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Hitachi, Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery Considering Joint Venture for HEV Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Batteries
Apr 5, 2004
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Tokyo, Japan-based companies Hitachi Ltd. and Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery Co. Ltd. have announced that they have started discussions toward establishing a joint venture company to market, develop and manufacture rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for hybrid electric vehicles (HEV). The new company would be established in fiscal 2004.

In recent years, the development and commercialization of HEV and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) have gathered momentum on a global scale with the dual goals of helping preserve the environment and improving fuel economy. HEV are driven by both a conventional engine and electric motor, while FCEV are powered by electrical energy released from a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. While nickel metal-hydride rechargeable batteries are currently employed as the main power source in HEV, high hopes are harbored for lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, which have a higher energy density and power output. Because these batteries can be made more compact and lightweight than the former type of battery, hopes are high that they may be widely used in HEV, FCEV, and industrial applications.

Hitachi and Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery have been jointly developing rechargeable lithium-ion batteries with considerable success. In 2000, they began commercializing products for HEV, and followed that in 2003 by mass producing a rechargeable lithium-ion battery for electric scooters.

The establishment of a joint venture would enable Hitachi and Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery to capitalize fully on the strengths of both companies in the rechargeable lithium-ion battery field to meet full-scale expansion in demand for these batteries, according to a written statement from the companies. With the new company facilitating more efficient and quicker marketing, development and production than before, the aim is to build a business framework that achieves greater investment efficiency and speeds the pace of development through the concentration of development resources, while raising cost competitiveness and production efficiency.

Plans call for the proposed joint venture to build a pilot line this fall to improve the ability to supply advanced mass produced items.

The exact structure and other aspects of the new company are to be determined through ongoing discussions between Hitachi and Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery.

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