Johnson Controls says it is adding Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) battery production capacity in response to growing demand. AGM is the technology at the heart of a Start-Stop system, which it claims delivers consumers an average of 5% fuel savings.

By 2020, Johnson Controls says, it will be difficult to buy a new vehicle that runs while idling. Start-Stop technology continues to gain in popularity as tightening government fuel economy and carbon emission reduction targets put additional challenges on car makers from around the world.

With $555 million in investments between 2011 and 2020, the company is implementing plans to expand AGM production capacity in Germany, the United States and China.

"Johnson Controls is currently the world's leading provider of batteries for Start-Stop vehicles and we plan to stay that way," says Lisa Bahash, group vice president and general manager Original Equipment, Johnson Controls Power Solutions. "To ensure we will continue to meet rising demand of car manufacturers and aftermarket retailers for this technology, we consider it a business priority to invest in increasing our production worldwide."

Johnson Controls says the market for new vehicle and aftermarket Start-Stop batteries could rise to 56 million worldwide by 2020, compared to 22 million today. In this time frame, 85 percent of all new vehicles in Europe and 40 percent in the U.S. and China are expected to be powered with Start-Stop batteries. "We are expecting strong growth for Start-Stop technology, and with good reason. It requires minimal changes to the vehicle and costs significantly less than battery systems in hybrid or electric vehicles," says Bahash. "Start-Stop is the best solution to help automakers meet upcoming environmental regulations."

In Europe, Johnson Controls says it has invested more than $112 million in its facility in Hannover, Germany to increase production of fuel-efficient AGM batteries by 65 percent since 2011. Two years ago, the company also expanded its Zwickau plant with an investment of more than $112 million, making it the world's largest production site for AGM batteries. In August, Johnson Controls announced additional capacity at its U.S. plant in Toledo, Ohio, bringing the overall investment to $130 million since the start of AGM production at this site in 2012. Johnson Controls is also planning to build a new automotive battery manufacturing facility in Shenyang, China. The $200 million state-of-the-art plant will have the capacity to produce 6 million automotive batteries a year, including both SLI and AGM. "Not only will we be making more Start-Stop batteries, this is also a signal to our customers that wherever they are in the world, they can expect the same high-quality, high-performing Johnson Controls products," says Bahash.

Start-Stop technology automatically shuts off the engine when the car is idle and restarts it when the driver's foot leaves the brake pedal. During this time, the vehicle's electrical systems – from entertainment to lights – use energy from an advanced lead-acid battery (AGM) rather than the gas-powered engine, thus saving fuel.