According to , Toyota Motors and Panasonic have agreed to set up a joint-venture company to manufacture vehicle batteries, with Toyota owning 51 percent of the company and Panasonic owning 49 percent.
Ars Technica contacted both companies to confirm the report, and we’ll update this story if we hear back.
Nikkei reports that Panasonic would transfer ownership of five battery factories in Japan and China to the joint venture. The joint venture would start operations “in the early 2020s,” and it would start producing “batteries with 50 times the capacity of those now used in hybrid vehicles, aiming to bring down production costs through higher volume,” according to Nikkei.
The news outlet also said that the joint venture would be used to push forward the technology used in solid-state batteries. Solid-state batteries don’t exist in commercial production yet, but they are theoretically lighter, safer, and have a more competitive energy density than existing lithium-ion batteries. Toyota has been working on such solid-state battery research for years. In 2017, reported that Toyota was working on “production engineering” for a solid-state electric vehicle battery, which it hoped to commercialize by 2022.
Panasonic has extensive experience mass-manufacturing new battery technology, including through a partnership on the massive Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada. So from Toyota’s point of view, a partnership with Panasonic might be one way for the car maker to jump-start solid-state battery manufacturing. Toyota made significant strides in the hybrid-vehicle market, but when in the field of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), the company has lagged behind other companies.
Toyota leadership has historically favored hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as the future. Just last week, the head of Toyota’s Fuel Cell system development, Katsuhiko Hirose, told The Drive that he expects fuel cell vehicles to eventually be cheaper than gasoline-powered cars and to be more universally practical than battery-powered vehicles.