TOKYO (Reuters) – Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp is preparing for an era of electric vehicles (EV) which require lighter materials by seeking advances in technology and possibly joining forces with makers of other materials.

“I think the auto industry is at a turning point in terms of technology,” Kosei Shindo, president of Nippon Steel, Japan’s biggest steelmaker, told Reuters in an interview.

“We need to advance our technology to meet this mega trend toward EVs,” he said, adding that its strategy to cope with automakers’ shift will be a key item in its new three-year business plan which will start in April.

Tighter global emissions regulations are forcing automakers worldwide to shift to EVs, including all-battery EVs that will require capacity to deliver longer ranges.

Reducing the weight of a vehicle will be critical. Batteries are an expensive but vital component, so a reduction in car weight will mean fewer batteries will be needed to power the vehicle, saving on costs.

Industry experts anticipate plug-in hybrid petrol-electric vehicles and all-battery EVs will account for as much as 26 percent of global car sales by 2030, versus just over 1 percent last year, data from the International Energy Agency shows.

“I don’t expect to see sudden switches to EVs in one or two years as automakers face issues to overcome such as electric infrastructure,” Shindo said, adding that steel will remain the mainstay material for vehicles as it offers the cheapest cost in relation to strength.

“But we want to map out and begin our strategy in the next three years to cope with technological…