Toyota, Panasonic plan JV in booming EV battery market
The batteries will sp...
Japanese giants Toyota and Panasonic have announced a joint venture dedicated to building batteries for use in electric vehicles.
The batteries will specifically be prismatic lithium-ion batteries. The utility of lithium-ion batteries used in so many different technologies was recently confirmed by the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to three figures crucial to the technology’s development. The name refers to the use of Lithium in its more stable ion form rather than as a metal, with the material having a high energy density well suited to use as a battery. Lithium ions flow between electrodes in the battery, producing power while not being chemically changed, ensuring the long life necessary for inclusion in consumer electronics.
‘Prismatic’ refers to the type of cell being used, with prismatic cells being small and modular thanks to their wrapped construction, making them ideal for use in electric vehicles.
In a statement put out by the two companies, they emphasised the move’s relation to broader pushes for sustainability, saying: “Batteries―as solutions for providing energy for automobiles and various other forms of mobility, and as solutions for various kinds of environmental issues―are expected to fulfill a central role in society going forward―a role that supports people's lives.”
The joint venture is set to begin operation on 1 April 2020 and be majority owned by Toyota with 51%, with Panasonic taking the remaining 49%. It’s name will be the slightly arcane ‘Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, Inc.’.
Toyota is increasingly active in the electric vehicle space, having established a goal for half of all global sales to be ‘electrified’ vehicles by 2025. This new joint venture will not just manufacture batteries for Toyota’s vehicles, however, with the companies also offering their products to competitors.
Panasonic, meanwhile, has committed to the Climate Group’s RE100 group, meaning it intends to use entirely sustainable sources of electricity and run its operations with net zero emissions by 2050.
Who Will Be the Next Tech Giant to Back Bitcoin?
PayPal was the first truly major tech giant to throw its weight behind Bitcoin, unveiling a cryptocurrency buying-and-selling service in October. Next was Tesla, which shocked onlookers in February by announcing the purchase of $1.5 billion in bitcoin, as well as plans to accept the cryptocurrency as payment.
Since then, things have calmed down as far as Big Tech and Bitcoin are concerned (although a number of banks have rolled out cryptocurrency investment services for their wealthier clients). This raises the question: when will another significant tech firm take the plunge and back bitcoin?
This is a difficult question to answer, if only because the bitcoin market is in something of a funk right now. At the same time, regulators worldwide are looking to restrict crypto in the name of curbing money laundering and other illicit activities. Nonetheless, rumours continue to swirl through the sector that a few other important names in the tech industry may be on the cusp of embracing bitcoin, with Apple being the most notable.
Is Apple Buying Bitcoin?
If you tend to spend any amount of time on Crypto Twitter, you may be aware of rumours to the effect that Apple has recently bought something in the region of $2.5 billion in bitcoin.
Such rumours were almost certainly a desperate attempt to boost the price of bitcoin. And given that the market didn’t witness a sudden, dramatic rise (but rather a steep loss), it seems pretty clear that Apple didn’t buy a substantial quantity of bitcoin in the past few weeks or so.
That said, there remains a good chance that Apple will enter the cryptocurrency sector at some point, even if it won’t be adventurous enough to buy crypto for itself. Back in May, it placed a job ad for a business development manager for “alternative payments.”
Such a manager would be tasked with cultivating partnerships with “strategic alternative payment providers,” implying that Apple may be weighing up the possibility of launching its own cryptocurrency-purchasing service (à la PayPal) via Apple Pay.
Needless to say, it would be huge for Bitcoin and cryptocurrency if the Cupertino company were to follow through with this.
Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook?
Rumours have also revolved around possible bitcoin interest from Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, although there’s a little less substance to most of these rumours.
Back in October former Goldman Sachs hedge fund manager Raoul Pal predicted that Microsoft (along with Apple) would buy bitcoin in five years. Unfortunately, a CNN interview with Microsoft’s Brad Smith in February (shortly after Tesla’s bitcoin purchase) revealed that the company had no plans to purchase crypto, although Smith vaguely hinted that it might one day change its collective mind.
More interestingly, Amazon purchased three cryptocurrency-related domain names back in 2017: amazonethereum.com, amazoncryptocurrency.com, amazoncryptocurrencies.com. Nothing has been heard since then, while a job listing from February of this year revealed that the retail giant may be planning to launch its very own digital currency.
Facebook is another tech firm with plans for its own digital currency (Diem, formerly known as Libra). As for whether it’s likely to turn to bitcoin, a few relatively respected figures within the cryptocurrency industry (e.g. Alistair Milne) did spread rumours in April that the social media company would disclose bitcoin holdings on its Q1 financial statement. This didn’t happen, although Mark Zuckerberg did reveal in May that one of his pet goats is called “Bitcoin,” fuelling further speculation as to his and his firm’s interest in the cryptocurrency.
Risks and Rewards of Cryptocurrency
Again, it’s arguable that some or most of the rumours are generated largely to pump crypto prices. But if bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies do continue to appreciate in value and attract more adoption, it will become increasingly harder for large tech companies to ignore them.
But at the moment, it’s likely that most major tech firms will shy away from actually buying bitcoin, if only because it remains highly volatile and unpredictable as an asset. And as we saw with Tesla, buying a massive chunk of the cryptocurrency effectively turns you into a hedge fund overnight, something which can adversely affect your stock price if bitcoin goes down.
Even so, there’s clearly a considerable amount of money tied up in the cryptocurrency market. And with numbers of holders growing every year, it’s only a matter of time before other big tech firms attempt to siphon off some of this value for themselves.