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Little battery maker gets Honda-size boost

Eliiy Power says its li-ion pack won't die during winter hibernation

TOKYO -- A lithium-ion battery from a Japanese venture has climbed aboard a mass-produced motorcycle.

Eliiy Power's HY93 batteries are now being used to start the engines of Honda Motor's latest big off-road sports bike, the CBR1000RR SP.

The HY93 is much lighter and smaller than conventional lead-acid batteries, which use diluted sulfuric acid. It weighs about a third of these conventional batteries.

Honda's CBR1000RR SP in March was fully revamped for the first time in nine years. The bike weighs 2kg less than it used to, thanks to the HY93.

Having one of its batteries adopted by Honda is a big win for Eliiy Power, which has yet to build its brand in the motorcycle market.

A senior executive gave voice to the company's newfound confidence: "We can provide a sense of security to consumers now that one of our batteries comes standard with a mass-produced motorcycle," said Kiyomoto Kawakami.

Lighter, longer life

Lead-acid batteries have a downside other than their weight -- they lose their charge over time.

This is an especially frustrating problem for off-road motorcycle enthusiasts in developed countries like Japan, the U.S. and Europe, many of whom put their bikes into hibernation every winter. A dead battery can douse the excitement they feel when spring rolls around and they decide to take their bikes out for a spin.

Eliiy Power's lithium-ion battery, though, has a lower self-discharge rate than its lead-acid cousins and is not nearly as likely to sap an off-roader's springtime zeal.

Although the battery costs more than lead-acid types, its longer life span is expected to more than offset the difference.

Now that test begins.

Eliiy Power was founded by a research project team at Keio University. The Daiwa House Group, Toray Industries and Suzuki Motor are among its investors. It has developed stationary lithium-ion batteries that can store power at home and other locations.

After it became certain that the HY93 would be the standard battery on the Honda model, Eliiy Power renovated production lines at a plant in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, and dedicated the entire building to the battery.

Now other motorcycle makers are expressing interest in the product, Kawakami said. "We anticipate that we'll run short of capacity as early as 2019," he said.

But that's a problem the company wants; it will mean it has succeeded in gaining more clients.

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