Panasonic Stake Adds Promise to Tesla

Tesla Motors has announced that Panasonic bought a $30 million stake in the company. The stake gives Tesla promising access to new battery technology–crucial for reducing electric vehicle costs–as well as another prominent backer (current investors include Daimler and Toyota). Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports:

The investment expands on a battery collaboration the companies announced this year, Tesla said in statement.

The move is “a powerful endorsement of our technology,” Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive officer, said in the statement. “We believe our partnership with them will enable us to further improve our battery pack while reducing cost.”

Tesla, maker of the $109,000 electric Roadster sports car, has a set a goal of becoming the auto industry’s leader in battery-powered cars, aided by supply agreements with Toyota and Daimler. The Palo Alto, California-based company is revamping a former Toyota joint-venture factory in the state that is to begin making its $57,400 Model S in 2012.

Panasonic and Tesla in January agreed to jointly develop next-generation lithium-ion batteries for electric cars.

The faster Tesla can optimize its battery and electric powertrain technology, the faster it can sell both affordable, mainstream EVs and scale up component sales to partners. No wonder Tesla’s stock jumped 10% after the Panasonic announcement hit the media waves.