Toyota, Panasonic Consider Tie-up On EV Batteries

Lance Harris December 13, 2017
Toyota, Panasonic Consider Tie-up On EV Batteries

Toyota Motor Corp. and Panasonic Corp., the world’s largest supplier of electric-car batteries, are exploring a joint business to develop power equipment for zero-emission vehicles as governments and the global automobile industry move to tackle pollution.

The two companies said on Wednesday they are considering jointly developing batteries for electric vehicles (EVs), a partnership that could help Panasonic extend its market lead in automotive lithium-ion batteries.

The goal is to make the best prismatic battery -- rectangular in shape as opposed to cylindrical -- and ultimately contribute to the popularization of Toyota’s electric cars and those of others.

The announcement builds on an existing agreement under which Panasonic manufactures batteries for Toyota's gasoline-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Toyota said last year it was planning to add fully electric vehicles to its product line-up in a shift away from its previous green-car strategy of focusing on plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles. It has said it plans to start marketing pure EVs in the early 2020s.

Toyota and Panasonic announced they would hold a joint press conference in Tokyo later today. The latter already supplies lithium-ion batteries for Toyota’s hybrid vehicles, such as the Prius, but has carved out a name for itself in the automotive battery industry as the major supplier to Tesla.

The Japanese automaker has been rushing to develop electric cars amid a boom this year, after initially betting on hydrogen to power the zero-emission vehicles of the future. The company launched a venture with Mazda Motor Corp. and affiliate-supplier Denso Corp. in September to fast-track development of EV parts for use across a spectrum of models. Toyota plans to introduce electric models by 2020 in China and India, where it's partnering with Suzuki Motor Corp.

Meanwhile, Panasonic sees batteries as central to its plan to nearly double automotive business revenue to 2.5 trillion yen ($22.05 billion) by the year through March 2022. To that end, it has been expanding battery production capacity globally.

For Panasonic, a partnership with a carmaker of Toyota’s scale would help cement its position as the leading producer of automotive batteries.

Panasonic shares were up 0.8 percent at the end of the morning session in Tokyo, while Toyota was up 0.6 percent, versus a 0.1 percent decline for the Topix benchmark.

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Lance Harris


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