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Continental bets on mild hybrid batteries in venture with CITC
Reuters | 2018/3/9

FRANKFURT -- Germany's Continental agreed to form a joint venture with China's CITC to produce so-called mild hybrid batteries that add some electric power to existing gasoline-powered light vehicles without a costly redesign.

The new venture, in which Continental holds 60 percent with the rest owned by Sichuan Chengfei Integration Technology, will initially produce 48-volt battery systems at its headquarters in Changzhou, near Shanghai, with plans to open a second production line in Europe at a later stage.

"Entering the 48-volt battery systems business ... will further strengthen our position as a system provider on the fast-growing mild hybrid market," Continental CEO Elmar Degenhart said in a statement on Wednesday.

Carmakers squeezed between carbon emissions restrictions and falling sales of fuel-efficient diesels are looking at affordable 48-volt hybrids as a quick fix. Parts suppliers including Valeo and Delphi and carmakers such as PSA Group and Daimler have embraced the shift.

Continental said it was still considering making high-voltage systems based on solid-state battery cells but would for now hold out for more advances to be made in the field, a spokesman said.

Domestic rival Robert Bosch, the world's biggest automotive supplier, last month decided against producing its own high-voltage battery cells, saying investments were too risky.

CITC, through its subsidiary CALB -- China Aviation Lithium Battery Co. -- will contribute expertise in producing lithium ion cells and enable better access to the Chinese market, according to Continental's statement.

Continental said its 48-volt system offered functions previously reserved for more expensive high-voltage systems, such as coasting, fast engine start and recuperation of braking energy.

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