By Yuri Kageyama/AP
Nissan is tying up with Japanese electronics maker NEC in producing batteries for ecological vehicles, an official said on 13 April, signaling efforts to catch up with rival automakers that have a head start in green technology.
Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s No. 3 automaker, and NEC Corp. will announce details later in the day, the official, who is close to the deal, said on condition of anonymity. The official refused to elaborate.
Japan’s top business daily The Nikkei reported on 13 April that Nissan and NEC will set up a joint venture together to produce batteries for electric cars and hybrids.
Nissan has fallen behind Japanese rivals Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. in developing hybrids and other ecological technologies that reduce gas emissions blamed for global warming.
Tokyo-based Nissan has started selling hybrid cars, including the Altima, but licenses the technology from Toyota. Hybrids switch between a gas engine and electric motor to deliver better mileage and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
Although sales of hybrids and cars boasting other environmentally friendly technology are still a fraction of standard models, both Toyota and Honda have seen their brand image improve from promoting such advances, such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic hybrids.
Sales of Toyota and Honda small cars have jumped in the U.S. and other overseas markets lately on the back of soaring oil prices.
The Nikkei said the joint venture will center around lithium-ion batteries, common in gadgets such as laptops and cell phones but have yet to be fully adapted to the more rigorous demands of a car engine.
Hybrids from Toyota and Honda use nickel-metal hydride batteries, although automakers, including General Motors Corp. of the U.S., are working on lithium-ion batteries for vehicles.
NEC Tokin Corp., an NEC subsidiary that produces lithium-ion batteries, will handle the production, according to The Nikkei.Nissan was near bankruptcy before entering an alliance with Renault SA of France in 1999, and forging a gradual turnaround.
Carlos Ghosn, chief executive at Renault and Nissan, who led the revival, in the past has played down the importance of hybrids, which are expensive to develop and take time to catch on.He had stressed instead innovations in gas engines, while saying Nissan was working on its own hybrid technology.Toyota is the first automaker to sell a mass-produced hybrid to consumers. Toyota has dozens of patents on the technology and has sold more hybrid vehicles than any other car maker.