Could Japan's Kyushu Become an EV Hub?

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New York’s Ener1 (s HEV) today announced a deal with Japan’s Kyushu Electric Power to develop rapid recharging stations for electric vehicles. Ener1 said that Kyushu Electric has already done work on an advanced rapid charging stand and plans to customize the system with a battery pack from Ener1’s lithium-ion battery subsidiary, EnerDel. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

With a rapid recharge system, Ener1 said drivers can plug in and recharge up to 80 percent of the vehicle’s battery capacity in under 20 minutes. Kyushu Electric serves more than 8 million customers on Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island, which includes the cities of Nagasaki and Fukuoka.

Ener1 and Kyushu Electric plan to move quickly on the systems, with the first integrated charging station from the two companies due to be available by March 2009. But additional details weren’t disclosed, so it’s not clear how many, if any, of the new charging stations will be set up on Kyushu.

There are already some significant players in the electric car-charging field, with California’s Better Place holding talks this week with the governor of Michigan. Better Place, which is developing its own car-charging network, is already working on projects in Israel, Denmark and Australia. Better Place’s vehicle partner, the Renault-Nissan Alliance, also has a project in Japan, in the Kanagawa Prefecture on Honshu, Japan’s largest island, as well as deals in Portugal, France, and the state of Tennessee in the U.S.

Ener1’s deal with Kyushu Electric comes just a few weeks after the company made another move in Asia. In October, Ener1 took an 83-percent stake in South Korea’s Enertech International, a producer of lithium-ion battery cells. Ener1’s EnerDel unit has worked with Enertech before, supplying prototype and preproduction battery systems for Norway’s Think Global, which is working on an electric vehicle to be launched this year.

In addition to lithium-ion batteries, Ener1 also has operations in fuel cell development and nanomaterials.

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