Electric Car Revolution Only Three Years Away (Maybe)


Mitusbishi's i MiEV (i Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle), will be on sale in just three years time

We could all be driving electric powered cars sooner than we thought possible as new developments in battery technology gather pace, new companies form to develop the next generation lithium-ion cells, and the imminent opening of massive new battery producing factories in Asia gets underway.

Among the latest news – leading battery maker A123Systems is planning to introduce lithium-ion cells for use in gas-electric hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars, trucks, and buses – a move that pushes one of the key technologies for alternative vehicles closer to market at a time when fuel prices are soaring.

The new lithium-ion batteries have 10 times the capacity of those now used in hybrid electric vehicles, such as Toyota’s Prius. A123Systems has raised $102 million in funding and is one of a number of start-ups and larger battery companies competing to develop better materials and hammer out the engineering wrinkles.

General Motors and other car manufacturers are, or will, begin testing the batteries in their hybrid models and plug-in prototypes, A123Systems’ CEO David Vieau has said.

Meanwhile, over in Japan, GS Yuasa and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation are setting-up a joint venture company to manufacture lithium-ion batteries. The partners aim to have the new company up and operating within six months.

During the first stage of development, three-billion yen will be invested to install automated mass production lines within GS Yuasa's Kyoto head office plant, capable of manufacturing 200,000 cells a year. Full-scale operations are slated to commence by 2009.

Mitsubishi plans to install the batteries in its next generation EV "i MiEV" (i Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle), which it hopes to have on sale by 2010, a mere three years away.

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