Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin)
September 13, 2013
Johnson Controls on Wednesday will unveil a production-ready version of a two-battery micro hybrid system that it says can boost a car's fuel economy by 15%.
The micro hybrid is designed to give carmakers an alternative that's less expensive than full-scale hybrids or electric vehicles to boost gas mileage and comply with global warming regulations in place around the world.
The Glendale firm unveiled a prototype version of the technology in January, and is now preparing to ship the first generation of the battery to automakers for testing in December.
The batteries are being unveiled at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany.
The micro battery system will use a 12-volt lead-acid starter battery and a 48-volt lithium ion battery, with the latter designed to capture energy quickly from braking, and support energy-intensive features such as air conditioning and active chassis technologies, the company said. In addition to starting the car, the 12-volt battery will be tapped to run interior and exterior lights as well as radios and DVD players.
The lithium-ion cells and the prototype batteries will be made at the company's advanced battery factory in Holland, MI. The micro hybrid technology is one of several products Johnson Controls, the world's largest supplier of automotive batteries, is developing to help the auto industry meet aggressive gas mileage standards designed to reduce tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide.
The company already builds lithium-ion batteries for hybrid vehicles as well as advanced lead-acid batteries for start-stop systems, which enable a car to shut off when it's idling and restart when the accelerator is pushed.
Johnson Controls is one of 11 companies around the world that are trying to forge a niche in next-generation battery technologies, according to industry analysts at Navigant Research. The consulting firm says Johnson Controls is among the leaders in the lithium-ion battery race, along with Korea-based LG Chem and Japan-based AESC.
International competition European carmakers may introduce new models with micro hybrid batteries several years ahead of a 2020 mandate that new vehicles achieve an average of 58 miles per gallon.
"A lot of it's going to be driven by the milestones for CO2 regulations that the European market needs to hit by 2020," said Craig Rigby, Johnson Controls vice president of product management and strategy. "We think this is going to be a big part of their strategy to do that."
After that, the company expects U.S. automakers to adopt the technology. By 2020, two-thirds of all cars sold worldwide could deploy the micro hybrid or start-stop technologies, Johnson Controls has forecast.
The batteries have been designed with standardized components and size to help Johnson Controls reduce the manufacturing cost for the technology.
The market for automotive batteries is projected to expand rapidly as automakers move to incorporate more recharging, hybrid and plug-in electric technologies in the years ahead.
In a presentation late last year, Johnson Controls forecast that the global market for automotive batteries will double between 2012 and 2017, to $53 million from $26 million.
The micro hybrid is more affordable for carmakers because full hybrids use batteries with much higher voltage—300 or 400 volts—and the use of those high-power systems requires more sophisticated and costly safety features built into the car, Rigby said.
When the brake is pressed to regenerate the battery, the 48-volt lithium-ion battery generates more power for vehicle systems than the 12-volt battery used in start-stop technology, he said
The micro hybrid, incorporating the 48-volt battery, "is stealing that next 10% to 12% of efficiency gains, but at a much lower cost," he said.
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