MUNICH -- The battle among suppliers to develop the batteries that will power tomorrows cars has just begun. And the current leaders wont be the winners at the end.
So believes Wolf-Henning Scheider, Robert Boschs president of gasoline systems. Scheider, who also leads Boschs hybrid and electric vehicle technology unit, said that battery development for vehicles is still in the early stage.
The battery race will be decided in the next decade, Scheider told Automotive News Europe.
He feels that way because he sees great potential to make batteries that provide more power and cost less.
Bosch, Continental, Magna Steyr and Johnson Controls are newcomers to the field. They are all focusing on lithium-ion batteries.
Said Continental CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann: European and Asian suppliers will fight a head-to-head battle in lithium-ion technology.
Analysts expect the lithium-ion battery market to be about a 10 billion-a-year industry by the end of the decade and grow 10 percent a year. But not everyone is bullish.
The current leaders in mating batteries, electric motors and combustion engines are Toyota and Honda. Both are reluctant to switch from nickel-metal hydride batteries to lithium-ion batteries because of safety and cost concerns.
Pairing with Samsung
Bosch became a competitor last summer when it teamed up with Samsung SDI. The partners will invest $300 million to $400 million (about 233 million to 311 million currently) in SB LiMotive, their 50:50 battery joint venture.
The new company aims to start production of lithium-ion battery systems in South Korea by 2011.
SB LiMotives is focused on the chemistry, battery packs, electronics and system optimization, Scheider said. Samsung has long experience in lithium-ion battery technology. Scheider said Bosch is targeting a 12-year battery life.
With the cost of this component, it is impossible that its lifetime can be shorter, because it would downgrade the value of the car, he said.
Late to the party
Boschs push into battery technology came too late to bid to supply GMs Volt plug-in hybrid. GM chose South Koreas LG Chem as its partner to make lithium-ion battery packs for the Volt. The battery is to last for 10 years or 241,000km.
VW recently partnered with Japanese electronics giant Toshiba to develop electric drive units, power electronics and battery systems for its Up minicar. Starting in 2010, Toshiba aims to make 3 million lithium-ion battery cells a month.
Scheider feels Boschs task is to catch up with Japanese suppliers, who were the first hybrid players.
He claims Boschs parallel-hybrid system will have better energy efficiency and cost efficiency compared with first-generation Japanese systems.
Bosch also is seeking to standardize components like the electronics and motors, to offer its customers cost advantages.