Economy, Auto
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Toyota Deepens Panasonic Battery Ties

Toyota Chief Akio Toyoda (L) and Panasonic CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga attend a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.Toyota Chief Akio Toyoda (L) and Panasonic CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga attend a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Accelerating efforts to make its presence felt in electric cars market, Toyota Motor Corp. has deepened its partnership with Panasonic Corp. over EV battery production.

The largest supplier of electric-car batteries and Toyota together are exploring the development of prismatic cells, and the collaboration will include solid-state batteries, the two companies said at a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday. The agreement builds on a joint venture Toyota and Panasonic have had for over two decades, Bloomberg reported.

As global rivals from Volkswagen AG to General Motors Co. spend billions of dollars to shape the future of electric cars, Toyota is on a mission to catch up. President Akio Toyoda, the 61-year-old grandson of founder Kiichiro Toyoda, has acknowledged that Toyota has been a “a little bit late” on EVs, with governments around the world cracking down on pollution caused by fossil fuels.

“Electrification is a major part of the once-a-century transformation taking place in the auto industry now,” Toyoda told reporters in Tokyo Wednesday. “In order to make ever-better cars, we need to collaborate with a specialized battery manufacturer.” The safety of EV batteries is a “pressing issue,” he added.

The carmaker is open to other companies joining the partnership to speed the pace of development, Toyoda said.

Toyota has picked up the pace with development of electric cars amid a boom this year, after initially betting on hydrogen to power its zero-emission vehicles. The company launched a venture with Mazda Motor Corp. and affiliate-supplier Denso Corp. in September for EV parts across a spectrum of models. Toyota plans to introduce electric models by 2020 in China and India, where it’s partnering with Suzuki Motor Corp.

While Nissan Motor Co. has sold some 300,000 of the all-electric Leaf since 2010 and Tesla Inc. has delivered more than 250,000 EVs since the first Roadster rolled out in 2008, neither Toyota, Mazda nor Suzuki offer battery-powered passenger cars.

Panasonic provides lithium-ion cells for Toyota models including the plug-in Prius. Panasonic and Toyota have had a joint venture since 1996 called Primearth EV Energy Co., which makes lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride batteries for other Toyota cars. Toyota controls 80.5% of the entity, with Panasonic owning the remainder.

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