Battery makers say methods, supply chains flow

The industry is striving to make the historic transition from internal combustion vehicles to electric vehicles. John Bozzella, CEO of the Automotive Innovation Alliancetold the audience that automakers and suppliers are looking to spend $515 billion to prepare for the age of electric vehicles.

Panasonic, which is the main battery maker for segment leader Tesla, said last month it would spend $4 billion to build its second electric vehicle battery plant in Kansas.

Janet Lin, Panasonic’s vice president of strategy and business development, told the audience that Panasonic is gearing up to quadruple its battery capacity, and US production will be a big part of that.

“Battery innovation is not limited to battery technology and the material itself,” Lin said. “It’s also in the design and construction of the factories and the manufacturing lines, and in the training and management of the workforce to be able to operate these factories.”

She said Panasonic intends to continue to evolve its production processes and equipment to achieve higher line speeds and greater automation.

“And we will continue to work on our gross mass multi-sourcing as well as increasing our local sourcing rate,” she said. “But that alone is not enough for us to meet the demand we are seeing.”

She urged the U.S. government to ease its tariffs on battery materials produced overseas until U.S. industry can catch up.

“We encourage the United States to continue to further encourage the development of new sources as well as domestic recycling operations,” she said. “We need more cost-effective access to key global inputs – for example, to reduce or eliminate tariffs on key battery materials that are not yet available or not yet qualified at the scale levels we need. “

Cobalt supply has become a thorny issue in the creation of electric vehicles. The ingredient is crucial for battery production, but much of it comes from overseas mines that have poor human rights records.

Weinberger said GM’s Ultium batteries use 70% less cobalt than the automaker’s previous generation batteries. And GM will continue to improve the chemistry to further reduce it over the next few years.

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