Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Tesla's Longtime Battery Technology Director Leaves Company

Kurt Kelty was lead negotiator with Panasonic on gigafactory; Exit comes at critical time, as carmaker launching new Model 3.


By Dana Hull
Bloomberg
August 2, 2017

Tesla Inc.’s director of battery technology has left the company, the latest in a raft of management departures from the automaker introducing its new Model 3 electric car.

Kurt Kelty, who joined Tesla in 2006, was one of the longest-serving executives at the automaker led by Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk. He previously worked more than 14 years at Panasonic Corp., Tesla’s partner on the battery gigafactory near Reno, Nevada. Kelty led negotiations with Panasonic on that plant, according to his LinkedIn profile.

“We can confirm that Kurt Kelty has left the company to explore new opportunities and we want to thank him for everything he’s done for Tesla,” the company said in an emailed statement Tuesday, noting that his responsibilities will be “distributed among Tesla’s existing teams.”

Kelty couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

News of Kelty’s exit comes at a critical juncture for Tesla, which turned over the first batch of Model 3 vehicles to employees Friday night. Tesla began producing the more affordable electric car last month and aims to make 20,000 a month by December, a challenging ramp-up plan that Musk described to employees as “production hell.”

Tesla’s more than 22,000 deliveries of Model S sedans and Model X sport utility vehicles in the second quarter were slowed by a temporary shortage of 100 kWh battery packs. The company said last month the packs were being made using new technology and production lines.

Tesla and Kelty’s previous employer Panasonic have had a close partnership, with the two in a supply agreement for 1.8 billion battery cells through 2017 for the Model S and Model X. For the Model 3, the companies jointly developed new, slightly larger cylindrical battery cells than those used in Tesla’s existing models.

Chief Financial Officer Jason Wheeler, a former Google executive, left the company earlier this year. Tesla reports second quarter earnings on Wednesday after the market closes.


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