Reuters is reporting that a senior company executive has said Sanyo Electric has contracts to supply lithium ion car batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles to six automakers.
Sanyo, the world’s biggest maker of lithium ion cells, currently used mostly in consumer items such as personal computers, faces a challenge from South Korean makers determined to grab the lion’s share of the emerging auto-use market.
“To be exact, there are six automotive companies, only for lithium ion batteries,” Mitsuru Homma, the head of Sanyo’s energy division, told reporters. “Of course we supply nickel-metal hydride batteries to a couple of manufacturers,” he added.
Sanyo has declined to reveal details about customers for its auto-use lithium ion cells, apart from Volkswagen and Suzuki Motor.
Speaking at a briefing for reporters, Homma said that some client automakers would use the cells in both full electric and hybrid vehicles, but that he expected electric vehicles to remain a small market for some time because of the need to build up infrastructure.
South Korean rival LG Chem has teamed up with Hyundai Motor Co , General Motors, Ford Motor, Volvo and Renault.
Homma said he expected synergies particularly in research and development with Panasonic Corp., which is in the process of buying out subsidiary Sanyo as part of a push into environmental technology.
Sanyo is a aiming for 30-40 per cent of the market for environmentally friendly car batteries by 2020. Honma sees the Panasonic group as a whole taking an even larger share of what Sanyo forecasts to be a US$18 billion global market by that time.