Panasonic needs four more EV battery plants, executive says

The battery arm of Japan’s Panasonic will need to build four more factories to reach its target for a sharp boost in annual capacity of batteries for electric vehicles by 2031, its technology chief told Reuters.

The comments by Shoichiro Watanabe of Panasonic Energy (in the photo) are the Tesla supplier’s first clear indication of the number of additional factories it will need.

They could also fuel expectations of more investment by Japanese companies in the United States, after a deal the two countries struck in March key to widening access for Japanese manufacturers to U.S. electric-vehicle (EV) tax credits.

In May, Panasonic Energy said it aimed to boost annual EV capacity to 200 gigawatt hours (GWh) by early 2031, or about four times its capacity in March this year.

With a plant in Nevada, it is building a second in Kansas that is expected to take annual capacity to 80 GWh once operational, it has said.

We will need to build around another four factories,” Watanabe, the company’s chief technology officer, said in an interview at its headquarters in Osaka on Friday.

But he stopped short of mentioning specific locations, time frames or investment sizes.

He signalled an openness to potential joint ventures for EV battery production, with automaker Mazda Motor (7261.T) among others, citing the changing nature of such projects in which investment is no longer shouldered by battery makers alone.

The style where battery producers will make all investments is disappearing,” he said, adding that the 200 GWh capacity was the minimum necessary to be a major player.

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