Tokyo: Japan’s Nissan Motor Co., seeking to catch up with rivals such as Toyota in energy-saving motoring, said on 13April that it aimed to become a leader in electric vehicles through a joint venture with NEC Corp.
Nissan and NEC said they would invest $4.1 mn (Rs 18,000 crore) in the 50-50 joint venture, to be named Automotive Energy Supply Corp. (AESC), in the aim of mass production of lithium-ion batteries for cars by 2009.
Japan’s number two automaker said it would launch its own electric vehicle powered by the lithium-ion batteries by the early part of the next decade.
It will also use batteries developed by the venture in its own hybrid vehicle by 2010 and accelerate the development of hybrid plug-in technology that can use grid power to recharge batteries as well as onboard charging.
Nissan said it would also try to sell the technology to rival automakers. There are currently no plans to build a new plant to produce batteries.
“We aim to be the leading company in mass production of lithium-ion batteries for the global automotive community,” said Nissan executive vice president Carlos Tavares.
“We believe that lithium-ion batteries will become the key power source for future generations of electric-powered green vehicles,” he told a press conference.
The dream of an electric car, which has been around since the time of Thomas Edison, has so far failed to break into the mainstream because of limited battery life that makes such vehicles impractical for most purposes.
Japanese automakers, particularly Toyota, have struggled to keep pace with demand for their gas-electric hybrids, particularly in US where interest in fuel-guzzling jeeps has been hit by soaring gasoline prices.
However, Nissan has been slower to embrace hybrids, which are equipped with an electric motor and a standard petrol engine.
Under a green push it announced last year, Nissan also aims to introduce a vehicle running entirely on bio-ethanol fuel for the Brazilian market by 2009 and launch a next-generation fuel cell early in the next decade.
Nissan, which is 44% owned by France’s Renault, warned investors in February that net profits were expected to slide by over 11% in the year to March 2007 due to poor sales, particularly in its home market.