170" lithium-ion cells with Nickel-Cobalt-Aluminum (NCA) cathode chemistry for the Tesla Model 3 in 2017. Researchers say it already has the highest energy density at over 700 Wh per liter.
With even higher densities, these elements can help extend the runtime of a car's electric motor on a single charge, as well as pave the way for smaller batteries and more spacious EVs.
A cobalt-free version, on the other hand, would reduce dependence on the expensive metal, which makes batteries stable, but poses ethical concerns given the inhuman working conditions at the leading manufacturer in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has long stated that he wants to switch to cobalt-zero batteries.
Panasonic recently lost its status as the exclusive supplier of Tesla batteries. The American firm has partnered with South Korean LG Chem and China's CATL, which supplies low-cost, cobalt-free lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries.
According to Takamoto, the average cell density of LFP batteries is less than half that of the latest Panasonic NCA batteries. He emphasized that Panasonic has already developed technologies, as a result of which the specific charge density of the 2170 cells has increased by more than 5%.
From September, the company will begin converting lines at its Nevada plant where it works with Tesla and is preparing to further increase the cell's energy density, Takamoto said.
To control the safety risks associated with higher density and lower cobalt content, Panasonic is adjusting the composition and design for better heat resistance, he said.
Elon Musk promised to demonstrate significant success in battery performance during the presentation of "Battery Day", scheduled for September 22. Tesla reportedly plans to unveil an electric vehicle battery that will deliver one million miles on a single charge this year or early next.