Sanyo Develops 'Instant' Batteries

Sanyo has developed a rechargeable battery that can be supplied to users ready to use, charged upon manufacturing so buyers don't have to charge it before using.

The new battery is a nickel metal hydride (NiMH) cell of the type commonly found in many portable electronics products but with a key difference. Typically, NiMH batteries lose charge over time if they are not used. Consequently, the gap between their manufacture and sale means it's not feasible to supply them charged to users. Sanyo's new battery loses energy much more slowly when unused so batteries can be supplied that are ready to use at the time of purchase.

Also, Sanyo said its new battery loses about 15 percent of its charge after a year of no use compared to competing batteries that lose almost all their charge over the same period.

The battery technology, which will be used in an AA-battery that will go on sale in Japan in the middle of November, is the first product to be born from Sanyo's "Think Gaia" corporate restructuring plan. Under the leadership of Chairman Tomoyo Nonaka, Sanyo is attempting to refocus around environmentally-friendly products.

Battery Specs, Costs

Sanyo will promote the batteries as a replacement for throw-away dry cell batteries, of which around 40 billion are disposed of worldwide each year, according to industry figures cited by Sanyo.

The batteries, carrying the "Eneloop" product name, will go on sale starting November 14. A pack of two AA batteries will cost $10. They will also be available in packs of four and eight, and also with a recharger. AAA-size batteries in the same range will go on sale in Japan on January 21, 2006, and cost $8 for a pack of two.

The company estimates the new batteries will reach the end of their useful life after they have been recharged about 1000 times. Sanyo said the batteries are environmentally friendly and can be recycled.

Although better known for its electronics products, Sanyo is a major manufacturer of rechargeable batteries. The company claims a 45 percent world market share for laptop PC and cell phone batteries and a 55 percent share of the digital still camera market. About 60 percent of rechargeable batteries sold in stores worldwide are manufactured by Sanyo, according to the company's figures. It is also developing alternative battery sources, such as fuel cells.

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