Hitachi, Johnson Controls Partner for Next Generation of Batteries

Will combine efforts to develop energy storage technology for automotive sector.

Japanese electronics manufacturer Hitachi has joined forces with U.S. automotive supplier Johnson Controls to build a new generation of lithium-ion batteries for the automotive sector.

The deal was cut last month, with no terms released to the public. Hitachi and Johnson Controls will channel their efforts in marketing, sales and standardization in helping to establish advanced energy storage technology, according to company reports.

Both Hitachi and Johnson Controls see a high-growth future in lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles. Today, nearly every laptop and multimedia gadget uses a lithium-ion battery. But developers have thus far been frustrated by its performance, size and cost in applying it for the automotive sector.

According to Alex Molinaroli, president of Johnson Controls Power Solutions, the partnership comes as a result of two companies recognizing lithium-ions potential.

By combining our complementary strengths, Hitachi and Johnson Controls have a great opportunity to help shape and lead the development of this emerging industry, said Molinaroli.

The deal is in many ways largely unique, as neither Hitachi nor Johnson Controls is contractually obligated to supply batteries to an automaker. Panasonic, for instance, exclusively supplies batteries for Toyotas fleet of hybrids.

Both entities have exceptional knowledge of the battery market, but from vastly different angles. Hitachi already produces over a million lithium-ion cells for hybrid buses and trucks for Isuzi Motors, and will soon be supplying for General Motors.

Johnson Controls, meanwhile, is one of the largest suppliers of lead-acid batteries for auto manufacturers. In fact, in recent months, Johnson Controls has targeted Chinas swelling auto market by starting construction on a third car battery factory in January, and a fourth battery plant is on the drawing board. It hopes to combine lithium-ion technologies with Chinas hunger for new cars.

In three years we will be growing from a single plant to three plants that will produce more than 18 million automotive batteries annually, said Molinaroli. These plants support our plan to install capacity for 30 million batteries annually in China by 2015.

According to Yoshito Tsunoda, chief executive of Hitachis Battery Systems Co., worldwide demand for clean, efficient forms of energy storage have created opportunities for partnerships.

I strongly believe the two companies will succeed in providing advanced, competitive batteries and related services through strong and fruitful collaboration, he said.

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