TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s Panasonic Corp said on Friday it will start producing automotive batteries at its former television screen plant in Japan, accelerating its battery drive to meet anticipated demand for electric vehicles.
Panasonic, the exclusive battery cell supplier for Tesla Inc’s mass-market Model 3, is reinventing itself as a provider of advanced auto parts to escape the price competition of smartphones and other lower-margin consumer products.
The new battery production will start at its LCD plant in Himeji, western Japan, in the financial year from April 2019, using space left vacant after it closed its unprofitable TV screen manufacturing business last year.
The company declined to comment on the size of new investment or the production capacity of the new line.
The Himeji plant currently produces screens for vehicle dashboards and medical equipment, but output has dropped significantly after it exited TV screen production.
Panasonic sees batteries as a key driver for its plan to nearly double its automotive business revenue to 2.5 trillion yen ($22 billion) in the year through March 2022.
Already one of the leading suppliers of automotive lithium ion batteries, it currently has five production sites in Japan.
It started mass production of battery cells at Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada earlier this year and plans to follow suit at a new plant in Dalian, China.
($1 = 112.6000 yen)
Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Richard Pullin