Mitsubishi Motors Joins Lithium-ion Batteries Venture

Mitsubishi will install the batteries in its next generation 'i MiEV' electric vehicle.

Japanese automaker Mitsubishi Motors announced May 8 the launch of a three-way venture to manufacture lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. Mitsubishi Motors and Mitsubishi Corp. will join with Japan's only mass producer of large lithium-ion batteries, GS Yuasa, to establish a new company that will produce the high-performance power cells.

The new company is expected to begin operations in 2009 with a capacity 200,000 cells per year, based in Kyoto, western Japan.

Mitsubishi Motors plans to install the batteries in its next generation "i MiEV" electric vehicle which will be introduced by 2010. "Electric vehicles are finally being put into practical use," said Mitsubishi Motors executive director Tetsuo Aikawa. The company aims to increase the usage of electric vehicles that will be friendly to the environment, he added.

Lithium-ion batteries require only one-tenth the recharge time of their nickel-hydride counterparts, which are often used in petrol-electric hybrid cars. They can also be used as a necessary component for future plug-in hybrids, Aikawa said, describing them as "an extremely important technology for the future of automobiles."

The company, which will have an initial investment of three billion yen (US$25 million) will be owned 51% by GS Yuasa, 34% by Mitsubishi Corp. and 15% for Mitsubishi Motors.

Toyota and Nissan have already joined hands with electronics companies to develop lithium-ion batteries, but Mitsubishi Motors denied it was lagging behind. "Other companies are producing lithium-batteries that are aimed towards hybrids. Batteries aimed at electric vehicles have only just started so in that sense we are ahead (of everyone else)," said Aikawa.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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