MUNICH, Germany Automotive manufacturer Volkswagen plans to intensify its efforts to develop and eventually produce batteries for electric cars. Besides its existing collaboration with Sanyo and Toshiba, the manufacturer plans to launch a research joint venture with Varta Microbattery GmbH.
In the planned joint venture, Volkswagen hopes to tap Varta's expertise in electrochemical technology. The joint venture is designed to last for four years, about the time span required to develop a battery type fit for mass production. For Varta, the challenge will be to transform its existing expertise in small lithium ion batteries to design large ones, powerful enough to run an electric car on them.
While parameters such as price level, size, weight and durability of the battery to be developed will play a role, the joint venture will not take the role of a manufacturer, explained Varta Microbattery CEO Herbert Schein.
The move is part of a large government-funded effort of the German industry to make up its leeway against North America and, first of all, Asia with respect to battery technology. Japan and Korea already dispose of large production capacities for lithium ion batteries. In the USA, with A123 Systems the first lithium ion technology company recently went public. Despite this handicap, the European industry will be able to produce lithium ion batteries suitable for electric vehicles when the first e-car volume shipments will hit the markets.
"It is not too late to develop lithium ion batteries for the next generation electric cars," Schein said. "The necessary expertise regarding the production infrastructure is already in place. The industrial implementation can be done rather quickly once the development is completed."
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