Japanese electronics manufacturer Panasonic is considering
investment in the upstream part of the battery raw materials
industry in order to have better oversight of quality,
pricing and supply chain responsibility, a company executive
The move has been led by the company’s growing
consumption of raw materials for batteries due to rapid growth
in demand for electric vehicles (EVs), according to Kazunori
Tanaka, general manager of the group’s electronic
device materials department.
"The chain is longer, so to understand and control the chain
is not possible. In order to have more control over the supply
chain, Panasonic has made purchases of raw materials by
itself," he said.
"In the future, we intend to go upstream to purchase
intermediates and try to get a more clear picture of the
supply chain. We would like to establish long-term strategic
partnerships with upstream companies," Tanaka added.
The EV expansion "spurred a revolution in the automotive
industry that no one had experienced before," he said on the
sidelines of the 25th Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South
"It is very difficult to predict future actions, but many
people believe that in the future we may have trouble in
securing raw materials. We have to carefully consider how to
secure raw materials with a steady price in the future," he
But this would not include buying a mine.
Carmaker Ford recently said during an interview with
Fastmarkets that it was looking into being more collaborative
in its partnerships to source its raw materials. And while such
a move is not currently being considered, the carmaker has not
ruled out eventually owning a mine.
Panasonic makes two main batteries for EVs: cylindrical
lithium-ion batteries, which use a nickel-cobalt-aluminium
chemistry; and prismatic cell batteries, which use a
Tanaka said during a presentation at the event that, by
2030, lithium demand for consumption in batteries is forecast
to be around 10 times the level recorded in 2015, with nickel
consumption expected to rise 20-fold and cobalt demand
five-fold in the same comparison.
Worries related to the ethical production of cobalt,
particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, have made the
company uneasy about securing supply in an already competitive
market. "Our concern about responsible sourcing is one of the
most important requirements," Tanaka said.
Meanwhile, lithium supply volumes are expanding, and
"constructing a strong relationship with major producers is
important," Tanaka said.
As for nickel, consumption will increase dramatically, he
said, although its use in batteries as a portion of overall
consumption trends is minor. But he noted that "securing
nickel for chemical usage is getting more difficult."