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Hitachi Combines Hitachi Maxell and Hitachi Vehicle Energy, Ltd. in New In-House Company Focused on Industrial Li-ion Batteries

Hitachi, Ltd. has established a new in-house company—the Battery Systems Company—to strengthen its battery business with a focus on the steadily growing lithium-ion battery market. The Battery Systems Company comprises two existing Hitachi companies: Hitachi Maxell, Ltd. and Hitachi Vehicle Energy, Ltd.

Hitachi Vehicle Energy Ltd. was formed in 2004 as a joint venture between Hitachi, Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery Co. Ltd. and Hitachi Maxwell Ltd. to develop, manufacture and market rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for hybrid electric vehicles and other applications. In January, HVE introduced new cells targeted at plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, a first for the Hitachi Group. (Earlier post.)

Hitachi will promote the Battery Solution Business, which includes systems for maintaining optimum control of battery recharging and discharging in large-scale industrial applications such as construction machinery and uninterruptible power supply (UPS), as well as smart grids and other future applications. This business will also include maintenance and other services related to the above applications.

Battery Systems Company will aim for revenues of ¥250 billion (US$2.7 billion) in fiscal 2014 in the battery business, with a particular focus on lithium-ion batteries.

With new applications arising in UPS, smart grids, and other fields, the lithium-ion battery market is expected to grow to a scale of about ¥4 trillion (US$43.8 billion )in 2018, Hitachi said.

The Battery Systems Company is intended to expand Hitachi’s battery cell sales, while also promoting the rollout of the Battery Solution business, which includes systems for maintaining optimum control of battery recharging and discharging, as well as maintenance and other related services.

In battery recharging/discharging control systems, Hitachi will utilize the control technologies cultivated within the Hitachi Group in a variety of business fields. At the same time, it will collaborate with Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery Co., Ltd., a group company currently involved in the lead rechargeable battery and lithium-ion battery businesses, in promoting batteries for large-scale industrial applications.

In May of this year, as part of efforts to strengthen the industrial battery business, Hitachi initiated a Group-wide development project with a view toward “smart cities,” and began development of cells and control platforms that can be used in common in a wide range of industrial applications. This project will be conducted over a period of three years, with a total investment of ¥5 billion (US$54.8 million).



What I don't get is that we read about Li-ion component innovations left and right (better separators, better annodes, better cathodes, better electrolytes, better geometries) and yet the end result to date from the largest and best resourced vendors is still the kind of charge density, power density, and # of recharge cycles we've been seeing for 6 years. Ugh.


I don't know the answer, but maybe instead of putting these innovations into improving the performance of the batteries do you think they might be using them to reduce the amounts of costly lithium in each battery?


HB: Due to the multiple patent rights involved, it seems that it is impossible to introduce more than one improved element in a given battery. Patent rights could delay the arrival of improved batteries by up to 15 years unless governments step in to limit those right to 3 or 5 years for EV batteries and all associated elements. China may not have to respect all those patent rights, specially for their local market.


"Want more jobs? Fix the broken patent system"

This is the first article that I have seen in quite a while addressing this issue. If you want to solve multiple problems with one move, it helps to get at the root causes.


Well, patent reform is a really big issue with far reaching implications.

In the mean time, you would expect that someone with several of the patents would cross license them and develop the uber battery (or at least the ~30% better battery) that gets us above 300 miles per trip, or a PHEV40 for a much lower price.


Why cross license when you can corner the market with a monopoly license? (patent) You would only cross license if the partner had something to offer, right now each type has its own strengths and weaknesses that are not necessarily compatible with other designs.

One has quick charge and discharge, but does not have lots of cycles. One has lots of cycles but does not allow quick charge and discharge. I would say if they could combine the two they would get a better battery, but that may not be possible. The trade offs are there and each hopes to have the battery that the market will want and they will control ALL of it.

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