Mitsubishi, Honda partner plans its fourth battery plant in Japan

Automotive News reports on Mitsubishi's and Honda's efforts to build out a parts infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Sarah Tew/CNET
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Mitsubishi iMiev
Mitsubishi plans to sell its i-Miev electric car in the U.S. Sarah Tew/CNET

TOKYO -- GS Yuasa Corp., a Japanese lithium ion battery maker that has partnered with Mitsubishi and Honda, plans to open a fourth battery plant in 2012 to boost volume and cut costs.

The factory will have battery capacity for 50,000 vehicles a year and will be operated by Lithium Energy Japan, GS Yuasa's battery joint venture with Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

The power packs primarily will supply Mitsubishi's i-MiEV electric vehicle. The small four-seater began retail sales in Japan this year and is expected to reach U.S. showrooms in mid-2011.

The batteries also will go into electric cars for French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen.

The plant will be GS Yuasa's third for its Mitsubishi venture, bringing total annual capacity to 67,800 batteries.

GS Yuasa also has a joint venture with Honda Motor Co., called Blue Energy Co., which plans to open its first lithium ion battery factory this fall in Japan.

Ramping up

GS Yuasa's expansion comes as Mitsubishi ramps up plans for electric-vehicle production. Last month Mitsubishi agreed to manufacture 100,000 electric vehicles through 2015 for PSA. That volume will come on top of Mitsubishi's own electric-car models.

Mitsubishi plans to produce 18,000 electric cars in its 2011 fiscal year. By the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, the company expects to make 30,000 i-MiEVs a year. Total electric-vehicle output at that time will reach nearly 55,000 after adding in a planned 25,000 electric vehicles for PSA.

Carmakers are competing to bring electric vehicles to market as regulation caps carbon dioxide emissions from gasoline and diesel engines and customers look to buy more green products.

Boosting volume will help bring down costs in electric vehicles. The cars need lithium ion batteries, which are light and powerful but expensive. Mitsubishi began taking retail orders for the i-MiEV last summer for this month's launch in Japan. So far the automaker has more than 2,000 orders.

Lithium Energy Japan is spending about ¥37.5 billion ($401.8 million) on the new battery plant, which will be in Ritto, Japan, and open in 2012, GS Yuasa and Mitsubishi said in a statement. The venture's two other plants are in the Japanese cities of Kusatsu and Kyoto.

Only one of two lines at the Kusatsu plant is operating, with capacity for 2,300 vehicles. The second line at Kusatsu and the Kyoto plant will start production this year.

Goal: 100,000 batteries

Lithium Energy Japan aims for long-term capacity of 100,000 batteries a year in Japan.

GS Yuasa's venture with Honda, Blue Energy, will make lithium ion batteries for Honda hybrid cars. That plant plans annual capacity of 20,000 to 30,000 batteries by 2012. Honda has not announced what model will be getting those power packs.

(Source: Automotive News)

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