If hybrids, especially American-built hybrids, are to succeed, then battery technology must improve. To that end, Detroit automakers are investing in Johnson Controls to develop a lighter, less expensive hybrid battery.

Tentative delivery is 2010 and the goal is to compete with top-selling Japanese batteries. Panasonic Electric Vehicle Energy, a joint venture with Toyota, has 74 percent of the hybrid battery market. Sanyo has 13 percent, including Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner (shown in photo) and Honda Accord. An independent Panasonic company holds the final 13 percent of market share.

Automakers need an alternative because the price of nickel, the main element in current hybrid batteries, has tripled in price in the past decade. Switching to lithium-ion will help but the consumer electronics industry is a heavy user of that technology. The new consortium hopes to price the new batteries at $500 each. Battery packs currently sell for around $3,000.

[Source: Sun Journal]

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