Toyota and battery producer Panasonic have agreed to establish a joint venture (JV) to develop prismatic (soft pack) batteries, with a view to sell them to OEMs through Panasonic.


Toyota Motor president Akio Toyoda (left) and Panasonic president Kazuhiro Tsuga

The lightweight batteries are seen to offer weight, space and cost savings, all of which have implications across the supply chain. They are reported to optimise efficiency, as well as providing the option of using fewer cells, while offering a greater number of design possibilities, according to their proponents.

Subject to antitrust approval, the Japanese companies plan to establish the JV by the end of 2020. Toyota will own 51%, Panasonic 49%.

The new enterprise will cover research, development, production engineering, manufacturing, procurement, orders and management related to automotive prismatic lithium-ion batteries, solid-state batteries and next-generation batteries.

Toyota’s main contribution will be to transfer personnel, know-how and market data related to electric vehicles (EVs), equipment and its monozukuri (an all-encompassing approach to manufacturing) philosophy specifically for the JV’s development and production engineering. It is estimated the new company will employ 3,500 workers from the founder-partners.

With accelerating demand for EVs, “numerous” battery-related challenges must be tackled, according to Toyota. They include using advanced technology to address cost, energy density, charging time and safety, plus being able to ensure stable supply capacity and effective recycling.

“The business environment is one in which independent efforts by battery manufacturers or automobile manufacturers are not enough for solving the issues concerned,” the carmaker said.

Toyota’s executive vice-president Shigeki Terashi added: “By contributing to the popularisation of Toyota’s and other automakers’ electrified vehicles, we want to help find solutions to issues such as global warming, environment-related challenges, and energy-related challenges.”

Toyota’s corporate strategies include promoting EVs as whole, with the company aiming for its annual global sales of EVs to top 5.5m units.

The OEM and Panasonic announced a feasibility study into the prismatic battery JV at the end of 2017. Since then, they have achieved high capacity and output of such batteries, said Toyota.