Panasonic stops making lithium ion batteries

lithium-ion batteryJapanese outfit Panasonic will stop making lithium ion batteries at its factory in Beijing this month, cutting 1,300 jobs as part of a move to focus on electric car batteries.

The 15-year-old plant produces batteries for not-so-smart mobile phones and digital cameras, both of which have been out evolved by smartphones.

Panasonic spokeswoman Yayoi Watanabe said the global market for these products has been shrinking. Employees were informed of the closure in late July and the move has nothing to do with the Chinese stock market crash.

Finland’s Nokia, which sold its mobile phone business to Microsoft in 2014, was the main customer of the plant.

Panasonic took over the plant from Sanyo Electric, a leading maker of lithium ion batteries and solar panels which it acquired in 2010. The deal didn’t bring in much growth due to the emergence of South Korean manufacturers, analysts say, and the Japanese firm has since sold  off a lot of former Sanyo operations.

In June, it said the company said it would invest $499.83 million in the fiscal year through March in its automotive business, including making lithium ion batteries for Tesla.

Panasonic is due to shoulder 30 to 40 percent of the cost of Tesla’s $5 billion Gigafactory plant in Nevada, a key facility in the automaker’s plans to increase sales.