TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd (SMM) (5713.T) plans to focus on two key customers for its battery materials, Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Panasonic Corp (6752.T), supplier of car power packs to Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), SMM’s new president said.
While Toyota and Panasonic are already SMM’s biggest customers, rising sales of electric cars – led by Tesla’s mass-market Model 3 – mean the Japanese miner and smelter is in a sweet spot it needs to protect.
SMM has spent 37 billion yen (254.44 million pounds) over the past four years to boost capacity of the nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCA) cathode materials used in Panasonic’s lithium-ion battery that powers Tesla’s Model 3 and Model X.
“Our cathode material plants are running at full capacity,” Akira Nozaki, president of Sumitomo Metal Mining, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
The company’s monthly capacity of NCA cathode materials is due to reach 4,550 tonnes later this year, more than five times the monthly output of 850 tonnes in 2014, Nozaki said.