Panasonic plans massive EV battery buildup in North America

TOKYO — Japanese electronics and battery giant Panasonic wants to at least triple electric vehicle battery production capacity in North America through 2029 to supply new customers.

By increasing regional production to meet growing forecasts for electric vehicles, Panasonic also aims to increase local sourcing of battery materials, aiming for a 50% local sourcing rate.

“The North American market will be our focal point,” Panasonic Energy CEO Kazuo Tadanobu said at Panasonic’s annual Investor Relations Day presentation here on Wednesday.

“We received specific requests from several customers,” he said.

Panasonic Energy Co., which manufactures batteries for Tesla Inc., will commercialize its next-generation 4680 cylindrical lithium-ion batteries for Tesla electric vehicles and potentially other automakers in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2024.

The supplier will initially manufacture the new batteries at its plant in Wakayama, western Japan. But Panasonic is reportedly scouting potential North American locations as part of the production expansion.

Panasonic expects its North American capacity to triple or quadruple by the fiscal year ending March 31, 2029, Tadanobu said. New customers are now evaluating the 4680 battery, he added.

Panasonic Energy is part of Panasonic Holdings Corp., which makes the automotive sector a pillar of future growth. In other investor day presentations, Panasonic’s automotive division outlined plans to focus on cockpit systems and electronics as key profit drivers.

Panasonic’s energy unit said it shipped enough cells in the just-ended fiscal year to power around 1.7 million electric vehicles. This includes the company’s first-generation 1865 battery and second-generation 2170 battery. Pilot production of the larger 4680 cells began in Japan in May.

Panasonic expects 30% of global new vehicle sales to be electric vehicles in 2030, representing about 35 million vehicles, said Panasonic Automotive Systems Co. CEO Masashi Nagayasu.

The automotive division sees great potential in high-efficiency on-board chargers for electric vehicles, especially 800-volt configurations, Nagayasu said. Another focal point is the cockpit user interface and domain controllers, essentially the software that connects cockpit electronics to vehicle hardware.

Nagayasu said that as a powerhouse in the technology sector, Panasonic has a built-in advantage in providing such software.

“It’s something we’ve encouraged that automakers are unable to do,” he said.

Panasonic said in April it would invest about 400 billion yen ($3.12 billion) through March 2025 in growth segments including electric vehicle battery cells.

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