In a report from a battery and fuel cell conference in Tokyo today, industry insiders were said to be “guardedly optimistic” that electric vehicles will continue beyond the nascent stage from which they are now attempting to emerge.
According to the on-the-scene pulse read by WardAuto, attendees of the Battery Japan and FC Expo 2012 were overall bullish, with a few indicators cited to back up their optimism.
Among these were that Lithium Energy Japan, a joint venture between Mitsubishi and GS Yuasa, will open a second plant, its fourth overall, in Ritto, Shiga prefecture, next spring. This will create capacity for an additional 75,000 battery packs for electric cars.
Currently, the output from the three existing plants is for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car (also known as the “i” in the U.S.) as well as the Peugeot and Citroen spin-offs supplied by the Japanese automaker.
Another indicator is that Blue Energy, a second GS Yuasa joint venture, but with Honda this time, began providing batteries for Civic Hybrids last April from a plant in Osando outside Kyoto. The supplier has capacity to supply 200,000-300,000 hybrids.
And, observers note, the technology keeps evolving. For example, Toyota was able to cut li-ion battery-pack’s weight 50 percent and reduce the overall size of the unit 60 percent in the Prius plug-in when compared to the original design used in prototype vehicles tested in 2010. The new battery weighs 176 pounds and stores 4.4 kilowatt-hours, down from the original 352 pounds and 5.2 kilowatt-hours.
Such investments and improvements are being considered a good sign for the future of EV vehicles, as it will translate in broader availability and efficiency.
But how about you HybridCars.com readers? From where you see things, are EVs on the rise or are you less optimistic? Do you see other indicators to support your views you wish to share?