Panasonic scored the jackpot this week with Tesla Motors' announcement that the electronics giant will be the automaker's sole supplier of electric vehicle battery packs. As part of the partnership, Tesla and Panasonic will also work together on developing cheap and efficient lithium-ion batteries—a venture that has the potential to benefit the entire EV industry.
Previously, Tesla relied on batteries from a number of different companies. By using a single supplier, it will be easier for the startup to test different battery pack architectures to figure out which ones make the most sense for different vehicles. In return, Panasonic gets the benefit of having its name attached to a sexy auto company.
The deal also shows the electronics maker's commitment to getting in the energy storage game. Panasonic recently took a majority stake in Sanyo, the world's biggest lithium-ion battery manufacturer. And in addition to its investment in Sanyo, Panasonic started selling home fuel cells in Japan last year. The company has another partnership with Toyota Motor called Panasonic EV Energy, and Panasonic also sells its own lithium-ion batteries. By 2011, the company hopes to have a lithium-ion fuel cell that can power an entire house. In other words, we can expect to see a lot more of Panasonic in the clean tech market. Presumably, other electronics manufacturers will also get in on the growing energy storage business in the coming years. Watch this space.