Saturday, December 17, 2011

No. 13: Material producers are expanding production capacity hastily to cope with growing demand for lithium-ion battery (December 18, 2011)

Toda Kogyo and Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding will jointly build a plant to produce newly developed a cathode material with an investment of about 5 billion yen. The new plant will be built inside the Chiba plant of Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding. It will start operations between January and March 2013 with an annual production capacity of 2,100 tons. The newly developed cathode material is lithium phosphate. It does not need the addition of rare metals, and it has a 10 times longer life than the existing cathode materials.

Asahi Glass will start production of cathode materials in China starting April 2012. It will invest about 1,000 million yen to acquire a local company in Jiangsu of China through its subsidiary. The Chinese company is building a plant in Wuxi for the production of lithium cobalt oxide. Asahi Glass has two plants in Japan, and the plant in China will be its first plant abroad. Because Asahi’s customers are rushing to the Chinese market, Asahi decided to branch out into China. Asahi’s production capacity will be double with the plant in China.

Ube Kosan established a joint venture company with Dow Chemical in Michigan in December for the production and marketing of electrolyte. It will build a plant with an annual production capacity of 5,000 tons that will start operations late 2012. Ube plans to build a joint venture company in China and Europe. Ube is world’s largest producer of electrolyte for lithium-ion batteries 20% share in the world market.
Japanese companies have strong presence with technological excellence in the lithium-ion battery material business. In the cathode material business, the market leader is Nichia Corp. that is followed by Toda Kogyo and Asahi Glass. Ube and Mitsubishi Chemical have strong presence in the electrolyte market. Hitachi Chemical and JFE Chemical are the two names in the negative-electrode material market, while Asahi Chemical and Ube are strongly active in the separator business.

According to the survey conducted by a public research firm, the world lithium-ion battery market will grow 3.6 times over the level in 2011 to about 4,110 billion yen in 2020. In particular, demand for in-vehicle lithium-ion battery is estimated to grow 40 times in the same period due to the spread of electric vehicles ad hybrid cars. Because the in-vehicle lithium-ion battery requires a high degree of dependability and durability, collaborative research and development is supposed to spread quite rapidly.

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