Green Technology

Komatsu To Buy American Battery Solutions

The world is changing fast, and leaders in the auto industry have to make the transition to electric vehicles sooner rather than later. That includes large, gigantic, heavy-duty vehicles as well as the fun, nimble electric cars we typically write about. One of the largest heavy-duty vehicle companies in the world is Komatsu. Komatsu is a Japanese company with arms all around the globe, and its US arm, Komatsu America Corp., just made the decision to acquire battery producer American Battery Solutions (ABS).

ABS is based in Detroit, Michigan, the longtime home of the US auto industry. It’s not clear yet if that’s where Komatsu will build new battery-electric vehicles and machinery, but the company does indicate that these vehicles are coming and will be powered by ABS batteries. In particular, Komatsu indicates that it will be building new electric construction and mining equipment with the acquired ABS technology. “The first equipment produced with ABS’ batteries will be used to power mining equipment in North and South America, where demand for electrification has been increasing,” Komatsu writes. “In the future, Komatsu will aim to expand the use of batteries in construction equipment and to establish a global supply system.”

The acquisition of ABS is expected to be completed by December 1, 2023. “Komatsu will continue to support ABS’ battery business to further develop the electrification business post-acquisition,” the company adds. “ABS will operate as a stand-alone business entity within Komatsu and will continue its growth plans by executing on its current and prospective customer programs in the commercial vehicle segments. The mining and construction opportunities provided through Komatsu will enable ABS to position itself as one of the world’s leading providers of battery systems in both on-highway and off-highway markets.”

Overall, the battery company acquisition and further rollout of heavy-duty electric vehicles will help Komatsu work towards its own CO2 reduction goals. “Through the acquisition, Komatsu will accelerate the development of battery-powered electric vehicles by utilizing ABS’ battery-related technology, along with other initiatives Komatsu is pursuing with its partners, to further contribute to the electrification of construction and mining equipment and the realization of a decarbonized society. These efforts will help Komatsu achieve its management target of 50% reduction of CO2 emissions from the use of its products by 2030 (compared to 2010 levels) as well as the company’s challenge target of achieving its carbon neutrality by 2050.”

2050 targets irritate me more than anything else, since we need these changes to happen much sooner than that. However, a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 is a solid target for a company in its industry, which is still quite limited in what full electric vehicles can do efficiently.

New heavy-duty electric vehicles and equipment have been popping up more frequently than expected recently. In a CleanTech Talk podcast last month, for example, I interviewed Mason Ford, Director of Sustainability and Equipment Services Skanska USA Civil, about their use of the world’s largest electric excavator to help with a subway expansion project in Los Angeles, California. That’s a Volvo electric excavator, but how long until Komatsu has a competitor or an even bigger electric excavator?

The EV revolution plows forward, and Komatsu looks eager to be a leader in its market segment. Jo Borras and I are certainly eager to test out the company’s first hardcore, heavy-duty electric vehicles and equipment. Let’s hope it doesn’t take too long to get some to market.