Panasonic EV Energy Co. Hints at Toyota’s Hybrid Ambitions
By Chris Haak
Toyota’s nickel-metal hydride battery supplier, Panasonic EV Energy Co., is planning to produce about 800,000 batteries for hybrid vehicles in 2009. The company sells 95% of its output to Toyota, which means that Toyota is expecting to build at least 760,000 hybrid vehicles next year. This would be an increase of 77% over Toyota’s 2007 global hybrid production of 429,000 units.
If Toyota keeps up its march toward greater quantities of hybrid production, it should be able to reach its goal of selling 1 million hybrids by the early part of the next decade.
The supplier is a joint venture between Toyota and Matsushita Electric Industrial company and was founded in 1996. Although it currently produced nickel-metal hydride batteries, it will soon provide Toyota with next-generation lithium ion batteries (expected to be used by a plug-in hybrid starting around 2010). The struggle with the lithium ion batteries is longevity, but the general manager of Toyota’s hybrid division wants the battery life to exceed 10 years once development is complete.
A reliable battery supply for hybrid production has proven to be one of the elements of the supply chain that can put a crimp on production. To that end, other Japanese automakers have also developed arrangements with battery manfuacturers. Nissan is working with NEC, Honda is working with Sanyo, and Mitsubishi is working with GS Yuasa Corporation in a joint venture that will make lithium ion batteries. Rapidly increasing battery demand has caused other hybrid manufacturers (such as Ford and GM) and electric vehicle aspirants (such as GM with the hyped Chevy Volt) to seek their own reliable supplies as well.
Should Toyota’s hybrid plans pan out, they may continue the company’s growth trajectory of recent years. While many European manufacturers have staked their claim in the diesel world to conserve fuel, Toyota’s actions are clearly indicative of its continued focus on hybrid drivetrains instead.
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