Michael Andrews, director-government affairs at Johnson Controls, is like most in the auto industry: he now believes that lithium ion battery technology will prove to be technologically viable. The problem as Andrews sees it is the manufacturing supply base. Currently, there is not much of a supply base to speak of in North America. If the industry is to go electric in any significant volumes that situation will have to change, and quickly. Aside from the Cobasys nickel metal hydride batteries used in the GM mild hybrid vehicles, all of the hybrids on sale right now have batteries sourced from overseas.
According to Andrews, the big issue will be getting equipment for producing the anodes and cathodes at the heart of the cells. Several battery makers, including EnerDel and A123 Systems, have applied for government loans through the AVTM program in order to fund new U.S.-based manufacturing facilities. It will still take several years for those factories to come online; until that happens automakers will have to continue importing batteries, adding significantly to costs.