Panasonic’s lithium-ion battery division is seeing a dramatic turnaround, mostly thanks to healthy sales of Tesla’s Model S, according to Lux Research. In the second quarter of 2013, the Li-ion division made about $40 million in profits, compared to a loss of $20 million in Q2 2012. Panasonic plans to invest $200 million over the next year to expand its automotive battery production lines in Osaka and Kasai.
The company’s better battery business coincides with its customer Tesla Motors beginning to ship the Model S, which uses a whopping 60 kWh to 85 kWh worth of batteries. Tesla has delivered 16,000 Model S to customers, and over $400 million in revenues to Panasonic. The Japanese giant has become the leading battery supplier for plug-ins in the US, with a 54% market share. Panasonic’s contract with Tesla calls for it to supply 80,000 vehicles by 2015.
All that lithium represents a gold mine for Panasonic, but a challenge for Tesla, which is busily working to diversify its battery supply. Elon Musk told CNBC recently that a “truly gargantuan battery factory of mind-boggling size” is going to be needed when the company’s planned mass-market vehicle goes into production in a couple of years.