Toyota and Panasonic look to form battery alliance

Toyota President Akio Toyoda (left) and Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga

Toyota and Panasonic announced on Wednesday their intention to study the feasibility of a battery joint venture.

In a statement, the companies said the joint venture is intended to address growing demand and expectations for vehicle electrification.

Toyota alone is targeting the sale of 4.5 million hybrid vehicles together with 1.0 million electric and fuel cell cars by 2030.

“It would be difficult for us to meet our 2030 goals given the current pace of battery development,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda said at the announcement. “That’s why we’re looking to Panasonic and other companies to help us develop ever-better cars and batteries.”

Toyota and Panasonic specifically mentioned prismatic cell batteries for electrified cars, suggesting the batteries will be used for hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Prismatic batteries have packaging and cost benefits compared to more conventional cylindrical cell designs. Toyota is also thought to be developing more advanced solid-state batteries for its first volume electric car due early next decade.

Note, the proposed joint venture would also supply batteries to other firms, something Panasonic already does. For instance, Panasonic provided $1.6 billion toward the cost of Tesla’s Gigafactory battery plant in Nevada, along with the machinery used to produce the lithium-ion cells that go into the battery packs Tesla uses for its cars and energy storage systems.

Toyota in August said it would work with Mazda on electric cars. And in September, the two automakers together with Japanese supplier Denso formed a joint venture to develop technology for a range of electric vehicles including cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles.

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The alliances reflect a trend of automakers and suppliers working more closely together to reduce research, development and manufacturing costs, not only in the area of electrification but also self-driving systems.

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