hybrid battery supplied to Chinese carmakers

  • Chinese carmakers to produce more efficient vehicles.

DETROIT - Johnson Controls Inc said on Jan 15 that its joint venture with France's Saft signed a deal to supply China's SAIC Motor Corp, the top car seller in China by 1.69 million in 2007, with a lithium-ion battery for a pilot fleet of hybrid cars.

The SAIC program includes mechanical design, electronics and heat management, Mary Ann Wright, chief executive of the joint venture, said at the North American International Auto Show.

The joint venture also has signed an agreement to supply nickel metal hydride batteries to China's Chery Automobile, a leading self-brand Chinese carmaker, for a hybrid version of its A5 ISG sedan that is launching in the latter half of 2008.

Lithium-ion batteries can produce more power at a lower weight than the nickel metal hydride batteries which are being commonly used in hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles such as Toyota Prius. Johnson Controls has frozen research and development spending on nickel metal hydride technology in favor of concentrating on lithium-ion technology, said Alex Molinaroli, president of the company's battery business.

Globally, Johnson Controls is competing against other companies such as Michigan-based Cobasys, already selling batteries used in GM vehicles, as well as Japanese electronics companies Panasonic and Sanyo. In lithium-ion batteries a key competitor is expected to be A123 Technologies of Watertown,Mass.

Pressure to build more fuel-efficient cars is surging around the world, Chinese carmakers are also looking to produce more efficient vehicles, Wright said.

(Reuters, Journal Sentinel)

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