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Tesla and Panasonic team up to mass-produce solar cells

US car manufacturer Tesla has announced plans to work with Japanese electronics giant Panasonic on manufacturing and producing solar panels.

In a blog post, Tesla said that the companies have signed a non-binding letter of intent to begin collaborating on the production of photovoltaic cells and modules at Panasonic's facility in Buffalo, New York. 

But the deal will require shareholder approval of Tesla's planned acquisition of California-based solar panel company SolarCity.

Tesla first proposed to buy SolarCity, which is run by cousins of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, in August in a bid to create what has been described as “the world’s first integrated sustainable energy company”.

Tesla said the cells and modules would be used with its energy-storage products.

“The parties intend for Panasonic to begin PV cell and module production at the Buffalo facility in 2017. Tesla intends to provide a long-term purchase commitment for those cells from Panasonic,” reads the blog post.

“The collaboration extends the established relationship between Tesla and Panasonic, which includes the production of electric vehicle and grid storage battery cells at Tesla’s Gigafactory.”

Tesla’s Gigafactory (pictured above) is a lithium-ion battery production facility that is currently under construction and represents an ambitious project even for Musk.

Once completed, it will be the world's second-largest building by usable space and is covered in acres of solar panels that will generate much of the energy used by the plant. Some estimates suggest the facility could even produce 20 per cent more electricity than it needs to operate.

Musk said SolarCity's installation network and Tesla's global energy storage could provide customers with a one-stop shop for sustainable energy and transportation.

Shareholders are due to vote on the acquisition on 17 November.

Meanwhile, German authorities have asked Tesla to drop its ‘Autopilot’ brand name, which is given to the driverless system installed in its Model S vehicles.

Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority said the name was misleading to customers given its limited capabilities.

One of the company’s vehicles suffered a crash while driving on Autopilot earlier this year, leading to former partner Mobileye, which develops collision avoidance systems, splitting from Tesla citing its lack of concern for driver safety. 

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