Toyota and Panasonic announced that both companies will work together to improve prismatic battery cells.
While Toyota is still focused on hybrid cars and lagging behind in full electric, Panasonic due to its collaboration with Tesla have been focusing on cylindrical battery cells, neglecting the improvement of the prismatic ones.
Once, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, implied that its Japanese supplier Panasonic was very conservative and had to be pushed/encouraged to be more bold about production targets and technological advancements. So it’s funny that now Panasonic expects feedback and cooperation from Toyota to make better prismatic battery cells – for cars Toyota doesn’t want to sell… I just imagine both CEOs chilling on their yacht and repeating to themselves that 2030 is still very far away.
While most automakers have announced their goals for increasing electric car sales by 2020, Toyota’s public target is only for 2030, when it expects that 50 % of its global sales to be electrified. However, in electrified cars category, Toyota includes HEV, PHEV, BEV and FCEV. Furthermore, Toyota says that hybrids (HEV and PHEV) will be prioritized to comply with emission regulations, zero-emission vehicles will only be pushed in countries which completely ban ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars.
Toyota sees hybrids as complex engineering masterpieces, while all-electric cars are very simple things that anyone can do (I’ve actually seen this being said). In their minds BEVs will bring more competition and that’s a game they don’t want to play.
Anyway, you can watch the press conference in the video below, however don’t expect anything exciting regarding electric cars from Toyota. I nearly fell asleep with the Sakichi battery story, which is the unicorn of battery technology.
To sum up, now Toyota and Panasonic talk about standardizing automotive prismatic battery cells, however they were already standardized long ago by the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). In fact, Toyota already uses PHEV2 type cells from Sanyo/Panasonic in the plug-in version of the Prius.
In each Toyota Prius PHV (Prime in the USA), we have 95 Sanyo/Panasonic 25 Ah battery cells in series, making a total of 8,79 kWh (95 x 3,7 V x 25 Ah).
Furthermore, most plug-in cars (PHEV and BEV) from Volkswagen also (still) use these same prismatic battery cells from Sanyo/Panasonic. However, Volkswagen has been upgrading the battery capacity of some of its plug-in cars like the e-Golf, by changing the Sanyo/Panasonic 25 Ah battery cells to Samsung SDI 37 Ah.
Since Panasonic was busy developing cylindrical cells with Tesla, the company neglected the development of better prismatic battery cells. Samsung SDI took the opportunity to sign a supply contract with Volkswagen.
As we can see, currently Samsung SDI has a PHEV2 type cell with 37 Ah, with plans to further increase its capacity to 50 Ah first, and then 60 Ah. Another popular prismatic battery cell type is the BEV2, which is currently used in the BMW i3.
With the start of production of the new Samsung SDI battery cell plant in Hungary next year, we should finally see the prismatic PHEV2 battery cells reaching 50 Ah and BEV2 reaching 120 Ah.
This is what Panasonic has to beat to keep up with the Korean competition.