July 11, 2018
Japanese Government Partners With Manufacturers On Solid State Battery Research
The Japanese government has created a new research entity known as the Consortium for Lithium Ion Battery Technology and Evaluation Center, or Libtec. Working in conjunction with major Japanese manufacturers such as Toyota, Honda, Panasonic, and Yuasa, its mission is to push forward with research into solid state batteries that will cost less and have longer range than conventional lithium ion batteries in use today.
According to Nikkei Asian News, the government is putting up $14 million, which will be distributed by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to Libtec, whose members include Asahi Kasei and Toray Industries. The goal is a solid state battery with a range of 550 kilometers by 2025 and 800 kilometers by 2030.
In theory, solid state batteries should cost less to manufacture and come with a reduced risk of fire compared to traditional lithium ion batteries. They also may not need the complex temperature management or crash protection structures that today's batteries do. That could help make the electric cars of tomorrow lighter, which would translate into longer range.
In 2013, Japanese battery manufacturers had 70% of the global market. Today, that percentage is down to 41%. China, which had just 3% of the market in 2013, now has a 26% market share. Korean battery companies have also become a force in the marketplace during that period.
Some may wonder what happened to Japan's vaunted push for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The Tokyo Olympics in 2020 were supposed to be a showcase of the country's fuel cell prowess. Not much has been heard about hydrogen from the Land of the Rising Sun recently however. Apparently the falling market share of Japanese battery companies is now of greater concern to Japanese officials.
As well it should be. China wants to have 80 million electric vehicles on the road in coming years, up from 650,000 in 2016. Germany is targeting 6 million electric vehicles, up from 70,000 in 2016. Japan itself hopes to see electric cars account for up to 30% of sales by 2030.
Toyota is believed to be the leader in Japanese solid state battery research at this moment. The Libtec initiative hopes to leverage Toyota's expertise and combine it with fresh insights from the other partners so that Japan can reclaim its place as a world leader in battery technology and manufacturing.
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