Panasonic expects to double sales of electric car batteries in three years

Pedestrians walk past a logo of Panasonic Corp outside Panasonic Center in Tokyo, Japan, February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

OSAKA, Japan (Reuters) - Japan’s Panasonic Corp said it expects strong demand for its lithium-ion batteries from Tesla Motors Inc to help more than double its annual sales of automobile-related batteries in three years.

Kenji Tamura, an executive officer in charge of Panasonic’s automotive and industrial systems business, said he expects the firm’s annual automobile battery sales to grow to 400 billion yen ($3.98 billion) in the business year through March 2019 from 180 billion yen in the year ended March 2016.

The company sees combined annual sales of automobile batteries and energy storage products to grow to 500 billion yen, around 2.5 times sales in the last fiscal year, he said.

Tamura also said Panasonic planned to bring forward its $1.6 billion investment in Tesla’s $5 billion “Gigafactory” plant in the U.S. state of Nevada upon the request of the electric car maker, to meet strong orders for Tesla’s upcoming Model 3 sedan.

Panasonic is the exclusive supplier of batteries for the Model 3, Tesla’s first mass-market car.

Citing “tremendous demand,” Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk in April said his firm planned to boost total vehicle production to 500,000 cars in 2018, two years earlier than its original target.

Reporting by Yoshiyasu Shida; Editing by Christopher Cushing