Nissan and NEC To Form Joint Venture To Develop Automotive Li-Ion Batteries
13 April 2007
|Prototype laminated cells (left) and vehicle battery pack (right). Click to enlarge.|
Nissan Motor, NEC Corporation, and NEC TOKIN Corporation, have signed an agreement to establish a joint-venture company—Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC)—to develop and market lithium-ion batteries for wide-scale automotive application by 2009, including applications such as hybrids, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and electric vehicles.
Nissan and NEC Group will invest ¥490 million (US$4.1 million) in the partnership. AESC is expected to begin operations by the end of April, 2007, and will operate as an independent company.
The new company will focus on the development and marketing of advanced lithium-ion batteries, designed to power future generations of electric-powered vehicles. After one year, the partnership will be expanded to include mass production and sales. The new joint venture will market its lithium-ion batteries to other potential customers in the auto industry.
NEC and NEC TOKIN bring expertise in cell technology and battery manufacturing while Nissan will focus on the battery pack for real-world application in electric-powered vehicles.
Together, Nissan and NEC’s engineers have addressed the key challenges of cost, performance, safety and reliability—we believe that we have a breakthrough technology in the lithium-ion battery product we will produce. Through AESC, this battery will be made available to all automakers, and we expect this could further accelerate the development of future generations of eco-friendly vehicles.—Carlos Tavares, Executive Vice President of Nissan
Nissan’s Nissan Green Program 2010 (NGP 2010) calls for, among other things, launching an electric vehicle early in the next decade; developing Nissan’s original hybrid vehicle—not the Altima hybrid using Toyota technology—targeted for launch in FY2010; an accelerating the development of plug-in hybrid technology. (Earlier post.)
A partnership between Nissan and NEC was rumored late last year. (Earlier post.) NEC group had been working with Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. to develop lithium-ion automotive batteries through a joint-venture: NEC Lamilion Energy Ltd. This partnership was dissolved in March 2006 when Fuji Heavy, the maker of Subaru vehicles, moved under Toyota’s umbrella.
This type of major partnership will accellerate and diversify development of automotive energy storage packs.
More competition to Toyota-Fuji Heavy battery group, Toshiba, Panasonic, Sanyo and other major battery groups is positive for future Hybrids, PHEVs and BEVs.
Wonder where A123, Altairnano and EEStor will fit in? Alliances with large Chinese battery manufacturers would be essential to compete with well established large Japanese manufacturers.
The good news is that many high performance battery packs may be available for PHEVs and BEVs by 2009/10.
Posted by: Harvey D. | 13 April 2007 at 06:58 AM
It seems like the Japanese get their industries working together and we hope that someone will come up with something in their garage on a shoestring. This is an exageration, but look at how companies are funded. We have the mythology that if Thomas Edison, Hewlett and Packard, Jobs and Wozniak can do it, anyone can. If we are going to get the most out of the ballyhooed American innovation, we better start finding better ways of funding startups. I know ECD and Johnson Controls are doing things, but it just seems like when the Japanese decide to do something they do it, they do not all sit around in VC offices talking about the potential highest returns on investments.
Posted by: SJC | 13 April 2007 at 09:44 AM
Sounds good but I have to wonder what 4.1M will get you in Japan. One office, a parking spot a part time employee for a year?
Posted by: Neil | 13 April 2007 at 10:21 AM
Sixteen years ago the US Advanced Battery Consortium set out to create a "super battery." That partnership was with government and big three. Looks like the Japanese understand that private sector partnerships are far more productive by avoiding layer upon layer of politicized bureaucracy.
Startups succeed because mainstream industry won't try new ideas. American innovation has been suffering from protectionist practices which have altogether stifled new tech marketing. Now the Piper is being paid.
Posted by: gr | 13 April 2007 at 01:24 PM
I'll have to agree with Neil... 4.1M doesn't seem like much funding. Looks from the pictures they already have prototypes. How do you build a factory to mass produce batteries with such little funding... you don't. Certainly they won't be competing with Sharp anytime soon in Li-ion unless they pump in a LOT more money.
Posted by: rhapsodyinglue | 13 April 2007 at 02:12 PM
Wonder how many tons of paper USABC used in the last 16 years? How much money was effectively used? Does anybody have the list of the projects supported by USABC?
$4 millions seems extremly little to start a major partnership in Japan. Is there a mistake her? Is one or two zero missing?
Could this a Nissan PR (GM style) stunt?
Posted by: Harvey D. | 13 April 2007 at 02:41 PM
At least at $4.1M there are only so many trees that can be killed for paper. Though hopefully they'll stick to internet PR for all their glowing progress reports ;)
Posted by: rhapsodyinglue | 13 April 2007 at 03:36 PM
I'm sure the 4 mil is just for initial start up costs like legal fees, office space, essential personnel, and stuff like that. These are 2 big Japanese companies here with very deep pockets so the potenial at any given time can be huge. I can see GM partnering with a small company like A123 and possibly use it as a PR stunt. But these are 2 big Japanese companies trying to cut into the American auto market, which at this point in time is very voulnerable to game changing technology like hybrids and BEVs. Seems to me they are betting that the near term future consumers will have a taste for higher fuel efficient cars. Same bet Toyota and Honda are making and it's paying off!!! The article expressed a semi-detailed time line of future events so we know they aren't trying to be vague (being misleading is another story). More power to any company that reduces our oil consumption... we've bank rolled oil and the countries that produce oil for far too long. I'd rather swith to coal and insist on higher emission standards to these plants. Much easier to regulate, monitor and facilitate American coal plants than it is to mid-east countries.
Posted by: Jimmi | 14 April 2007 at 12:14 PM
USABC? I won't include a link but it is easy to find on Google.
About 3 months ago I spent a day looking at the USABC results. These are hard to dig out because the USABC still exists and buries any facts in endless PR about how great they are, have been, and will always be.
Basically the feds and the car companies started it about 1992-1993, supposedly they both put in a few billions over a decade, and deserve all or most of the credit for the NIMH batteries now widely used but believed to be near a dead end for improvements.
The car companies were interested in the 1999 and beyond CA standards and focused on that. Around 2001 they showed concept cars. Ford's was quite impressive. I found fewer facts about the others.
As near as I can tell the car research was useful. But some foreign makers had already progressed just as far on their own.
GM, Ford, and Chyrsler then resumed dozing toward oblivion. It looks like GM is awake now, Ford less so, and Chrysler - it's for sale.
The USABC has also studied every improvement to vehicles that seems to have any merit. Engines, lighter materials, transmission ideas, hybrids, EVs, all battery possibilties, etc.
Ths USABC continues. I can't see they lead in anything but it is hard to tell - that is the nature of research and development.
Posted by: K | 14 April 2007 at 02:05 PM
When Nissan had the lithium-ion powered Altra EV on the roads (about 8 years ago now), was it with NEC cells?
Posted by: clett | 17 April 2007 at 08:45 AM