Tokyo — To gear up for its move into electric vehicles, Toyota plans to make its own next-generation batteries in a new partnership with electronics giant Panasonic, and even sell them to other automakers.
The joint venture, announced last week by Toyota Motor Corp. and Panasonic Corp., will start operations in 2020 and focus on the development and production of prismatic lithium ion batteries, solid-state batteries and other advanced power packs for electric cars.
The move comes as Toyota — often perceived as a laggard in EVs — plans to roll out 10 electric cars worldwide by the early 2020s. The first EV will be an all-electric version of its C-HR subcompact crossover for China in 2020, but Toyota will also launch EVs in the U.S., Europe, Japan and India.
In traditional Toyota fashion, Japan's biggest automaker will be keeping tight control over the component seen as the key to its strategic success. While other automakers, such as Nissan, shed battery subsidiaries to source cells and power packs from suppliers, Toyota will hold a majority 51 percent stake in the new Panasonic venture and have a strong hand in making its own.
Teaming up from the early stages of vehicle planning will streamline new battery development and ensure a better fit with the vehicles they go into, the companies said in a joint statement.
"The business environment is one in which independent efforts by battery manufacturers or automobile manufacturers are not enough for solving the issues concerned," they said.
Toyota is confident enough in the potential of the new batteries that it wants to sell them to other carmakers.
It did not say what customers it has in mind. But Toyota may have a built-in customer base among Mazda, Subaru and Suzuki.
Those Japanese automakers already are partnering with Toyota and suppliers such as Denso Corp. to jointly develop an architecture for next-generation electric vehicles.
Toyota hopes to sell 5.5 million traditional hybrids, plug-in hybrids, EVs and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2030. Contained in that target are sales of about 1 million EVs or fuel cell vehicles a year, accounting for at least 10 percent of the company's total global sales.
Toyota said at the end of 2017 it will pour $10 billion into vehicle electrification through 2030. Half of that will go toward battery development.
Solid-state batteries will be an important piece of that drive. Toyota has said it wants to commercialize the next-generation batteries in the early 2020s.
Solid-state batteries are less vulnerable to extreme temperatures and promise two to three times the energy density of existing EV batteries. That matters because EV batteries need around 40 kilowatt-hours of energy capacity. The Prius hybrid, by contrast, has a 0.75-kilowatt-hour battery.
Toyota and Panasonic did not announce how much they will invest in the new battery venture.
The new company will begin battery production in Japan and China, using Panasonic plants. Operations will draw from current employees at both companies and have about 3,500 workers.
Toyota already has a battery-supply partnership with Panasonic through a joint venture called Primearth EV Energy Co. It mainly manufactures batteries for electric-gasoline hybrid vehicles.
Primearth supplies Toyota with nickel metal hydride and lithium ion batteries. Toyota also sources lithium ion batteries from Panasonic for its Prius Prime plug-in hybrid. Toyota gets hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicle batteries from no other suppliers.