Matsushita to offer new lithium battery

/ Source: The Associated Press

Japanese electronics maker Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. said Monday it will begin mass production of a new lithium-ion battery that is safe from the overheating problems that prompted a massive recall of Sony Corp. batteries this year.

Matsushita, known globally for its Panasonic brand products, said it began producing the new batteries in April and will ship them in large quantities by the end of this year.

Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries have gained popularity over alternatives such as nickel-cadmium batteries, as they can be smaller and lighter as well as hold charges for longer periods of time, making them ideal for portable applications such as laptop computers and digital cameras.

But their safety has recently been called into question as defects in lithium-ion batteries made by top global producers Sony and Sanyo Electric Co. were found to cause overheating and in some cases sudden combustion.

The problems prompted massive recalls. Sony's global recall affected up to 9.6 million battery packs supplied to the world's biggest computer makers, including Dell Inc., Lenovo Group Ltd. and Apple Computer Inc.

Sony said in some cases the problems were due to microscopic metal particles in the batteries which caused short-circuits, a problem Matsushita said lithium-ion batteries produced with its technology can handle without overheating.

Matsushita said it will use the technology mainly in its higher-end, high capacity batteries. The price of the new batteries will depend on the quantity ordered, but would be higher than existing models, it said.