DETROIT - Japanese companies are working on what is expected to be the next generation of batteries: lithium-ion.
While GM Ovonics and the US Advanced Battery Consortium pursue nickel-metal hydride technology, Japan is midway through a 10-year research program into lithium-ion batteries.
The program is organized by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry's New Energy Research Organization. This year the consortium will spend Y2 billion ($16 million).
The group includes all the major Japanese battery makers - but no non-Japanese firms.
The Lithium Battery Energy Storage Technology Research Association began work in April 1991. The first four years were devoted to basic research.
The consortium has built a 10Wh-class battery. It is now working on a 100Wh-class battery, which involves module battery fabrication.
The consortium will evaluate its progress in a year's time, and turn its attention to improving the reliability of the batteries. The group is scheduled to dissolve in March 2001.
The group has two goals: a long-life type battery and a high energy density one. The high energy density battery is aimed at the auto industry. The two batteries have different targets.
The The Lithium Battery Energy Storage Technology Research Association members are:
Denso Corp., Sanyo Electric Co., Toshiba Corp., Hitachi, Ltd., Yuasa Corp., Mitsubishi Chemical Corp., Osaka Gas Co., Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery Co., Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry, Japan Storage Battery Co., Matsushita Battery Industrial Co., and Mitsubishi Electric Corp.
Each company takes the lead in a different aspect of research, such as cathode, anode, or electrolyte research.
The group is working on three cathode-active materials: LiCoO2, LiNiO2, and LiMn2O4. It is also researching several anode-active materials: graphite, low-crystallinity carbon, lithium-metal composite carbon, and lithium-metal.
A source at Hitachi says the company will need three-and-a-half more years to bring a viable 20kW/hour battery pack to market.