Earlier this month, Panasonic unveiled its ‘ePowertrain’ concept at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Although primarily known as a battery supplier within the EV world, Panasonic appears to have bigger plans for its products and role within the industry. Plans for an ePowertrain and battery development were announced at the company’s ‘Sustainable Energies’ booth at the ‘Connected World’ section of CES 2018.
Targeting mainly small EVs and e-bikes, Panasonic has developed its own power unit, which it describes as “a solution for the effective development of small electric vehicles (EVs). The platform is a systematized application of devices used in the EVs of major global carmakers, and is intended to contribute to the advancement of the coming mobility society.” The unit will include an onboard charger, junction box, inverter, DC-DC converter, and motor.
The ePowertrain will also be scalable and will combine a package of elements already supplied by Panasonic but previously produced as singular components. The technology should be compatible with a wide range of products and it is hoped that the integration will reduce costs and vehicle development time.
While the ePowertrain has been specifically designed for small and personal EVs, Panasonic has promised that it can be scaled up to “suit various lifestyles and uses in each region” through the “combination of basic units in accordance with vehicle specifications such as size, speed and torque.”
Panasonic is often mentioned in connection with its battery collaboration with Tesla, but it remains fairly defensive over the scope of its role, calling the technology “jointly designed and engineered”. The partners are now expanding from solely lithium-ion batteries towards solar cell technology, with production beginning later this year – and supply going straight to Tesla.
Many may be buoyed by the news that a non-automotive company is developing an ePowertrain, bringing more competition and easier access into the space for SMEs and startups keen to build their own EVs. However, Panasonic’s close relationship with Tesla could mean that the technology remains limited to smaller vehicles in order to avoid competition with Tesla’s range.
CES also saw repeat mentions of the company’s relationship with scooter designer Gogoro, to whom Panasonic has supplied a modular battery component that will allow users of e-bikes and electric scooters to swap out power packs instead of plugging in. Battery packs have been developed by Panasonic, following a tie-up in 2015, but the technology also has links to Tesla through its factory.
It remains to be seen whether or not Panasonic will be able to successfully market a proprietary ePowertrain to mainstream automakers, but start-ups keen to use its much-vaunted cells may well be inclined to opt for an integrated solution from a respected battery maker when designing their EVs. An with the company’s proven expertise in manufacturing at scale, we could see those EVs produced even quicker than might be expected.