Jul 28, 2022

Technology for a Sustainable Society / Feature Story

Company

Evolving Energy Solutions to Contribute to a More Sustainable Society

The United Nations released a report in April warning that if urgent action is not taken to substantially reduce harmful carbon emissions, the world will face "unprecedented heatwaves, terrifying storms, widespread water shortages" and become uninhabitable. However, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also insisted that it is still possible to limit the effects of global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 43%* of their current levels by 2030.

Many countries have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050 and are accelerating the use of renewable and carbon-neutral energy sources. One encouraging sign according to the IPCC is the decrease in the cost of renewable energy sources including solar and wind energy. Batteries have an important part to play in this transition.

The Panasonic Group is committed to achieving virtually net-zero CO2 emissions of all operating companies by 2030 and reducing CO2 emissions by more than 300 million tons, or about 1% of the current total global emissions of 33 billion tons, by 2050.

A key focus of Panasonic GREEN IMPACT, the Group's environmental initiative, is to maximize its contribution to CO2 emissions reduction by decreasing energy use and accelerating the shift to clean energy. The Panasonic Energy Company (Panasonic Energy) is leading this effort by seeking to further evolve its battery technology to support the reduction of CO2 emissions and the use of finite resources.

FIgure: Details of each business

*https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/04/1115452

Leading in battery innovation

Panasonic has a long history of introducing cutting-edge technology to the battery field since the introduction of its dry cell battery for bullet-shaped battery-powered lamps in 1923. Continuing to innovate over the next 100 years, Panasonic produced the nickel-cadmium battery in 1964, developed the nickel-metal hydride battery in 1989, and more recently developed the lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery in 1994 and provided Li-ion batteries for automotive use in 2008. It currently holds more than 7,500 patents for material development and manufacturing in battery-related fields, and has had zero recalls resulting from its automotive Li-ion batteries, making the company a leader in the industry with a reliable track record and advanced technological capabilities.

The potential uses of batteries are growing exponentially as industries and consumers look for ways to lower carbon emissions. The company estimates that the market for automotive business will grow by 5 trillion yen and industry and consumer business by 600 billion yen from 2020 to 2025. To meet future demand, Panasonic Energy has been expanding and diversifying its battery products for different industries and consumer use as well as the automotive industry.

In the automotive business, Panasonic Energy has supplied a cumulative total of more than 10 billion cells of cylindrical Li-ion batteries for EVs, equivalent to 1.7 million EVs, which supports the electrification of mobility and helps to reduce CO2 emissions. As consumers look to reduce environmental impact with the use of EVs, Panasonic Energy will continue to contribute to the evolution and popularization of EVs with its technological capabilities.

Safety and reliability are paramount when supplying energy solutions and batteries to infrastructure-related sectors. Panasonic Energy has been leading in the development of secure battery supplies to promote electrification and digitalization of our society. The company will continue to maximize its usefulness and value by applying its expertise in its core technology in battery cells to expand the solutions offered to the industrial and consumer fields. Related opportunities include information and communications infrastructure such as data centers, power equipment such as assisted bicycles, construction and agricultural machinery, and IoT devices such as smart meters and medical equipment.

Reducing the CFP* and the use of rare metals in battery manufacturing

Providing environmentally-friendly energy solutions and batteries to enable the establishment of a safe and secure social infrastructure and electrifying mobility are goals that Panasonic Energy aims to achieve in contributing to a more carbon-neutral society.

Panasonic Energy plans to cut half of the carbon footprint* of its battery manufacturing process by March 2031 (FY2031) and becomes virtually carbon neutral at all global production sites by March 2029 (FY2029). Specific measures are being implemented to reduce Panasonic Energy's carbon footprint* from raw material mining and processing to logistics by: 1) procuring materials with lower environmental impact, 2) using recycled materials, 3) reducing the use of rare metals, and 4) procuring materials locally. At the production sites, Panasonic Energy is refining manufacturing processes and introducing measures such as the use of renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency.

*Greenhouse gas emissions throughout the entire life cycle from the procurement of raw materials to disposal and recycling are converted into CO2 emissions.

Figure: Contributions to the environment

As a leader in reducing CO2 emissions by making carbon-neutral production plants, developing low carbon footprint materials and optimizing supply chains, Panasonic Energy has sought to address reducing the use of rare metals in Li-ion batteries for a number of years. Cobalt is a rare metal that has traditionally been an important material in batteries. Panasonic has been steadily reducing the amount of cobalt used in its batteries and was already only using half of the usual amount per cell in other similar batteries in 2017 when production of automotive batteries started in North America. This was further reduced by another 10% in 2019 while the company succeeded in increasing its battery energy density by 2020. The company has already completed the cobalt-free technology development and plans to reduce the use of nickel substantially by FY2031.

Improving performance and increasing supply while reducing environmental impact

In addition to cutting the carbon footprint during battery production, Panasonic Energy is working to improve the performance of its automotive batteries. This in turn supports the increased and prolonged use of EVs, further contributing to overall emissions reduction.

Panasonic Energy is a leader in manufacturing high energy density batteries and the current models of automotive batteries - 1865 and 2170 - have the highest energy density in the world. By utilizing its expertise in creating high energy density batteries, Panasonic Energy aims to boost battery energy density by a further 20% by 2030 and increase durability by extending the life of its automotive batteries. These new improvements equip the 2170 with a higher energy density and is also expected to be reflected on the new model, the 4680. Being just over twice the diameter and 10mm taller than the 2170, the 4680 will contain five times the energy capacity.

Photo: 1865, 2170 and 4680 batteries

To meet growing demand for cleaner energy, Panasonic Energy is planning to increase the supply of all of its batteries in both its automotive business, and industrial and consumer businesses by increasing factory capacity and production worldwide. The company will continue to diversify and expand the use of its batteries in different sectors and services. In the automotive industry, it plans to scale up global production to 3-4 times of 2022 levels by March 2029 (FY2029), increase the number of employees in Japan by about 1,000 people over three years to strengthen development, and start 4680 mass production in Wakayama prefecture in Japan within FY2024. In North America, Panasonic Energy of North America (PENA) in Sparks, Nevada is now one of the world's largest lithium-ion battery factories, surpassing 6 billion EV battery cells shipped since production from 2017. In addition, with the approval of Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion (APEX) from Kansas in July, Panasonic Energy will continue to explore various growth strategies for its automotive battery business.

Panasonic Energy believes its continuous innovation in batteries will allow it to contribute to society by providing energy sources that can considerably reduce pressure on the environment at this critical juncture. While lowering its own carbon emissions during production and increasing the use of recycled materials, Panasonic Energy aims to continue to improve performance, and uphold its record of safety and quality in all of its products.

Under Panasonic GREEN IMPACT, the Group will continue to work towards building a more sustainable society to enable all to live their best.

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