DETROIT -- As hybrid and electric vehicles get nearer to production, the focus on lithium ion batteries is starting to shift from safety to price.
During a panel discussion here last month at a conference on plug-in vehicles, several speakers said dramatic cost cuts are possible once the advanced batteries reach high-volume production.
No concerns were expressed about the safety of the advanced batteries, which in the past have overheated and started fires in consumer electronics.
Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions aims to cut the cost of a lithium ion battery pack in half, said Michael Andrew, Johnson Controls' director of government affairs and external communications for hybrid battery systems.
Automakers won't talk about how much the battery packs for hybrids and electric vehicles cost. But some estimates place the cost of the lithium ion batteries for the Chevrolet Volt at around $8,000.
Andrew said Johnson Controls-Saft is not just looking at the cost of materials that go into the batteries but at the way the cells are manufactured. He said battery makers can learn from other industries how to produce lithium ion cells more efficiently. "We think we can leverage process technology being used in other industries to rapidly bring down the cost," he said.