Japan''s Nissan Motor Company and NEC Corporation and
its subsidiary, NEC Tokin Corporation will form a joint
venture company - Automotive Energy Supply Corporation
(AESC) - to produce lithium-ion batteries to be used in
electric and hybrid cars.
A Nissan-NEC breakthrough could put Japan''s third-biggest
automaker back in the market, offering next-generation
"green" vehicles, after trailing Toyota and
Honda Motor Company for long.
Lithium-ion batteries, although considered unsafe, are
key to lowering the cost of gasoline-electric hybrids
as they can store power in a smaller and lighter stack.
The commonly used lithium Ion (Li-ion) battery is also
undergoing a facelift that researchers expect will deliver
more usage between charges, and shorter charge / discharge
times, to mobile consumers within the next five years.
Based on a process called ''nanostructuring'', the new batteries
can be built in very small sizes - measurable in nanometres
- to shorten the distance between electrodes on either
end of a Li-ion battery.
Under an initiative dubbed "Nissan Green Program
2010" unveiled in December, Nissan, held 44 per cent
by Renault SA, set specific targets for cutting harmful
emissions through stepped-up recycling efforts and the
development of various engine and vehicle technologies.
That includes its own gasoline-electric hybrids, plug-in
hybrids, pure electric and fuel-cell vehicles -- all of
which would use lithium-ion batteries.
While car makers are increasingly turning to nickel-metal
hydride batteries, industry sources say Toyota Motor Corporation
is planning to launch the third generation of its popular
Prius hybrid late next year using a lithium-ion battery.
Toyota, the world''s most profitable carmaker and the first
to sell a gasoline-electric hybrid car in 1997, has a
battery joint venture with
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. called Panasonic EV
Energy Co., which mainly supplies to Toyota
Other automakers such as Honda, General Motors Corporation
and DaimlerChrysler AG are also working on lithium-ion