Toyota & Panasonic Establish Joint Venture Company to Build EV Batteries

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【Summary】The Toyota Motor Corporation and Panasonic announced a new joint venture to develop advanced automotive prismatic batteries for use in electric vehicles. The new joint venture aims to be operating by 2020.

FutureCar Staff    Jan 22, 2019 4:13 PM PT
Toyota & Panasonic Establish Joint Venture Company to Build EV Batteries
Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda and Panasonic Corp President Kazuhiro Tsuga in Tokyo, 2017. file: photo

The Toyota Motor Corporation and Panasonic announced a new joint venture to develop advanced automotive prismatic batteries for use in electric vehicles. Pending approval from regulators, the new joint venture aims to be operating by 2020.

Toyota will own a 51 percent majority stake in the new company and Panasonic will own the remaining 49 percent. Toyota and Panasonic plan to transfer 3,500 employees to the new company.

Panasonic is one of the world's biggest suppliers of EV batteries, along with South Korea-based Samsung, LG Chem and China's CATL.

According to a statement from both companies, the joint venture includes research, development, production engineering, manufacturing, procurement and management related to automotive prismatic lithium-ion batteries, solid-state batteries, and next-generation batteries to be used in future models.

Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi said: "Together with Panasonic, we want to hone our competitiveness in batteries, which represent one of the core technologies of electrified vehicles."

Toyota and Panasonic first announced an agreement to study the feasibility of a joint automotive prismatic battery business in Dec 2017. Over the past year, the two companies said they achieved in making high-capacity and high-output automotive prismatic batteries that lead the industry in terms of both performance and cost.

The joint venture aims to become the leader in battery-development and battery-manufacturing capabilities. Toyota and Panasonic intend to work together from the vehicle planning and conception stage, and promote the acceleration of high-capacity and high-output EV battery development.

Toyota said the joint venture with Panasonic will merge the strengths of each company.

Toyota is contributing its know-how in building electrified vehicles advanced technologies, as well as utilize Toyota's advanced manufacturing capabilities. Panasonic will contribute technologies related to the manufacturing of safe, high-capacity and high-output batteries and mass-production technologies.

Panasonic Senior Managing Executive Officer Masahisa Shibata said: "Uniting with Toyota's battery and production-engineering technologies provides us an excellent opportunity for being able to evolve our automotive prismatic batteries."


The 2019 Toyota Prius at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show

Toyota said is the technology developed by the joint venture will eventually be sold to various automakers, mainly by Panasonic.

The move to partner with a battery supplier is part of a broader effort by Toyota and other automakers to ensure they have a adequate supply of reliable EV batteries, as automakers transition to building battery-powered, zero-emissions electric vehicles that are more efficient. As vehicle electrification accelerates, having a reliable supply of EV batteries is crucial for global automakers like Toyota and others.

At the end of 2017, Toyota announced that it plans to reach global sales of more than 5.5 million units of electrified vehicles by 2030.

"It would be difficult for us to meet our 2030 goals given the current pace of battery development. That's why we're looking to Panasonic and other companies to help us develop ever-better cars and batteries." Toyota President Akio Toyoda said at a news conference announcing the joint venture.

Developing Higher Density EV Batteries

Numerous battery-related technologies are still being developed across the automotive industry to address issues of cost, including developing batteries with higher energy density and faster charging times. The goal is to be able to mass-produce these types of improved batteries, ensuring a steady supply for the auto industry.

In November 2018, Reuters reported that Germany has earmarked 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) to support a consortium looking to produce electric car battery cells and plans to fund a research facility to develop next-generation solid-state batteries. The move was designed to reduce the dependence of German automakers including Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen on Asian EV battery suppliers, such as Panasonic.

Prismatic vs Cylindrical Cell EV Batteries

Prismatic batteries are different from that batteries built in Tesla's Gigafactory in an exclusive partnership with Panasonic. In Telsa's electric vehicles, the battery pack is composed of cylindrical cell batteries, which are wound into a round cylinder and look similar to a standard flashlight battery. Tesla and Panasonic decided to use cylindrical cells for ease of manufacturing, optimal capacity and lower production costs.

Prismatic cells on the other hand are built by stacking thin layers of electrodes and separators and sealing them in a rectangular case. These types of batteries are typically found in cell phones and laptops.

In the statement from Toyota, Terashi said, "We have high expectations for the new company, including―as we aim to deliver ever-better electrified vehicles to even more customers―its role in fulfilling our plans for the popularization of electrified vehicles."

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