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Japan-Update

Mazda to develop lithium-ion starter batteries

Automaker will tie up with chemicals maker Ube and startup Eliiy Power

TOKYO -- Mazda Motor will develop small lithium-ion batteries for starting hybrid or gasoline vehicles in collaboration with chemicals maker Ube Industries and storage battery startup Eliiy Power.

Batteries that supply power to engine starters are usually lead-acid based. Lithium-ion varieties are expected to be lighter and more durable. Safety features, however, will be key to preventing fires since the batteries sit so close to the engine.

The partners will develop batteries that are much smaller than the high-capacity ones needed to power electric vehicles. They aim for commercialization in the early 2020s.

Engine technology is a strength of Mazda's. The Japanese automaker plans to introduce engines with 20-30% better fuel economy in 2019, with engines that are even more fuel efficient currently under development. Mazda has been working to devise starter batteries as part of peripheral systems that support such engines.

Ube produces and sells electrolytes and separators, both key materials for making lithium-ion batteries.

Eliiy Power makes lithium-ion starter batteries for motorcycles.

Tokyo-based Eliiy Power develops and produces lithium-ion storage batteries mainly for residential use. Its batteries have undergone a nail penetration test without igniting, and have earned the safety seal of an international certification body based in Germany.

Mazda in October formed a capital partnership with Toyota Motor and has teamed up with the leading Japanese automaker and its group member Denso on electric vehicle technology.

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