Budding Tesla-Panasonic Romance is Western New York's Gain

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
budding tesla panasonic romance is western new yorks gain

Sparks flew when Tesla teamed up with Panasonic to produce battery packs at the automaker’s Nevada Gigafactory. Of course, it helped that the Japanese battery maker brought $1.6 billion of its own money to the table.

After it tested the waters and liked what it saw, Tesla has now inked an agreement with Panasonic to bring jobs — hopefully long-lasting ones — to Buffalo, New York.

Both companies entered into a non-binding letter of intent yesterday, with the aim of producing solar cells and modules for SolarCity. Tesla has already signed a $2.6 billion deal to acquire the solar energy company, but shareholders have yet to give the deal the green light. The merger, and thus the new agreement, is due for a November 17 vote.

“Under this agreement…Tesla will use the cells and modules in a solar energy system that will work seamlessly with Powerwall and Powerpack, Tesla’s energy storage products,” the automaker stated in a blog post. “With the aid of installation, sales and financing capabilities from SolarCity, Tesla will bring an integrated sustainable energy solution to residential, commercial, and grid-scale customers.”

With shareholder consent, the two companies will push their beds together to make photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules at SolarCity’s South Park Avenue facility. Panasonic would provide the cells, while the merged Tesla-SolarCity entity would buy those components for the finished product. Production is scheduled to start next year.

According to The Buffalo News, the plant — billed as the largest solar panel factory in the Western Hemisphere — should employ 1,460 workers, with another 1,440 jobs created through suppliers and service contracts. While the jobs would be good news for Buffalo’s tax base, its residents have already ponied up a small sum for the plant’s creation. Solar City received $750 million in state tax dollars through the Buffalo Billion economic development initiative.

The two companies will show off a new product on October 28, The Buffalo News reports. A solar panel setup connected to a Powerwall 2.0 battery would give customers a way to wean themselves off the power grid.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk claims the two companies stand on solid financial ground. However, some investors weren’t pleased by news of the merger, saying SolarCity’s debt makes it a risky acquisition.

[Image: David Hamill/ Flickr ( CC BY-NC 2.0)]

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  • True_Blue True_Blue on Oct 18, 2016

    If this happens. There's been a rash of "maybes" - Bass Pro comes to mind - that sours my expectations. But, yes, it would be outstanding. The big FedEx expansion next to the Ford stamping plant, the data centers, and this would be a nice cherry on top.

  • Chuckrs Chuckrs on Oct 18, 2016

    City Journal (free online) has some background on the funding - the Buffalo Billion. Let's just say that it stinks to high heaven. US DA Preet Bharara will never run out of federal corruption investigations. The big fish are to be found in Albany and New York, not Buffalo. Buffalo has a history in technology so I don't think they will have a problem attracting talent as long as said talent really likes skiing and hockey. Bell Aircraft developed the X-1, Yeager's plane, as well as in many of the successors but is now only a memory. Textron Bell Helicopter has long since decamped to the warmer climes of Ft. Worth.

  • SCE to AUX Toyota the follower, as usual. It will be 5 years before such a vehicle is available.I can't think of anything innovative from them since the Gen 1 Prius. Even their mythical solid state battery remains vaporware.They look like pre-2009 General Motors. They could fall hard.
  • Chris P Bacon I've always liked the looks of the Clubman, especially the original model. But like a few others here, I've had the Countryman as a rental, and for the price point, I couldn't see spending my own money on one. Maybe with a stick it would be a little more fun, but that 3 cylinder engine just couldn't provide the kick I expected.
  • EBFlex Recall number 13 for the 2020 Explorer and the 2020 MKExplorer.
  • CEastwood Every time something like this is mentioned it almost never happens because the auto maker is afraid of it taking sales away from an existing model - the Tacoma in this instance . It's why VW never brought the Scirrocco and Polo stateside fearful of losing Golf sales .
  • Bca65698966 V6 Accord owner here. The VTEC crossover is definitely a thing, especially after I got a performance tune for the car. The loss of VTEC will probably result in a slower vehicle overall for one reason: power under the curve. While the peak horsepower may remain the same, the amount of horsepower and torque up to that peak may be less overall. The beauty of variable cam lift is not only the ability to gain more power at upper rpm’s on the “big cam”, but the ability to gain torque down low on the “small cam”. Low rpm torque gets the vehicle moving and then big horsepower at upper rpm’s gains speed. Having only one cam profile is now introducing a compromise versus the VTEC setup. I guess it’s possible that with direct injection they are able to keep the low rpm torque there (I’ve read that DI helps with low rpm torque) but I’m skeptical it will match a well tuned variable lift setup.
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