Hitachi Maxell to Roll Out Li-ion Battery w/ Si Alloy Electrode in 2009

Aug 1, 2008
Kouji Kariatsumari, Nikkei Electronics

Hitachi Maxell Ltd explained its business strategies for secondary batteries including the plans to introduce a new electrode material and a separator at its financial results meeting July 30, 2008.

Hitachi Maxell boosted the production of high capacity prismatic Li-ion rechargeable batteries for use in mobile phones, etc in May 2008. The company currently has a monthly production capacity of approximately 18.5 million units. In addition, the company started the mass-production of high power Li-ion rechargeable batteries for use in electric tools in July 2008, and reportedly has a capacity of two million units per month now.

In regard to the production of high capacity prismatic Li-ion rechargeable batteries for mobile phones, etc, the company intends to reduce the use of cobalt to 1/4 or less. At the same time, it plans to begin the mass-production of Li-ion rechargeable batteries with the positive electrode made of new material, which can enhance the battery capacity, in 2009.

In this way, Hitachi Maxell will ensure that its business will not be seriously affected by the price fluctuation of lithium cobalt oxide. It is likely that the new material is based on a so-called ternary system using nickel, manganese and cobalt.

Furthermore, the company announced its intention to launch the production of Li-ion rechargeable battery using a silicon alloy-based material for the negative electrode, which can further enhance the battery capacity, by the end of 2009.

The silicon alloy-based material is a composite of silicon monoxide containing nanometer sized silicon particles and carbon. The new material features a lower expansion coefficient, and it can enhance the capacity by 20%, compared with the case using graphite.

At the meeting, the company also announced that it will install manufacturing equipment for electrodes of Li-ion rechargeable batteries for use in electrically-powered vehicles such as hybrid cars, plug-in hybrids and electric cars. The equipment will be built in a new plant in Kyoto, Japan, and its operation will start in March 2009, according to the company. Initially, the electrodes will be provided to Hitachi Vehicle Energy Ltd.

"I believe we can make the best electrode in the world, and we hope to expand the sales to other manufacturers as well," said Yoshito Tsunoda, President and CEO of Hitachi Maxell, about the company's plan.

In addition, Hitachi Maxell reportedly started mass-producing Li-ion rechargeable batteries with a heat resistant separator coated with an inorganic particulate layer in the form of a plate. Although the applications of the separator were not unveiled, the company claims that it can improve the safety regarding internal short circuit, etc, because it does not contract or break even at a high temperature of 180°C.