Toyota and Panasonic’s New EV Battery Joint Venture
On January 22, Toyota Motor Corporation (hereafter, “Toyota”) and Panasonic announced that they will be establishing by the year 2020 a new joint venture aimed at accelerating the diffusion of electric vehicles (EV). The venture will focus on the development and manufacturing of EV on-board batteries.
Details of the venture are as follows:
- Equity participation will be split 51% for Toyota and 49% for Panasonic.
- The scope of the joint venture’s business operations will cover research, development, production engineering, manufacturing, procurement, order receipt, and management related to automotive prismatic lithium-ion batteries, solid-state batteries, and next-generation batteries.
- Toyota will transfer equipment and personnel to the joint venture in the areas of development and production engineering related to battery cells. Panasonic will transfer equipment, other assets, liabilities, personnel, and other items to the joint venture in the areas of development, production engineering, manufacturing (at plants in Japan and in Dalian, China), procurement, order receipt, and management functions related to the automotive prismatic battery business. (*Excepted from the official press release.)
How Existing Battery Technology is Holding the EV Market Back
In order to combat global climate change, the depletion of natural resources and the energy crisis, automobile manufacturers around the world are increasingly devoting their efforts to building cars that do not rely on gasoline alone. In July 2018, the Japanese government announced an initiative to replace all cars in Japan with electric or hybrid vehicles by the year 2050.
However, as of 2017, EVs in Japan remains a mere 0.1% of all vehicles. One major reason for this lack of diffusion can be traced to the batteries that power them. Charging an EV takes multiple hours, and the cruising distance that a vehicle can cover on a single charge is limited. Furthermore, if the battery runs low midway through the journey, charging stations are few and far between.
Developing new battery technology requires considerable investment and manpower, and it has reached the point where automobile manufacturers and battery manufacturers can no longer resolve the issues they face on their own.
Panasonic’s Technology Offers a Solution
Facing these challenges, Toyota decided to reach out to Panasonic, a company with considerable knowledge and expertise in the battery field. According to an announcement, the two companies first struck an agreement in 2017 to explore the possibility of collaborating with the production of lithium-ion batteries. From there, the two companies held multiple talks to work out the specifics of the collaboration, with a mutual goal of contributing to the spread of EVs on a grand scale, not limited to Toyota’s own vehicles.
Plans call for the eventual product to be sold by Panasonic to all automobile manufacturers.
Solid-State Batteries: Attracting the Eyes of Investors
Among all EV batteries, solid-state batteries are at the center of attention. Industry-government-academia research groups—of which Toyota is a member—are tackling the issue on the nationwide level, attracting the eager eyes of investors.
Development is moving fast on solid-state batteries, which have the potential to take the place of lithium-ion batteries—the current standard—and offer vastly increased performance. As the name implies, with solid-state batteries use solid electrolyte instead of the liquid solution of lithium-ion batteries, making them less susceptible to the danger of leakage or fires. Furthermore, they are expected to offer greatly improved cruising distance compared to the existing technology.
Japan is considered home to world-leading technology and know-how in this field, and it has been said that solid-state batteries will be commercially viable by the year 2020. Companies around the world are also moving full speed ahead so as not to be left behind. One thing is clear: solid-state batteries are certain to play a major role in the diffusion of EVs in the years to come.
Author Misato Kishimoto（Beyond Editorial Department）