Johnson Controls expands number and size of battery plants in China

Johnson Controls, the international battery maker, has told BESB it plans to build a plant in China in a joint venture with local carmaker BAIC that will produce six million AGM batteries a year by 2018, bringing its total battery capacity in China to 20 million units a year.

Beijing-based BAIC, whose initials stand for ‘Better And Ingenious Choice’, is one of the biggest carmakers in China and makes a wide range of passenger and commercial vehicles.

Kenneth Yeng, vice president and general manager of Johnson Controls’ Power Solutions in China, also said the firm’s existing factory at Changxing, the largest owned by JCI in China, is undergoing a further expansion of its AGM production, while its plant in Chongqing would continue to produce conventional flooded batteries.

“We still see a huge demand for conventional batteries, especially in the aftermarket,” said Yeng. “China has become the largest automotive market in the world and the majority of vehicles need two-three replacement batteries during a life cycle.”

JCI has long been focusing on start-stop batteries in China in response to calls from the Chinese government to cut emissions in its polluted cities, some of the worst in the world. While the government is encouraging electric vehicles to answer this need, Yeng says the technology had still not made much headway in China, but start-stop was steadily gaining ground.

“In China, the proportion of electric vehicles to other cars remains very small,” he said. “To achieve fuel consumption targets, the Chinese government is encouraging automakers to apply start-stop systems and other fuel-saving technologies as much as possible with incentive plans.

“In 2016, start-stop had 16% market penetration in China with 4 million new vehicles being built. By 2020, more than 50% of all new vehicles in China will be equipped with start-stop functionality.”

Johnson Controls in June will open an Asia-Pacific headquarters in Shanghai. As well as its two battery factories, the company has 15 other manufacturing plants, 100 branches and channel partners across 200 cities in China.