Toyota teams with China’s CATL and BYD to power electric ambitions



Automaker diversifies battery source and moves up electrification goal by 5 years

Contemporary Amperex Technology has expanded with the help of Chinese government incentives for domestic automakers to buy batteries from local suppliers. (Photo courtesy of CATL)

NAGOYA — Toyota Motor will partner with China’s CATL, the world’s largest automotive battery maker, the Japanese automaker announced on Friday, diversifying its supply of crucial components in a push to accelerate the electrification of its offerings.

Toyota said Friday that the partnership will also include BYD, China’s leading producer of electric cars, as well as Japan’s Toshiba and battery maker GS Yuasa. Nikkei first reported the partnership between Toyota and CATL on Friday morning.

Toyota will sign a memorandum of understanding on a “strategic partnership” with Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd., with the details to be hashed out going forward. The latter is expected to supply lithium-ion batteries for Toyota-branded electric vehicles to be released in China and other markets starting next year. Areas of cooperation will include improving battery quality, adopting shared standards, and reusing batteries.

As automakers rush to secure battery providers amid a global shift away from gasoline-powered vehicles, the deal with CATL will enable Toyota to diversify its supply in China — the world’s largest electric-vehicle market. The partnership will also boost the competitive advantage of Chinese battery makers.

Toyota had set the goal of more than tripling its annual sales of electrified autos from 2018 levels to at least 5.5 million by 2030, accounting for half its total sales. Hybrids and plug-in hybrids will account for 4.5 million of these while fuel-cell and full-electric vehicles will make up the rest. It now aims to achieve this goal by 2025 by tapping CATL’s manufacturing capacity.

Toyota procures batteries for its hybrids and electric vehicles from sources including subsidiary Primearth EV Energy, in which Panasonic holds a stake. Toyota and Panasonic also plan to set up a joint venture by the end of 2020 for developing solid-state batteries. But as the automaker looks to step up production of electrified vehicles, securing a sufficient supply of batteries has become a challenge.

Batteries have a significant effect on the performance of electric vehicles as well as their cost — accounting for 30% or more of the sticker price — and competition to develop better technology, such as solid-state batteries, is fierce.

CATL led the global market for automotive batteries in 2017 with a roughly 16% share, narrowly beating No. 2 Panasonic’s 15%, according to Tokyo-based Techno Systems Research. Chinese government incentives for domestic automakers to use batteries from local manufacturers have helped drive CATL’s sales, letting it expand production and improve its cost competitiveness.

The company has forged relationships with other automakers, including a partnership with Honda Motor to jointly develop batteries and an agreement with Nissan Motor to supply batteries for an electric car that debuted last year. BMW and Volkswagen use CATL batteries as well.

Toyota’s rush to accelerate its electric-vehicle plans comes amid a shift in that direction by rival automakers as well as tightening environmental regulations in major markets.

Volkswagen plans to launch almost 70 electric models by 2028 and sell at least 3 million units per year. By 2030, it aims to have electric autos make up 40% of its overall sales. Daimler looks to have half its sales consist of electrics and plug-in hybrids by 2030. Nissan looks to have electrified vehicles, including conventional hybrids, account for 30% of sales by fiscal 2022.

Toyota itself plans to ramp up production of “new-energy vehicles” in China, expanding capacity at a Chinese plant run with joint-venture partner Guangzhou Automobile Group to as much as 400,000 vehicles a year in 2022. While the company lags behind European and Chinese rivals in electric autos, it hopes to catch up with CATL’s help.

Toyota opened up royalty-free access to tens of thousands of hybrid-related patents starting this year, and it has set up a joint venture with Mazda and parts supplier Denso to work on core electric-vehicle technology that has brought nine companies on board. Toyota and Subaru said Thursday they will team up to develop an electric sport utility vehicle, slated for release in the early 2020s.


Date: JUNE 07, 2019 02:00 JST UPDATED ON JUNE 07, 2019 14:39 JST
Author: YUKIHIRO OMOTO, Nikkei staff writer

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