A Panasonic battery VP explains the biggest challenge her team faces as it prepares for a huge wave of electric cars

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Automakers are preparing for a major expansion of electric-vehicle production as regulators push them to phase out gas-powered models. The dozens of new EVs set to hit the market this decade will create a big opportunity for battery companies — if they can make enough cells to supply them. 

The battery industry is small compared to the auto industry, Celina Mikolajczak, the vice president of battery technology at Panasonic Energy of North America, said on Tuesday during the Digital Days online battery conference, and boosting production to meet the auto industry’s growing demand is the biggest challenge Panasonic’s EV-battery division faces today.

“To supply an EV market, you need to be making millions of cells a day, and that only supplies a small number of vehicles,” she said. 

Increasing production capacity requires more than an expanded workforce or new factories. You also need your suppliers to extract and process more of the raw materials that go into EV batteries, like aluminum and nickel. But the supply chain for some battery components is concentrated in a small handful of companies that can deliver the quality and quantity Panasonic needs.

“There’s a lot of work to be done in the supply chain,” Mikolajczak said.

Ramping cell production will also require more automated machines that can work quickly without sacrificing quality, she said.

Panasonic is the world’s third-largest EV-battery supplier, behind LG Chem and CATL. The electronics firm makes cells for Tesla at a factory in Nevada and earlier this year formed a joint venture to do the same for Toyota. Tesla has at times expressed frustration with the pace at which Panasonic has increased battery production at their so-called Gigafactory 1, saying it has held back vehicle output. Panasonic has expanded its capacity at Gigafactory 1 over time and plans to continue doing so.

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Source:: Businessinsider – Tech


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