GS Yuasa, a Japanese battery manufacturer, is expected to shift its focus from hybrids to all-electric vehicles as early as next year.
GS Yuasa is an established manufacturer of automotive lead-acid batteries as well as lithium-ion batteries for various applications, including hybrids and all-electric vehicles (to a smaller degree).
Through a joint venture with Mitsubishi (Lithium Energy Japan) over a decade ago, it was one of the pioneers of prismatic lithium-ion cells for EVs (Mitsubishi i-MIEV and later also Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV). The company also has a joint venture with Honda (Blue Energy). To date, the company produced more than 1.4 million lithium-ion battery systems for hybrids (since 2009).
It will be very interesting if GS Yuasa invests in the development and manufacturing of batteries specifically for all-electric cars - most likely, in partnership with some carmakers.
According to Nikkei, the company recently "formed a department for the project, bringing in engineers from its hybrid and plug-in hybrid operations."
Earlier this year, GS Yuasa was selected for the NEDO Green Innovation Fund’s Next-Generation Storage Battery project, related to solid-state batteries.
At this point, it's not clear what battery chemistry might be offered by GS Yuasa for the new all-electric models. We guess that there might be some innovations, simply because otherwise it will not be easy to compete with already scaled-up battery manufacturers.
Japan was reluctant to transition to electric vehicles over the last 15 years - despite a lot of know-how in terms of lithium-ion batteries and some early push into electrification (Toyota and Honda with hybrids, followed Nissan and Mitsubishi with all-electric). Many manufacturers around the world (including Europe, US and China) utilized the time to develop dedicated BEV platforms and are far outpacing Japanese manufacturers in terms of sales volume.
Hopefully, the shift hinted at by Nikkei is a sign of a broader move by the Japanese industry. It's high time to prepare to switch the focus from hybrids to all-electric cars. 5-10 years from now, it might be too late.