Bosch returns to traction battery business with new JV

February 12, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Doubling the capacity of lithium-ion batteries for electrical vehicles - this is the goal of the joint venture established by automotive supplier Robert Bosch GmbH, electrical combine Mitsubishi Corp. and lithium ion battery expert company GS Yuasa. The launch of the JV marks Bosch's re-entry into the promising battery market after the termination of its relationship with Samsung.

The new joint venture, Lithium Energy and Power GmbH (LEP) is based in Stuttgart (Germany), close to Bosch's headquarters in near-by Reutlingen. LEP's mission is developing the next generation of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, doubling the energy density of current batteries. This progress is crucial to make electric vehicles a mass-market success within the decade ahead. Doubling the energy density will have a twofold effect on the acceptance of e-cars: It will expand the driving range and make the vehicles cheaper since cars can be equipped with smaller batteries at lower weight. The short driving range of typically about 150 km is one of the major stumbling blocks for the breakthrough of these vehicles.

With the launch of this JV, Bosch returns to the battery market after an awkward period of market absence. In September, 2012, Bosch terminated an earlier joint venture, SB LiMotive, with Samsung due to strategic differences. For Bosch as a company with the ambition to lead the electromobility technology development, it must have been a painful period at the sidelines. This gave Bosch's main competitor Continental a lead that will be difficult to make up. Continental collaborates with Korean SK Innovation in developing high-power lithium-ion batteries. Rumours about a connection between Bosch, GS Yuasa and Mitsubishi circulated for almost a year.

Bosch holds 50 % of Lithium Energy and Power, the two partners 25 percent each. The company is run by a three-member executive board: Rolf Speicher from Bosch, Toshio Ohara from GS Yuasa and Yutaka Kashiwagi from Mitsubishi.

According to a press release, Bosch plans to support LEP's activities with its entire electromobility components portfolio, in particular with its expertise in cell monitoring and control. In addition, Bosch will contribute its mass-production expertise. GS Yuasa contributes its experience with high energy density lithium ion battery cells and its expertise in electrochemistry. Mitsubishi contributes its global sales network and its capabilities in building global value