Toyota and Panasonic boost alliance to develop batteries for electric vehicles and other green cars

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

Toyota Motor Corp. and Panasonic Corp. announced Wednesday that they will strengthen their alliance for developing batteries used in environmentally friendly cars, targeting the market for all-electric vehicles.

“Everyone agrees that batteries will be a significant core component of electrified vehicles,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda said at the news conference in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. “Our cooperation represents the intention of two Japan-born companies to lead the next era of electrified cars.”

Toyoda said the leading Japanese automaker will aim to sell a total of 5.5 million next-generation green vehicles — including 4.5 million hybrid vehicles and plug-in hybrids and 1 million cars with electric vehicle and fuel cell technologies — by 2030, to reach 50 percent of all sales in that year. The company expects to sell 1.47 million HVs and PHVs during this calendar year.

The two Japanese manufacturing giants will work together and seek ways to develop safer, high-capacity batteries as well as methods to make recycling of used batteries possible. The move may help boost efforts by domestic carmakers to catch up with foreign rivals already making a shift toward all-electric cars.

Panasonic has already worked in partnership with Toyota to supply lithium-ion batteries used in Toyota’s hybrid vehicles, including the Prius and Aqua models. The electronics giant has also supplied U.S. carmaker Tesla Inc. with batteries for electric vehicles, increasing its presence in the auto industry.

Despite a global shift toward electric vehicles, Toyota has been reluctant to develop all-electric cars, citing the vehicles’ relatively short cruising distance and the deterioration of their battery capacities over time. Instead, the company has focused on developing hybrid cars and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

France and Britain have already announced they will end the sales of new gasoline- and diesel-powered cars from 2040. China, the world’s largest automobile market, has also promoted electric vehicles by considering a similar ban on traditional cars.

To overcome the weak points of electric vehicles, Toyota has been developing a solid-state battery and aims to commercialize it in early 2020. The company believes the next-generation battery can significantly improve on the capacity of existing lithium-ion batteries and help electric vehicles travel longer distances on one full charge.

In September, Toyota established EV C.A. Spirit Co., a joint company with Mazda Motor Corp. and Denso Corp., focused on developing core technologies for electric vehicles.