Panasonic EV Energy Co., the battery-making joint venture between Toyota and Matsushita, has begun studies at its Omori factory geared to the mass production of lithium-ion batteries, said Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe in his end-of-year press conference. The Omori factory currently produces NiMH cells.
Lithium-ion batteries are better suited than NiMH cells for use in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, Watanabe said. Toyota, Matsushita, and Panasonic EV are currently conducting development on the cells and systems. Toyota’s current prototype plug-in hybrid uses a NiMH battery pack. (Earlier post.)
In the press conference, Watanabe briefly described Toyota’s three-pronged approach to sustainability: R&D into technology in pursuit of sustainable mobility; sustainable manufacturing and social contributions.
Hybrid technology will play a central role in achieving sustainable mobility, according to Watanabe, who noted that Toyota has now sold a cumulative 1.25 million hybrid vehicles worldwide. As previously stated, Toyota is targeting annual hybrid sales of 1 million units as early as possible in the 2010s, and will have a hybrid model in all Toyota series vehicles.
Watanabe referenced the ongoing testing of the plug-in hybrid prototypes in Japan and the US, saying that the company is making steady progress toward the commercialization of the plug-in vehicles.
In the area of energy research, he noted, Toyota has begun development of cellulosic ethanol.
Toyota recently selected four plants in various regions to be models for the sustainable plant concept announced earlier this year. The sustainable plants are designed to offer “ground-breaking environmental performance” to use renewable energy; and to contribute to the local community and environment.
The model plants are in Mississippi, the UK, France, and Thailand.
We are currently aware that the automobile industry has reached a turning point in many ways. For example, we must respond to expanding markets in countries exhibiting significant economic growth...and also address the environmental and energy issues on a global scale that will enable us to comply with the strengthening of regulations such as the recent US CAFE bill and the European CO2 draft.
We are aware that when responding to these changing circumstances, it would be extremely important to make individual decisions concerning things that must be changed and those that must be kept the same.— Katsuaki Watanabe