Sony in discussions with firms over electric vehicles batteries

Sony is in talks to supply several companies with lithium-ion car batteries, Executive Deputy President Hiroshi Yoshioka told reporters in Tokyo today, declining to identify the potential customers. Yoshioka on Nov. 19 said Sony plans to spend 100 billion yen ($1.15 billion) researching and developing rechargeable batteries, including for electric cars.

The Tokyo-based maker of Bravia televisions last week identified car batteries, 3-D electronics and network services as three new businesses that will spur Sony’s growth. Demand for rechargeable car batteries is projected to surge as automakers including Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co. increase production of electric vehicles.

Sony, which recalled more than 9 million laptop batteries in 2006, is lagging behind Sanyo Electric Co. entering the electric car battery market. Osaka-based Sanyo, the world’s largest maker of rechargeable batteries, is boosting production capacity as the company estimates global sales of hybrid and electric cars using lithium-ion cells will grow to 2 million units by 2015 and 7.48 million units by 2020.

Sony Corporation announced that it has launched a new type of lithium ion secondary battery that combines high-power and long-life performance, using olivine-type lithium iron phosphate as the cathode material. Shipment commenced in June 2009.

The Olivine-type lithium iron phosphate used in this new battery is extremely suited for use as a cathode material due to its robust crystal structure and stable performance, even at high temperatures. By combining this new cathode material with Sony’s proprietary particle design technology that minimizes electrical resistance to deliver high power output, and also leveraging the cell structure design technology Sony accrued developing its current "Fortelion series" lithium ion secondary battery line-up, Sony has realized a high power density of 1800W/kg and extended life span of approximately 2,000 charge-discharge cycles.

Furthermore, with this new battery able to charge rapidly, in addition to providing a stable discharge of voltage, it will first be supplied for use in motor driven devices such as power tools, after which its application will be expanded to a wide range of other mobile electronic devices. With lithium ion secondary batteries able to deliver both compact size and high capacity, their usage continues to diversify and grow. By adding this high-power, long-life lithium ion secondary battery to its lineup, Sony will aim to continue to provide batteries optimized to its customers’ requirements, and further strengthen its lithium ion secondary battery business going forward.

Global lithium-ion battery sales will likely grow to 2 trillion yen in 2020 from 840 billion yen in 2008, fueled by demand for batteries used in electric cars and hybrid vehicles, Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd. estimated in January.

Yoshioka said the impact of the recent appreciation of the yen against the dollar will likely be very small for Sony, which is projecting an exchange rate of 90 yen to the dollar for the fiscal second half to March 2010. The dollar dropped to a 14-year low against the yen today.