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Sony to Invest $370M in Li-Ion Expansion, But Not for Autos

Sony Corporation will invest approximately ¥40 billion (US$370 million) to strengthen its lithium-ion battery production operations, targeted on portable consumer applications. The company, unlike its competition, is currently steering clear of the lithium-ion automotive market.

“We will conduct research and development, but have not decided anything beyond that,” Sony President Ryoji Chubachi said, commenting on the company’s approach to vehicle-use lithium ion batteries.

Sony is reluctant to make a full commitment to the development of car-use lithium ion batteries because it wants to avoid taking on high levels of risk. The company, however, will likely remain on the lookout for the perfect opportunity to expand into the vehicle-use lithium ion battery business as it taps growing demand for the batteries from consumer electronics makers.

The investment will be used to construct new production facilities as well as enhance existing lines at Motomiya Technology Center and Tochigi Technology Center of Sony Energy Device Corporation, Sony’s lithium ion battery production sites in Japan. With Sony also expanding lithium-ion battery production in Singapore and China, its monthly production capacity will increase from the current level of 41 million cells per month to 74 million cells in 2010.

Comments

dollared

Classic Sony. If they can't own the format and the IP, with a chance of gaining full control over the technology, they won't play.

Auto batteries will face high pressure to standardize, from the industry and from governments. As a result, the IP licensing harvest will be low.

So they'll play in Li-Ion, but with small formats and specialized applications, hoping to have winners in high volume devices, where they can reap higher margins.

Henry Gibson

All of the developments in LiIon batteries has not resulted in a battery that has substantially higher energy content than the Twenty year old ZEBRA battery technology. The energy content of production sodium Sulphur batteries is not widely known but is in the same range.

The peak power of the batteries is an issue, but this is best addressed by flywheels, a small set of high power cells as in the Prius or perhaps Ultra capacitors. An optimised version of EFFPOWER's bipolar unit may give the most power for the cost, and an energy optimized bipolar unit can complement it with a lot of energy for the cost. Firefly's foam plate can give longer life and lower weight.

Flywheels can be more energy dense than ultra-capacitors and can have very high power, but both require high power electronics for their operation.

Heat management of lithium chemistries prevent constructing a bipolar cell for higher power.

The Plug-In-Hybrid car allows no major worries about range and so it must be adopted to prevent any futher public debate about batteries not being yet available for electric cars.

A combination of high-power and high-energy lead acid batteries is perfectly suitable for very useful PIH(plug-in-hybrids) that meet most peoples requirements for high efficiency transportation. For this reason, Sony does well not to target automotive batteries.

ZEBRA batteries do not require a complicated cell temperature monitoring system and are easy to cool. They are not well suited for a car that is seldom used and has no access to electricty where it is stored, but the cost of keeping the battery hot is balanced by the lower efficiency of lithium batteries.

In a Plug-In-Hybrid, a combination of EFFPOWER and ZEBRA will allow hybrid operation of the car with a "frozen" ZERBRA while it is being thawed. A ZEBRA can well be used to make a Prius into a Plug-In-Hybrid with the same object in mind, and a 50 mile electric Prius is created that tolerates the occasional frozen Zebra. With some cleverness the ZEBRA can be thawed in less than an hour, and the energy frozen into it is not lost.

Lithium batteries are not needed for plug-in hybrid cars. Lead will do. Lithium will be very nice when it is cheaper, but there is no need to delay Plug-In-Hybrids for another day. ..HG..

clett

"the lower efficiency of lithium batteries."

Indeed, as low as 95-98%, terrible efficiency.

Emphyrio

Sony are not fools. Laptop cmputer demand is ggrowing 25% per year. They already make half the world's laptop computer batteries and will need 75% more production in 2010.

Nice to see someone else talking sense about the Zebra battery.

Mannstein

There isn't enough lithium in the world at politically stable locations to supply all the electric cars globally.

This lithium ion play will take us from peak oil to peak lithium. Bolivia will become the new Middle East.

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