Sanyo To Produce Lithium-Ion Batteries For Plug-In Hybrid Cars

Sanyo Electric Co. (OOTC:SANYY) said Wednesday it will continue to supply lithium-ion batteries forhybrid and electric vehicles to any car maker, seeing this as profitable amid the increasingly popular market for the eco-friendly vehicles.

The move comes despite Sanyo’s fate of becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of its larger rival Panasonic Corp. (NYSE:PC) , which produces such batteries for Japan’s top automaker Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE:TM)

Sanyo’s executive vice president, Mitsuru Homma, told reporters, ”By expanding our business with various car makers, we will be able to supplement Panasonic.”

Homma, who was speaking in Tokyo about the company’s strategy for hybrid car battery business, said this strategy of not limiting lithium-ion battery sales to a specific manufacturer was aimed at extending sales and reducing costs.

The Osaka-based consumer electronics maker currently has a lithium-ion battery plant in Tokushima Prefecture and is scheduled to complete building a factory in Hyogo Prefecture next year for mass production. By 2015, it plans to sharply raise its lithium-ion battery production capacity.

Sanyo, the world’s largest rechargeable battery maker, has said it will start producing lithium-ion batteries for conventional hybrid cars towards the end of the year in Japan and bring its monthly capacity to 1.1 million cells in 2010.

The new lithium-ion battery production line for plug-in hybrid vehicles, which will also be located in Japan, will be capable of making 300,000-400,000 cells a month.

Sanyo has not disclosed how much it plans to spend on the new line. The Osaka-based company has earmarked 80 billion yen ($883 million) in capital investment for auto-use lithium-ion batteries over eight years.

In addtion, Sanyo said it is considering building facilities to produce battery systems in Europe, possibly near Germany, as the company will start producing lithium-ion batteries for Volkswagen AG (VOW.XE) later this year. The company also aims to set up facilities in the U.S. and China.