Johnson Controls has opened a lithium-ion battery development laboratory in Milwaukee focused on hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs).

The facility – located at the company’s battery technology centre – features a “dry room” and specialised tools and equipment for designing, developing and testing power-storage and management systems based on lithium-ion technology.

The facility cost $US4 million.

Johnson Controls has battery technology centres in the United States and Europe and, for over a decade, has supplied nickel-metal-hydride batteries for hybrid-vehicle applications in Europe. It believes lithium ion technology is likely to replace nickel-metal-hydride in hybrid-electric and electric vehicles.

According to industry projections, sales of HEVs in the US and Europe could reach six million units within a decade. HEV sales currently account for about 0.5% of total world vehicle production.

At this time, most HEVs rely on nickel-metal-hydride batteries. Lithium- ion batteries have significant potential for near-future HEV applications, because they have the capability of offering major advantages in power- generation, size, weight, cycle life and cost.

The new laboratory is part of the component maker’s plan to create a global ‘centre of excellence’ for lithium-ion battery development. Current research and development efforts on lithium-ion technology focus on cathode materials, new cell designs for better thermal management, modular designs that enable the integration of safety technologies, and cell balancing to ensure safe operation as well as extended performance and cycling.

In 2004, the company was granted a contract for lithium-ion battery development by the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC). It is developing an abuse-tolerant, lithium-ion battery offering extended life and significantly improved power-to-weight performance compared with current hybrid-battery technology.