Toyota-Panasonic battery JV to boost efficiency to catch up with Chinese rivals

Europe

TOKYO — A joint battery venture of Toyota and Panasonic aims to boost efficiency of development and production processes by 10 times to better compete with larger Chinese rivals.

The venture, Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, is now the world’s largest supplier of batteries for hybrid vehicles, and was created in April by pooling part of the battery-related equipment and engineers of the two companies.

But it has a share of only 3 percent in the high-capacity battery market for electric vehicles, lagging far behind China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL) with a share more than 20 percent.

Prime Planet is moving to standardize battery designs and is also helping to streamline operations of materials suppliers, its president, Hiroaki Koda, told a news conference on Tuesday.

“With efficiency ten times higher, we can win over the Chinese,” Koda said.

Toyota, which targets electrified vehicles to bring in half its global sales by 2025, has also partnered with CATL and Chinese EV maker BYD Co Ltd for battery procurement.

Koda declined to give a time frame for the efficiency target or the scale of consequent cost reduction, but said the company would probably improve by five to six times the next version of its product, now being worked on.

Asked about Tesla’s promise to halve battery costs over the next several years with new technology and processes, Koda said Prime Planet had similar plans regarding technology.

“Tesla publicly announced that, so it means they will do it,” said Koda, a former procurement executive at Toyota. “I respect that.”

Prime Planet has taken over Panasonic’s business in thin, rectangular-shaped prismatic batteries, while Panasonic retained its business with Tesla for cylindrical batteries of a type similar to those used in laptops.

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