Panasonic EV Energy and Sanyo are the main battery suppliers, Panasonic historically supplying Toyota and Sanyo supplying Ford, Honda and others. Sanyo is ahead of the game with its investment in lithium batteries (today’s hybrids are powered with nickel-metal hydride batteries, or NiMH) which most see as the future of the hybrid battery. Unfortunately, lithium is an exhaustible resource with most reserves in Chile, China, Argentina and Bolivia. Shortages in lithium is not projected to be an issue until 2020 at least, but isn’t that a little short-sighted?
Panasonic is buying a majority stake in Sanyo, which will soon be Toyota’s battery supplier as well. “Best” is definitely a relative term—is Sanyo being responsible by moving forward in lithium batteries?—but the main battery manufacturer is certainly Sanyo at this point.
Companies competing for a share of this growing market include Ener1, A123 Systems, Johnson Controls-Saft, and Asian companies working with Toyota and Nissan. American companies are developing a controversial lithium ion battery to replace the more common nickel metal hydride batteries used in most of today’s hybrids and produced mostly by Toyota affiliate Panasonic EV Energy. China has several manufacturers, including one invested in by Warren Buffet, but the lithium ion industry is young and untested and costs are expected to rise as automotive culture continues to rely on gasoline.
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