Bosch Sitting on EV battery sidelines for now

Robert Bosch GmbH pulled out of its venture with Korea’s Samsung SDI to develop and manufacture lithium ion batteries last year. Bosch Chairman Volkmar Denner is happy to be out of that segment – for now.

Bosch teamed with Samsung SDI, through a 50-50 venture called SB LiMotive, to develop and make batteries for electrified cars. But Bosch sold its stake to Samsung SDI last year.

While Bosch will pursue its own battery research, it will use cells from Samsung SDI in a Bosch battery pack that will supplied to the Fiat 500e electric car starting next year.

The market for hybrid and electric vehicles is over-saturated with too much capacity for lithium ion batteries, Denner said at a media roundtable in Tokyo. So instead of focusing on mass production today, Bosch will focus on developing next-generation batteries, he said.

Bosch expects electrified vehicles to account for only 10 percent of the global market in 2020. Bosch’s r&d efforts will on supplying demand after that, Denner said.

“Since the market will be quite low until 2020, we at the moment are very happy that we are not engaged in high-volume battery production,” Denner said. “We will concentrate on r&d so we can make progress regarding energy density and the cost of lithium ion batteries.”

“It will take some years until a broad acceptance of electric vehicles can happen,” Denner said. “The big unknown is the battery.”

Japanese automakers are turning to Bosch when they expand overseas because Bosch often has an established footprint in those markets. That gives the German company an advantage over Japanese suppliers that don’t have as great an international reach.

Japan’s automakers, led by Toyota Motor Corp., have been vocal in seeking out new business with foreign suppliers, to diversify sourcing as a hedge against foreign-exchange fluctuations and after the 2011 earthquake in Japan exposed the perils of relying on suppliers in a limited geographic area.

“The share of Japanese OEMs in the Bosch portfolio grew last year and my expectation is that this will also continue in the future,” Denner said. “Our main target is to grow with the Japanese OEMs outside of Japan, in the emerging markets mainly.”