Toshiba Corp., a Japanese electronics and power-equipment maker, completed construction today of a second lithium-ion battery plant to meet rising demand for electric vehicles.
The plant in Kashiwazaki city, northeast of Tokyo, will start mass production in February with initial monthly capacity of 500,000 cells, Toshiba said in a statement today. The factory will produce quick-charging batteries for electric vehicles ranging from motorcycles to forklifts and cars and cost about 25 billion yen ($299 million), the company said earlier.
While lithium-ion batteries are still used mostly in laptops and mobile phones, competition is heating up among electronics makers to supply cells for electric vehicles. Toshiba said in July it was in talks with Mitsubishi Motors Corp., which currently gets batteries from GS Yuasa Corp.
“What will determine the medium-term survivability of these battery makers is their relationship with the car companies,” said Xiaomai Feng, an analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd. in Tokyo. “Everybody’s trying to team up.”
The market for lithium-ion batteries will more than quadruple to 4.5 trillion yen in the next decade, according to Nomura Research Institute Ltd. Most of the growth in demand for the cells may come from automakers, with sales of batteries in electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars projected to increase to 1.7 trillion yen in 2020 from almost zero last year, according to March estimates at Daiwa Securities Group Inc.
Toshiba gained 1.2 percent to 410 yen as of 1:28 p.m. in Tokyo trading, while the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 0.9 percent.
Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s third-largest carmaker, has a venture with NEC Corp. which supplies the lithium-ion cells for its Leaf, a battery-powered vehicle that goes on sale in December. Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn estimates electric vehicles will account for 10 percent of all car sales by 2020, assuming oil costs more than $70 a barrel.
The Yokohama-based carmaker has booked more than 26,000 orders for the Leaf, and Ghosn has said he aims to have capacity to build 500,000 electric cars annually by the end of 2012.
Mitsubishi Motors has sold about 3,100 of its i-Miev battery-powered compact car. The vehicle, the world’s first fully electric, mass-produced car, is powered by a lithium-ion battery from GS Yuasa, a Kyoto-based company that also has a joint venture supplying cells to Honda Motor Co. for hybrid vehicles.
Mitsubishi denied a report in the Nikkei newspaper this week that it plans to develop battery technology with South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd.
Toshiba, which withdrew from a lithium-ion battery business focused on portable electronics in 2004, has reentered the industry and is aiming for annual battery sales of 200 billion yen by fiscal year 2015. The company is targeting overall revenue of 8 trillion yen by fiscal 2012.
Toshiba’s SCiB, or super-charge ion, cells can be recharged to 90 percent of full capacity in five minutes, according to the company. It has a second battery plant in Japan’s Nagano prefecture that also makes the batteries. The electronics maker doesn’t provide information on the price of the cells.
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