Tesla, the world’s leader in electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing, will extend its partnership with Panasonic by co-investing around JPY 10 billion in building a PV cell and module fab in Buffalo, New York state. The co-invested Buffalo fab, which is the second large collaboration between Tesla and Panasonic following the Gigafactory located in Nevada, is scheduled to start operating in 2017.
Tesla has announced to acquire SolarCity and merger the rooftop solar solution provider. Because Tesla also plans to expand its energy storage business, which include upgrade design and production volume of Powerwall and Powerpack, the company’s integrated energy solution structure will go more distinct. A Nikkei BP’s report said that Tesla and Panasonic will strengthen their collaboration in environment-related business through the Buffalo PV fab.
Tesla and Panasonic advanced Gigafactory’s mass production schedule from 2017 to November 2016 as a response to Tesla EVs’ selling number in the third quarter as well as the strong demand to Tesla’s new EV products. Gigafactory will produce lithium batteries for Tesla’s EVs.
It remains unspecific what kind of PV technology the new Buffalo fab will use, neither the production scale. Nikki explained that Tesla will supply SolarCity with PV modules manufactured by the Buffalo fab so that the installation costs could be reduced thanks to vertical integration.
In terms of the technology, it is possible that the Buffalo fab will, partially or completely, introduce heterojunction PV cell and module process. For one reason, Panasonic is the world’s leader in producing and applying its patented HIT® products. For the other, SolarCity once planned to build a 1GW heterojunction cell and module production line at the Buffalo fab, yet the plan has been suspended due to SolarCity’s business re-strategizing.
The new collaboration will be voted and officially determined in this November by Tesla’s shareholders.