Panasonic in talks with 10 Automakers to Supply Lithium-ion Batteries

Following its planned purchase of rechargeable-battery maker Sanyo Electric Co., Panasonic Corp. is in talks with about 10 automakers to supply lithium-ion batteries as demand for electric vehicles grows. The discussions include companies from the U.S., India, Europe and Japan. The world’s largest plasma-television maker offered 403 billion yen (US$4.6 billion) to buy control of Sanyo.

The company estimates the global lithium-ion battery market will increase fivefold by 2018 from this year. Automakers are shifting to develop electric cars and hybrid plug-in models that use lithium-ion cells, which are lighter and more powerful than nickel-metal hydride batteries currently used in most hybrids.

Panasonic recently received regulatory approval of it’s $4.6 billion plan to purchase leading battery maker Sanyo Electric Co. Upon news of the approval of the plan, the company almost immediately began talks with at least 10 automakers. As Panasonic’s president of the battery division Naoto Noguchi said, "Panasonic Corp. is in discussions with some 10 automakers to supply lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and electric vehicle."

Noguchi commented on the supply and demand of li-ion technology by stating, "If demand continues to grow, we have concerns that production capacity might be insufficient, an increase in Japanese electric cars could make supply an issue by as early as 2012."

Panasonic received approval from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission last week, allowing the deal with Sanyo to proceed. The company received full antitrust clearance in 11 countries. The deal between Panasonic and Sanyo could make Panasonic the largest battery producer in the world.