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Friday, March 14, 2008
Panasonic EV Energy Co. - Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Batteries
Image: theirEarth News Media (Toyota PHEV Prius)

Panasonic EV Energy Co. - Hybrid Car Batteries

The Panasonic EV Energy Co is owned 60% by Toyota and 40% by Matsushita in a JV relationship and was founded in December 1996 by Matsushita. The company mass produced its first 95Ah Ni-MH battery for a full electric vehicle in January 1997. At the end of 2007, they finished the construction of their new factory in Omori, Japan to provide the capability to mass produce lithium ion batteries for the world market. The development of the technology in lithium ion automotive batteries is becoming a strategic issue for all car manufacturers. Most have plans to start releasing hybrids and full electrics to the market by the 2010/2011 model year, much as Toyota has already done with their current hybrids.

Ten years from now, the majority of new vehicles will be plug in hybrids, full electric and fuel cell types. Significant battery storage and power output capability is required for these vehicles and the automotive industry is moving to replace nickel metal hydride battery technology (NiMH), found in the current Toyota Prius and Lexus models, with lithium ion batteries. A lithium ion battery is about 50% smaller than NiMH battery of the same power output, and it also has better performance capability and longevity.

Panasonic EV Energy is currently the supplier of nickel metal hydride technology batteries to Toyota's Lexus LS600h, Lexus GS450h, Camry and Prius hybrids. Because of the controlling JV relationship Toyota has with Panasonic EV Energy, they are in a unique position to introduce the most advanced battery technology for hybrids into the marketplace.

Katsuaki Watanabe, Toyota's President, said in his 2007 year-end address that Toyota had sold more than 1.25 million hybrids worldwide. Toyota is pushing hybrid technology even further with its plug-in PHEV Prius development vehicle. The Toyota PHEV Prius is capable of being charged off household current and after a night's charge, it can travel on battery power alone at speeds up to 100kph (62 mph). On short commutes, the development PHEV Prius regularly travels on 4-5 mile (6-8 km) return trips without the gasoline (petrol) engine ever starting.

On January 14, 2008, Toyota announced in a News Release that they intended to launch the sale of lithium ion Plug-In Hybrids for the 2010 model year. Toyota will utilise Panasonic EV Energy lithium ion batteries for this purpose, and these batteries were scheduled to undergo mass production trials in January 2008 at the Panasonic EV Energy Omori Plant.

For the environment, because of the expected huge growth in the quantity of batteries arriving into the global vehicle marketplace, there is a critical need to establish recycling capability for automotive battery packs and to design recyclability into these packs. In Japan, Panasonic EV Energy is developing the technology for recycling an automotive battery pack, made up of the battery module, the metal parts and other resin parts. Recycling recovers the iron/nickel alloy, iron, steel, copper, and the plastic resin materials. For these large battery packs, governments will need to legislate the development of local recycling facilities, otherwise the reduction in CO2 levels from electric and hybrid vehicles will be replaced with an increase in ground pollution from batteries.

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