See update at the end of the article. According to a report by Automotive News, BMW, Toyota and Daimler AG are turning to laptops for a cheaper way to power their electric cars. Same report mentions that the three automakers are testing packs of lithium-ion batteries assembled by Silicon Valley startup Tesla Motors Inc that cost less than bigger, car-only batteries used by General Motors, Nissan and Mitsubishi.

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The Tesla Roadster uses a pack of 6,831 cylinder-shaped cells made by Panasonic giving a driving range of 245 miles per charge. With more emphasis being put on electric vehicles and their need for battery power, electronics automaker Sanyo anticipates the lithium-ion production to generate $60 billion in the next ten years.

tesla roadster battery pack

Last year, BMW announced their partnership with SB LiMotive (a German/Korean company backed by Bosch and Samsung) and their Lithium Polymer battery technology is being used by Vision Efficient Dynamics.

“Compared with nickel–metal hydride batteries, lithium polymer batteries deliver the same power with 30% less weight, 50% less volume and 10% greater efficiency over nickel–metal hydride batteries. Lithium polymer batteries offer more than twice the energy density of nickel–metal hydride batteries, and 175% greater volumetric energy density, meaning BMW engineers can devote less space and weight to the battery pack, and have better placement resulting in a lower Center of gravity, 50/50 balance, etc..”, said our own editor Shawn Molnar in a recent editorial.

Industry experts state that electric vehicles cost about twice as much to produce as gasoline-engine cars because the batteries are so expensive. The larger lithium batteries cost about $700-$800 per kilowatt hour to produce, while mass-produced packs using small laptop cells may cost $200, said Martin Eberhard, Tesla’s founder and former chief executive officer for Automotive News.

Panasonic, the majority shareholder in Sanyo, is the main supplier of lithium-ion cells to Tesla and last month bought a $30 million stake in the Palo Alto, Calif., company. Toyota and Daimler also own Tesla stakes.

In 2013, BMW will launch their electric vehicles lineup under the Megacity label.

Update: Sam Abuelsamid of Autoblog provided us a more accurate view of the battery issue:

In the story, the writer references BMW’s MINI E program which used a battery and propulsion system provided by AC Propulsion (the same company that gave birth to the idea that eventually became the Tesla Roadster with its tZero concept). BMW only used ACP because the MINI E was approved and built on a very tight time schedule as a field test program. ACP was able to respond quickly to supply the necessary components for the conversions since they were largely off-the-shelf and based on its own E-Box conversions. For the Active E program coming in 2011 and the production MegaCity in 2012, BMW has abandoned the laptop cell battery pack in favor of large format cells provided by SB LiMotive.

Similarly Daimler went to Tesla for batteries and charging systems for the Smart ED test program in order to get it done quickly and cheaply. Since launching the Smart program with Tesla, Daimler has formed its own battery JV with Evonik and is developing large format cells. Daimler hasn’t committed to any Tesla programs beyond the Smart test.

The Toyota-Tesla deal is also currently limited to a test fleet. Although Toyota has committed to a production Rav4 EV, it has not committed to a battery type. When I attended the Toyota Safety seminar in Japan in July, I spoke with Toyota reps and they acknowledged that they wanted to evaluate how well such a battery system held up in real world use. Toyota is also working with its Panasonic battery JV to develop large format Li Ion batteries that will be used in the Prius PHEV and the iQ based BEV. It’s still far from clear if Toyota will continue down the 18650 cell path.

[Source: Automotive News ]