The heart of the electric car – battery manufacturers are courted by car makers

Electric motors have great efficiency. There are only a few remaining problems with the batteries to be solved. Most cars which use electricity for power store the energy in batteries. And that’s the weak point. The performance of an all-electric car depends on the performance of the battery. Therefore, it’s not surprising that suppliers of high-power batteries are courted by car makers. All car makers which are designing their own electric cars have to team up with battery manufacturers and seek for partnerships with the best in the business. In the future, car makers who want to set themselves apart from the mass-market will have to provide the best battery technology available in their cars. The battery is the key component of the electric car and car makers will realize that if they want to outperform competitors, they’ll have to focus their innovations primarily on the batteries. Consequently, having the best partner for battery technology will be vital for the success of auto manufacturers in the future.

Especially BMW had bad luck as far as battery technology is concerned. The Quandt family that owns almost half of BMW sold all their shares of Varta – a former leading battery manufacturer – in 2006 and the automotive battery unit was sold to Johnson Controls. Now, BMW’d be happy to have access to the latest battery technology in order to be one step ahead of the competitors in the development of new batteries and their application in electric cars.

In recent years, there was a lot of progress in battery technology and unprecedented levels of safety, power and life have been achieved. Today’s lithium-ion batteries which are similar to those used in laptops – are much cheaper and efficient than nickel-metal batteries or nickel-acid batteries that are used in hybrid cars today and were used in electric cars, such as the EV1 in the 1990s and today’s batteries can hold decisively more energy than conventional batteries.  And even if the batteries are very expensive and account for as much as half of the price of electric vehicles, the price will come down as the batteries will be in mass-production for various applications and technology advancements will also help to reduce the price. Alan Monhy, CEO of a joint venture between Johnson Controls and Saft said: “At the end of the day, it’s a scale game.” referring to the development of the price of batteries that could be used in electric cars.

In Japan, nine automakers (amongst Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi) , six battery makers and an electricity company agreed to set up common standards for lithium-ion batteries which are being developed to power next-generation electric and hybrid cars. The norms will cover testing and charging methods as well as safety standards. This standardization will also help to reduce the price and to supply enough batteries to meet the demand.

Toshiba Corp. claims that it has achieved a breakthrough in the development of batteries. Their latest lithium-ion version can be recharged to 90% capacity in less than five minutes and the batteries are able to last for ten years or more.

A123 Systems, which is one of the world’s leading suppliers of battery technology, will probably provide the battery packs for GM’s Chevrolet Volt electric car. Providing batteries for electric vehicles is a big challenge. Space is limited, safety requirements are high, the battery should be reliable  and the range should be acceptable. A123 Systems has apparently managed to create a battery pack that meets the requirements of GM and after a period of extensive testing, the batteries are ready for mass-production. In an accident, the battery pack won’t explode. Even if the battery is getting a nail drilled through it, it doesn’t explode or pose a threat to anybody in contrast to conventional lithium-ion batteries.


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One response to “The heart of the electric car – battery manufacturers are courted by car makers

  1. Pingback: I’ll take a summer break… « What Matters

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