Toyota Motor Corporation has signed a deal to use nickel sourced from Mouth Keith in Western Australia for its newly operational Prime Planet Energy and Solutions plant in Himeji, Japan.
The deal will see the open-pit nickel mine provide a steady supply of the material for the joint venture battery facility between Toyota and Panasonic.
Situated some 900km away from Perth, the Mount Keith mine is part of BHP’s Nickel West operations, which includes numerous other facilities apart from Mount Keith.
Although not yet confirmed, a Toyota spokesman told attending Australia media there are discussions around also sourcing lithium from Australia on top of the nickel.
Currently, the Japanese brand sources its lithium for the battery plant from the likes of Argentina and Chile.
The battery facility in Himeji has the capacity to produce enough battery packs for 80,000 Toyota vehicles per year (it can also supply other manufacturers) and currently manufactures the lithium-ion packs for the Toyota bZ4X and its twin, the Subaru Solterra.
With Toyota expecting to ramp up production of battery-electric vehicles to 3.5 million units annually by 2030, the battery requirements for the facility will grow exponentially, which is likely to mean more Australian resources are headed to Japan.
In addition to increasing the production capacity at the Himeji plant, Toyota is also building numerous other battery facilities in partnerships with subsidiaries or other major corporations to meet demand.
Toyota says the raw material for the lithium-ion batteries accounts for the absolute majority of the manufacturing cost, despite the billions of investment that has gone into the production of the required facilities.
According to Toyota Australia vice president of sales and marketing Sean Hanley, the batteries produced at the facility will be higher quality than other manufacturers, and some of that higher quality comes down to sourcing the best quality raw material available, including from the likes of BHP.
“The batteries produced here are a cut above those offered by many others in the market in terms of quality, performance, safety and reliability,” said Mr Hanley.
“This comes down to advanced technology, cutting-edge production techniques and strict quality-control measures.”
The first Toyota battery electric vehicle for Australia will be the bZ4X, which arrives in Australia in February 2024.