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A joint EV venture is in the works

Panasonic’s New Automotive Lithium-ion Battery Factory in China.

Panasonic and Beijing Automotive Group are in talks to expand their collaboration to smart cars and self-driving vehicles.

The Chinese state-owned automaker, also known as BAIC Group, and the Japanese electronics group agreed to set up a joint venture to build key components for electric vehicles.

The move will give BAIC better access to the latest technology and Panasonic a wider avenue to the world’s largest automobile market.

“Our tie-up with Panasonic has been going smoothly, and we hope to move it faster,” Chairman Xu Heyi said to Nikkei Asian Review. Xu also said more joint ventures could be on the way.

At present, BAIC manufactures luxury cars in a joint venture with Daimler, and the German group also has a stake in a BAIC electric vehicle subsidiary.

Xu said the recent large purchase of Daimler shares by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, a Chinese private-sector carmaker, will not affect his company’s business with Daimler.

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Toyota and Panasonic to partner

Toyota and Panasonic are partnering in a feasibility of study to develop battery technology for electric cars, or a “joint automotive prismatic battery business.”

The move by the Japanese car maker signals not only a deeper push into battery development but an encroachment on to rival Tesla’s territory. 

The joint announcement on Wednesday builds on an existing agreement under which Panasonic, a global market leader for lithium-ion batteries, develops and builds batteries for Toyota’s petrol-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s president, and Kazuhiro Tsuga, his counterpart at Panasonic, announced the companies would look at joining forces to speed up commercialisation of next-generation battery technologies.

Signing of partnership agreement between Panasonic and Toyota – Toyota Newsroom

If Toyota succeeds in commercialising solid-state batteries then it would go a long way to securing Panasonic’s industry leading position. It is currently the main supplier of electric batteries to Tesla.

“The auto industry faces many hurdles to developing next-generation batteries which are difficult for automakers or battery makers to tackle on their own,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda said at a joint news conference.

Toyota President, Akio Toyoda – Toyota Newsroom

“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.”

While Toyota continues to pursue hydrogen vehicles, the car maker is now focused on electric car pursuits after recognising that it was falling behind on the EV technology despite its early hybrid leadership with the Prius sedan.

The pair plan to expand development of prismatic batteries with higher energy density. Panasonic already makes prismatic batteries for Toyota, whereas for Tesla, it makes cylindrical batteries of a type similar to those used in laptops.

“Our cylindrical batteries are the most widely used batteries in pure EVs at the moment,” said Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga.

“But when you look at the future, it’s difficult to gauge which format holds more demand potential.”

“We need to be able to develop new battery technologies in a prismatic format, and this would be difficult on our own.”

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