Bosch has big plans for better, cheaper li-ion batteries in 2020

Robert Bosch GmbH and GS Yuasa Corp. think they can solve the cost and range limitation quandaries faced by lithium ion batteries and the electric vehicles they go into. By 2020, German automotive supplier Bosch and Japanese battery maker GS Yuasa plan to deliver a li-ion battery that costs half as much to produce and offers twice the energy density of today's batteries. During last month's Tokyo Motor Show, Wolf-Henning Scheider, a Bosch management board member in charge of its global automotive division, said that there is surging demand for EVs and these advanced batteries will meet be ready to meet it.

The cost of the battery packs and the number of miles they can move the car per charge are usually considered the stumbling blocks for widespread adoption of EVs and hybrids. Nickel-metal hydride batteries have been widely used in new hybrid vehicles for a decade, but the newer generation li-ion batteries are the go-to choice for EVs since they are lighter and able to store more power. The problem is that they are also more expensive and long-distance travel in most EVs is still not possible. This is why many automakers think EVs are perfect for urban commuting and shorter daily trips.

Bosch predicts there will be 12 million electrified vehicles on the road worldwide by 2020.

Bosch predicts there will be 12 million electrified vehicles on the road worldwide by 2020. Bosch and GS Yuasa haven't forecasted their li-ion sales targets yet for what percentage of these EVs they'll supply. Their focus right now is the development of the battery technology, Scheider said. The 12-million-by-2020 prediction could is in line with other published market forecasts. ABI Research says that worldwide annual EV sales will reach 2.4 million in 2020 and Navigant Research thinks the total sales for that year will be higher – three million.

Bosch and GS Yuasa started a joint venture partnership in June to develop low-cost, high energy-density li-ion batteries for EVs and hybrids. Bosch is taking a 50 percent stake in the venture and the other half will be split evenly between GS Yuasa and Mitsubishi Corp. Operations will start early next year; the location is still to be determined, Bosch said.

All three companies are looking for brighter days than they've experienced so far in the li-ion space. Last year, Bosch ended its SB LiMotive, a 50-50 battery venture with Samsung SDI that had gone on for four years. Mitsubishi and GS Yuasa have gone through a recall of more than 4,300 Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrids, in which they'd supplied the battery. That happened a few months after Boeing battery fires; GS Yuasa had supplied those batteries to Boeing.

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