In January, Johnson Controls Inc (JCI) and Saft Advanced Power Solutions, a Paris-based battery company, combined efforts in a joint venture (JCS) to further the development of lithium-ion batteries for vehicle applications. Last month, the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium, an umbrella organization involving collaborative research between DaimlerChrysler, Ford and GM, along with the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the joint venture a 2-year contract to continue its research and development.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the battery market for hybrids is currently dominated by Japanese alliances. Panasonic Electric Vehicle Energy, a Toyota joint venture, owns 74 percent. Sanyo who makes batteries for the Ford Escape Hybrid and the Honda Accord Hybrid has 13 percent while an independent Panasonic battery operation covers the rest. However, nearly all batteries found in hybrid vehicles today use nickel. As the demand for hybrids has grown and continues to rise, the price of nickel has skyrocketed from $7 per kilogram in the mid '90s to $25 per kilogram today.

The focus of the JCS joint venture will be on improving power in low temperatures and reducing the costs of lithium-ion batteries which contain a much higher energy density than their nickel-metal hydride counterparts. As far as costs go, the goal is to make a battery for $500. Alan Mumby, vice president and general manager for Johnson Controls' hybrid battery business, said the company is on target to meet its goals.

In a press release, Mumby said, "This program positions the JCS joint venture as the leading manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for the next generation of alternative powertrain vehicles."

[Source: Detroit Free Press]


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