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Monday, May 17, 2010

Toshiba develops battery with automakers

Electronic conglomerate Toshiba Corp said it is developing lithium-ion batteries with multiple automakers as it seeks to benefit from growing demand for more environment-friendly cars.

Electronics companies are increasingly teaming up with automakers to supply battery systems for electric cars and hybrid vehicles, with output of rechargeable batteries expected to jump five-fold in the next five years.

Recently, Sanyo Electric, the world's largest maker of such batteries, added Suzuki Motor to a list of automakers to which it supplies batteries, while Panasonic Corp and Toyota Motor Corp are producing lithium-ion batteries through a joint venture.

Ryuichi Nakata, 59, head of Toshiba's smart grid, solar power and lithium-ion battery division, told the Reuters Global Technology Summit that Toshiba is seeking business opportunities widely.

"We are in a development phase with multiple automakers," said Nakata, a 34-year Toshiba veteran who once anchored a unit in the United States. "Our strategy is to compete in an open market rather than doing business one-on-one," he said.

He said he is personally considering changing to an electric car from a conventional one.

The global downturn two years ago prompted Toshiba and other electronics conglomerates to accelerate their moves to narrow their business focus and shift more resources to promising growth areas such as nuclear power plants and rechargeable batteries.

The division led by Nakata is one of the areas on which Toshiba plans to focus in the coming years, aiming to make it an earnings pillar to help boost the company's growth and weather the impact of volatile prices of chips, its flagship products.

Toshiba, which also competes with companies such as GS Yuasa in auto-use batteries, is building a new plant in northern Japan.

It plans to start producing its rechargeable SCiB (Super Charge ion Battery) there in February 2011 with an initial capacity of 500,000 per month and aims to double output in 2012.

Toshiba has won orders from Honda Motor to supply batteries for electric motorcycles, and has said it will supply batteries for electric cars to an unidentified automaker.

It aims for SCiB sales of 200 billion yen ($2.2 billion) in 2015/16.

Toshiba is the world's No.2 maker of NAND-type flash memory after Samsung Electronics.

Toshiba shares fell 2.6 percent on Monday, in line with the fall in the electric machinery subindex.

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