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Thu, Dec 25, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Toshiba to build new battery plant

AGENCIES , TOKYO

Toshiba Corp said yesterday it would build a new factory to boost production of advanced rechargeable batteries that can be used in hybrid cars and electric vehicles.

The plant is to begin production in late 2010 and will increase Toshiba’s manufacturing capacity to several million cells per month from its current level of 150,000 cells, spokeswoman Hiroko Mochida said.

The company will invest “several tens of billions of yen” in the plant, she said. The Nikkei Shimbun business newspaper reported the cost would be between ¥20 billion and ¥30 billion (US$220 million and US$330 million).

Toshiba said in a press release it had selected a site in northwest Japan as the main candidate for the new factory.

Lithium ion batteries are lightweight and suitable for electronics such as laptop computers and mobile phones, but lose capacity over time and have been the subject of massive product recalls because of safety issues including overheating and even exploding.

Toshiba says its new batteries are safer than existing batteries, can be quickly recharged and last longer than current batteries, offering ten years of continual use with a daily recharge.

It calls the new type of battery “Super charge ion Battery,” or SCiB, and began shipping units in April. While the batteries can be used in electronics, the company targets larger applications such as electric vehicles and industrial power supplies.

They are currently used in an electric bike made by Cannondale Sports Group that offers quick recharge times, and Toshiba is in talks with other companies, including a major automobile manufacturer, Mochida said.

Batteries are still a minor business for Toshiba, one of the world largest makers of flash memory chips used to store information in gadgets like portable music players and digital cameras. The company also has a large nuclear power plant business.

Demand for flash memory has fallen as consumers cut spending on electronics, and last week Toshiba said it would cut output by 30 percent.

Separately, Toshiba said it would spend US$77 million to build a factory in Vietnam that makes motors used in industrial machinery to meet demand for devices which consume less power and emit less carbon dioxide.

The construction of the factory at Amata Industrial Park, near Ho Chi Minh City, will begin in April, with production scheduled to start in September 2010, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement yesterday.

The plant will make motors generating less than 100 horsepower, it said.

The site has an overall area of 80,000m2. When the new facility reaches full capacity in 2015, it will be able to manufacture up to 1.2 million high-efficiency industrial motors a year, including key components, as required by the market, the company said.

The new motor-making factory will help raise revenue in the business to ¥70 billion in the fiscal year ending March 2016, the company said.

The initial product line will include parts for export to North America, later expanding to China, Southeast Asia and Japan.

Toshiba already has three manufacturing bases — Toshiba Industrial Products Manufacturing Corporation in Japan, Toshiba Dalian Co Ltd in China, and Toshiba International Corporation in the US.

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