MILWAUKEE - Johnson Controls Inc. has won another contract to make lithium-ion batteries for hybrid cars that will be made in Europe, the company said, according to the Web site  

The announcement came in France during the opening of the world's first factory to make the next-generation hybrid car batteries.

The factory in Nersac, France, will produce up to 5,000 battery packs a year for Daimler AG for use in the Mercedes-Benz S-class series of luxury hybrids, Johnson Controls spokesman Steve Greene said.

Greene said he didn't have information on when production under the new contract would begin.

“This new contract is further proof of our joint venture's progress in becoming a leading supplier of batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles," said Mary Ann Wright, who heads the company's joint venture with Saft, the French battery manufacturer.

The Johnson Controls-Saft factory opened last month after an investment of $22.2 million, according to

The factory is part of a strategy by the world's leading maker of lead-acid batteries to capitalize on growing interest in hybrid-electric vehicles.

Other battery suppliers currently dominate the market for hybrid-electric batteries, supplying them for vehicles such as the Toyota Prius or Ford Escape sport utility vehicle.

But Johnson Controls is banking on lithium-ion, a lighter, more powerful battery that is seen as capable of powering not only hybrids but also all-electric vehicles.

The state's largest company is developing the battery technology in conjunction with Saft, with engineering work taking place at a hybrid battery development laboratory that opened in 2005 in Glendale.

The company announced last year that it is engaged in development work with multiple automakers for batteries for hybrid electric cars and plug-in vehicles, including the plug-in Saturn VUE under development by General Motors.

The company also is making batteries for Dodge Sprinters that are being tested in Los Angeles and New York.

The company announced a production contract with Chinese automaker Chery for hybrid batteries. Another Chinese carmaker, SAIC, has also asked Johnson Controls to supply batteries for hybrids, according to  

The same French factory will be used to supply batteries under the contract announced Thursday, the company said. The French factory also will make some of the batteries that will be shipped to Chery in China, Johnson Controls said.

Pressure to build more fuel-efficient cars is surging around the world, with European carmakers seeking to comply with the Kyoto global warming treaty; North American carmakers facing stricter economy standards passed by Congress last month; and Chinese carmakers also looking to more efficient vehicles, Wright said in an interview last month.


Johnson Controls is competing against other companies such as Michigan-based Cobasys, already selling batteries for GM vehicles, as well as Japanese electronics companies Panasonic and Sanyo. In lithium-ion batteries, a key competitor is expected to be A123 Technologies of Watertown, Mass., which won a battery development contract last year for the plug-in passenger car GM hopes to unveil within a few years, the Chevrolet Volt.