From: Malcolm Foster, Associated Press
Published June 27, 2007 12:00 AM

Nissan Developing Smaller, Lighter Car Batteries for Hybrids and Electric Cars

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said Wednesday his company is working hard to develop the next generation of smaller, lighter auto batteries -- a technology that holds promise not just for hybrids but also for electric cars.

Automakers are racing to develop viable lithium ion batteries, which are 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.

Nissan, which has fallen behind rivals such as Toyota and Honda in hybrid vehicles, recently opened a new tech center in Japan dedicated to developing green technologies. Nissan Motor Co. introduced a hybrid vehicle last year, but licenses the technology from Toyota.

Ghosn believes that Nissan's investment in new technologies will help it narrow the gap or even put it ahead of competitors down the road.

"We continue on the lithium ion battery. We think for us it's a competitive advantage," he told reporters during a press conference in Bangkok. "We have a lot of technology is this area, and we think this is going to be very helpful, not only for hybrids but also for electric cars."

While consumer interest has surged in gas-and-electric hybrid cars due to higher fuel prices and global warming, Ghosn said Nissan was serious about going one step further and introducing vehicles powered only by electricity.

"If you have an efficient battery for a hybrid, why not go all the way and go for electric cars?" he said. "It has zero emissions of anything."

Electric cars have failed to catch on because they are expensive, difficult to recharge and travel limited distances. Still, several auto companies are trying to develop them for the mass market.

Ghosn said Nissan was currently negotiating a deal to put a fleet of electric cars on the market. He declined to give a timeframe or specific number, only saying "hundreds."

He stressed that Nissan was investing in various kinds of green technologies, not just focusing on hybrids, which has been the primary focus of Toyota.

"We said from the beginning, we need to develop all the technologies," he said. "We can't afford to squeeze any one of them: hybrid, fuel cell, electric, diesel, biofuel. Because we still don't know how the market will react."

Source: Associated Press

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