There is no doubt that Elon Musk is a tech mastermind, considering his key presence behind projects such as Tesla, Neuralink, and Space-X. But with reports of Tesla having a secret battery lab where they are attempting to develop their own lithium-ion battery cells, might Musk be stretching himself a little too thin?
Tesla and the ‘Secret’ Battery Lab
According to an article relayed by CNBC, both past and present Tesla employees are stating that Tesla has a secret battery development lab located a few minutes from its Fremont factory. There employees are researching and building prototypes of new advanced lithium-ion batteries, as well as the equipment and production strategies that would be necessary to create them in high volumes.
In the past, Tesla did have a secure location in the Fremont factory which was devoted to such a project. So it sounds as though they may have just moved this office to another site.
Over the past month, Tesla has been posting job listings for engineers with experience in battery cell development. It seems logical that they would be recruited to work at this new location.
Tesla has pushed for years to improve its battery technology and reduce their reliance on outside companies; part of this push included the acquisition of Maxwell Technologies earlier this year. It seems only natural that Tesla would move towards manufacturing its own batteries.
Weakening Relationship with Panasonic
Problems continue to crop up with its Panasonic partnership. Back in April, Elon Musk blamed production delays on their battery supplier, making it sound as though they were not providing Tesla with batteries in a timely manner. He also implied that Tesla would be searching for alternative battery suppliers at its new Shanghai factory.
Panasonic froze plans to expand its investment in Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 around the same time. It has also suspended additional investment in Tesla’s Shanghai plant.
But even if Tesla begins manufacturing its own batteries, it is not likely that Tesla will completely cut ties with Panasonic or their other providers anytime soon. Unnamed Tesla employees reported that the automaker will most likely work with Panasonic and LG to provide electric battery cells to their Shanghai factory for the production of the Model 3 slated to start at the end of 2019.
Stretched Too Thin?
Some critics are skeptical of such a move, however, fearing that Musk simply has too much on his plate to be able to handle another big project like this. Then there is the fact that Q1 financial reports were simply dismal this year. With some predicting weak Tesla sales and Musk sending out emails demanding that employees cut costs, maybe right now is not the best time to be devoting more time, energy, and money into a new venture.