Bosch sees big opportunity for lithium ion batteries

Bosch's Scheider: Focus on development
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TOKYO -- German supplier Robert Bosch GmbH and Japanese battery partner GS Yuasa Corp. aim to sell a lithium ion battery by 2020 that slashes production costs in half and delivers twice the energy density of today's batteries, a top Bosch executive said.

Wolf-Henning Scheider, the management board member in charge of Bosch's global automotive business, said the goal is to put the advanced batteries on the market to supply what Bosch forecasts to be surging demand for electrified vehicles.

"We predict overall 12 million cars electrified by 2020," Scheider said at the Tokyo auto show last month.

That would compare with a projected 2 million this year, according to the latest forecast by LMC Automotive.

The cost and performance of today's lithium ion batteries are seen as hurdles to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles and hybrids.

Lithium ion batteries hold promise because they are lighter than the older generation of nickel-metal hydride batteries and can store more power. But they are more expensive, and many automakers consign them to the realm of small city commuter EVs because they cannot store enough energy for regular long-distance travel.

Scheider said sales targets for the venture haven't been set, and it's too early to predict what percentage of the projected 12 million Bosch will supply.

"Our aim right now is the development," he said.

Under a partnership announced in June, Bosch is teaming with GS Yuasa and trading house Mitsubishi Corp. to create a joint venture aimed at developing low-cost, high energy-density lithium ion batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Bosch will hold a 50 percent stake, while GS Yuasa and Mitsubishi each will take 25 percent in the venture, which will be based in Stuttgart, Germany.

Scheider said it was still undecided where the batteries will be manufactured.

Operations are scheduled to start early next year, Bosch said in June.

In 2012, Bosch broke up SB LiMotive, its 50-50 battery venture with Samsung SDI of South Korea after four years.

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter

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