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Metal Casting Technologies : March 2011
10 www.metals.rala.com.au BRIEFINGS China's plan to control the electric car industry -- battery technology One of the great economic and technological battles over coming decades will be fought out in the area of battery technology. Batteries haven't really changed much in decades. And it's the limitations of the lithium-ion battery which many people believe has prevented the car industry's move away from the combustion engine and all its related environmental problems. China has made a commitment to the development of advanced batteries and the creation of an electric car industry. It wants to control the global electric car industry, and is in the process of rolling out 500,000 electric cars over the next two years. Mr Steve Levine a contributing editor for the prestigious magazine Foreign Policy has written a story for that publication entitled 'The Great Battery Race'. The story is about the quest to develop the next form of battery technology a race he says already involves many nations - South Korea and Japan for example - but which will ultimately be dominated and defined by the US-China rivalry. Steve Levine claims that we're not talking about something that's happening in the next five years, we're talking about a two-decade long runway. The outcome of this race, of the advanced battery race, and the enabling technologies - that's the enabling technology for other big products like electric cars, "We're talking the big hit in the late 2020s and the 2030s. And so what we are talking about is Advanced batteries, when they really hit their stride, they are going to be an industry the size of Exxon, of General Electric. This is going to be an economy-making industry of electric cars; the projection is that you're going to have four or five companies the size of Exxon." How can the US compete against China in battery technology? This future scenario demands that the US sit up and take notice. It no longer has the sort of manufacturing base that it once had, that China now has, to support the development of advanced batteries. So the United States is at a serious disadvantage. However, it's attempting to create some kind of a wedge in which it can compete in this field. Obama has put $2.4-billion into the creation of an advanced battery industry, but the US is very late and experts think that it really has got its work cut out. But this is where another idea comes into play, and that is, what can the United States do in order to get into this game in a big way? Who are the big players? While Japan is a big player South Korea is going extremely big into advanced batteries. It has a manufacturing base and has an established learning curve. Interestingly, when Obama was handing out the $2.4-billion, the biggest single piece of it did not go to an American advanced battery maker, it went to a Korean L.G. A South Korean company was given $400-million to establish an advanced battery plant near Detroit for the Chevy Volt, and the smart thinking seems to be that what the United States will continue to do, is form a strategic partnership with South Korea. It will bring South Korean companies into the United States use US know-how, South Korean manufacturing, and suddenly they are in the game. The observation is that the Japanese, when they're working with other countries in the lab, they're more takers than givers. As a rule, says Steve Levine, they want to collaborate up to a point, and at that point they go home and make it themselves. The South Koreans are very collaborative, it turns out. South Koreans aren't trying to control everything, they simply want to come into your market and make the product. So according to the labs, South Korea is seen as being an ideal strategic partner. This story is an extract from the recent article which Steve Levine wrote for the Foreign Policy magazine entitled The Great Battery Race. He is the author of The Oil and the Glory, a history of oil told through the 1990s-2000s oil rush on the Caspian Sea. He is also an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, where he teaches energy and security in the Security Studies Program. Thai auto-makers expected to export one million units in 2011 Vehicle production in Thailand leapt to a record 1.65 million units in 2010, an increase of 64% over 2009. Thailand is now the 13th largest auto-maker in the world and has a current production capacity of nearly 2 million. During 2011production is expected to increase by around 9-10% over the 2010 level to 1.8 million vehicles, with at least 1 million of these to be exported. Exports in 2010 were a record 895,855 units, some 54% of total output, with just over 30% exported to countries in Asia. Toyota Motors Thailand, Mitsubishi, Honda, Ford and Mazda have all announced increases in investment and production capacity for these plants in Thailand. Sales of fuel efficient eco-cars such as the Nissan March, Honda Brio, Mazda 2 and Ford Fiesta have all showed rapid growth. Honda has built a new plant to build 240,000 Brios per year. Ford is building a new plant to produce the Focus in 2012. Toyota is to increase pick-up production at its Chachoengsao plant from 140,000 to 220,000 by August 2011. Production of motor cycles in Thailand increased by 24% in 2010 with over 2 million complete units and assembly kits. Exports of complete motorcycles are expected to increase to 2.2 million units, a 9% increase. According to the Thai Automotive Institute the automotive industry in Thailand employed 520,000 people in