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Tesla and Panasonic to end joint solar cell production in New York

PingWest, Feb. 26, Nikkei reported that Tesla and Panasonic are dropping their partnership in solar cell production after years of working together to operate Gigafactory 2 in upstate New York.

Previously, the two companies planned to continue working together to develop car batteries for Tesla’s electric vehicles, a relationship that was once seen as a key factor in Panasonic’s turnaround.

Tesla and Panasonic announced a solar cell joint venture in 2016. The Japanese company covered some of the equipment costs for Buffalo’s Gigafactory 2, which began producing the core components of solar panels in 2017. Solar cells made by Panasonic should also be used in Tesla’s solar panels.

The Tesla product is called the “Solar Roof,” and its appearance resembles a regular black roof tile. According to the report, Panasonic-made batteries still cannot achieve this appearance while maintaining efficiency and cost.

The latest version of the Solar Roof, launched last fall, uses Chinese batteries. Meanwhile, Panasonic has been selling the batteries it makes at its Gigafactory to homebuilders and other customers in Japan.

Because Tesla receives local subsidies to build the factory, Tesla needs to keep the factory open regardless of changes in production plans. But both companies believe that solar cell production there is unlikely to increase, and that they no longer need to continue joint production. Tesla will likely announce the new use for Gigafactory 2 at an investor meeting in the U.S. in April.

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