Johnson Controls, the maker of Varta automotive batteries, has unveiled its first-generation 48 volt lithium-ion Micro Hybrid battery prototype. Developed for the needs of European automakers, the unit features dual voltage architecture, incorporating a 12 volt lead-acid starter battery and a 48 volt lithium-ion battery in its housing.

The 48 volt unit is meant to handle the increasing voltage demand of high-voltage applications, including electric power steering, stop-start and brake regeneration systems. It’s designed with the capacity to quickly capture energy from braking and will support higher loads such as air-conditioning and active chassis technologies.

The 12 volt battery, meanwhile, will continue to provide power to the vehicle starter, interior/exterior lights as well as components in the in-car entertainment system. The hybrid system will involve the need to redesign the alternator and starter in a vehicle, but it’s looking like a necessary step.

The growing adoption of energy hungry components means that boosting voltage from a 12 volt battery via DC-to-DC converters isn’t going to be quite enough in the long run. Dual lead-acid units are in place with some manufacturers, but hardly optimal as far as space and weight considerations go.

The 48 volt Micro Hybrid unit will begin testing with key automotive customers in December – eventual adoption of the new battery architecture will start in Europe, before making its way to the US market and then on a global basis beginning 2020, the company says.