Degussa AG, one of the world’s largest specialty chemical companies, and the Japanese Lithium-ion battery company ENAX are setting up a joint venture in China to develop and manufacture lithium-ion battery electrodes. Both partners will hold a 50% stake.
ENAX is both the technology provider and the future research partner for the joint venture. Through the joint venture Degussa acquires a worldwide exclusive license to manufacture the new electrodes for lithium-ion batteries.
The new company will begin operations as Degussa Enax (Anqiu) Power Lion Technologies Co., Ltd. The joint venture is headquartered in Anqiu, in the northern Chinese province of Shandong.
The electrodes are to be produced at the Anqiu plant and then used at ENAX sites at Tianjing near Beijing and at Yonezawa in Japan. The medium-term plans include supplying electrodes to other battery manufacturers in Asia.
With the JV’s electrodes, Degussa will to expand its portfolio to include another important component for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries. Degussa is targeting large format applications for its separator—i.e., full electric and hybrid electric vehicles, light electric vehicles such as bikes and scooters, APUs and specialty applications (aerospace, military).
Currently, Degussa offers a ceramic membrane separator (SEPARION, sketch at right), which consists of a flexible substrate, normally a non-woven polymer, coated with a porous ceramic layer. The pore size can be selectively set by an appropriate choice of ceramic coating material.
According to Degussa, the ceramic properties of the separator make it more temperature-stable than conventional polymer separators used in lithium-ion polymer batteries, and therefore contribute towards preventing short circuits in the battery.
Kazunori Ozawa, the project leader of Sony’s original Li-ion battery work at Sony, started ENAX in 1996 to develop his Laminated Sheet Battery (LSB).
The LSB batteries offer high power and energy densities. A large format LSB carries an energy density of 310 Wh/liter, according to ENAX. This exceeds the USABC (Advanced Battery Consortium) specification of 300 Wh/liter is far above the general range of Li-ion batteries.
ENAX is also keen on the future electric vehicle market—and especially in China.
Another example of market growth is the development in China. [We project] the increase in demand of Li-ion batteries for Electric Bikes (one application example of our Laminated Sheet Battery) between 2005 and 2010 to be more than 20%, and that of Hybrid Cars or Electric Cars to be 40% or even higher.
With these trends of increasing demand, we already have established a material procurement operation in Beijing, China. We have already expanded the production line at Yonezawa Laboratory and are establishing the electrode production factory in Anqiu.—Kazunori Ozawa, ENAX CEO
ENAX has developed its own electric mini-car, the S3, and has also developed a larger prototype, the alpha ECV, using a Mitsubishi base.