US Automakers Join Battery Project

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG, and the U S Department of Energy -- members of the U S Advanced Battery Consortium -- awarded Johnson Controls and Saft a two-year contract Aug. 14 to develop lithium-ion batteries.

Published: 05-Jan-2007

DETROIT -- Detroit's automakers are investing in Johnson Controls Inc. to develop a lighter and less expensive hybrid battery expected to be in vehicles by 2010 and able to compete with today's top-selling, Japanese-made hybrid batteries.

The Milwaukee-based supplier will be up against a Toyota Motor Corp. joint venture called Panasonic Electric Vehicle Energy, which makes batteries for Toyota and has 74 percent of the hybrid battery market. Sanyo has a 13 percent market share, making batteries for the Ford Escape and Honda Accord, and an independent Panasonic battery operation making hybrid batteries for the Honda Civic has a 13 percent market share.

Sales of hybrid vehicles, which increased from 84,000 in 2004 to 205,000 in 2005, show no signs of slowing down. But prices of nickel, the main element in nearly all hybrid batteries today, have increased from $7 a kilogram (2.2 pounds) in the mid-1990s to $25 a kilogram today, and automakers are considering alternatives.

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