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SDK Develops Graphite for Lithium-Ion Batteries in Electric Vehicles

Showa Denko K.K.
April 22, 2009

Showa Denko K.K. (SDK) has developed a new grade of SCMGTM (shape-controlled micro graphite) to be used as anode material in large lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles (EVs).

Since the material has been adopted for use in several models of EVs to be sold in Japan and overseas, SDK has decided to increase its SCMGTM production capacity at Omachi, Nagano Prefecture, from 1,000 tons a year at present to 3,000 tons a year in 2012. SDK is planning to generate ¥8 billion in sales of carbon materials for lithium-ion batteries, including this product, in 2012.

Characteristics of SCMGTM

SCMGTM is produced by first processing raw material of carbon with SDK's proprietary technology to optimize its shape as anode material, and heating it at high temperatures in a special graphitizing furnace. The use of SCMGTM improves load current characteristic and charge & discharge cycle life of lithium-ion batteries. (Ref.: Graphs 1 and 2.) The improvement in load current characteristic enables the use of heavy current while the improvement in cycle life ensures long-term use of batteries. Thus, SCMGTM has been adopted for use in various models of EVs that will be launched this year on the world market.

Market for lithium-ion batteries in EVs

Automakers are now working hard to develop eco-friendly cars in view of the environmental problems, such as global warming, and the depletion of oil and natural gas resources. Hybrid cars, in which both electric motors and engines are installed, have already reached the stage of commercial production. Furthermore, plug-in hybrid cars and EVs—driven solely by electric motors—are now reaching the commercial production stage.

These eco-friendly cars require high-performance batteries that can store a large amount of electric power in a relatively small space. Producers of automobiles and electric appliances are developing lithium-ion batteries to meet such demand. As part of that development effort, SCMGTM has been evaluated for automotive applications.

Capacity expansion

SDK has already started expanding its SCMGTM production capacity at Omachi, modifying the special graphitizing furnace and adding new powder processing units for completion by the end of this year. SDK will establish a competitive production setup through efficient capital investment, fully utilizing its existing facilities at Omachi for the production of graphite electrodes.

While carefully watching the trends in demand for lithium-ion batteries for cars and determining the synergy, SDK will make further investments in graphite-anode-material production facilities, centering on the special graphitizing furnace. The total investment in the 2009-2012 period is expected to reach approximately ¥2 billion.

SDK's lithium-ion-battery-related carbon business

Besides SCMGTM, SDK has been producing and selling VGCFTM carbon nanotubes since 1996. When added in the electrodes of lithium-ion batteries, VGCFTM provides better electric conductivity. Demand for VGCFTM has been increasing due to the rise in the production volume of lithium-ion batteries. The demand increase is also due to the recent trends that VGCFTM, which was at first added in anodes only, is now added in cathodes as well. Thus, in 2007, SDK expanded its VGCFTM production capacity from 40 tons a year to 100 tons a year.

SDK has succeeded in the development of SCMGTM on the strength of its lithium-ion battery evaluation technology developed jointly with customers through R&D of VGCFTM. Also, SDK's proprietary high-temperature graphitizing technology, accumulated over many years in the graphite electrode business, has contributed to the success. We will provide high-quality products based on an efficient production setup, seeking synergies with the graphite electrode production capabilities at Omachi.

Under the Passion Extension for 2009 and 2010, SDK is strengthening its R&D efforts in the area of environmental protection and energy conservation to meet increasing social needs. In particular, we will step up R&D pertaining to metal and inorganics, including graphite, in which we have competitive strengths due to the accumulation of technologies.


SCMGTM


Graph 1: Rapid discharge characteristic of lithium-ion batteries using SCMGTM


Graph 2: Charge/discharge cycle life of lithium-ion batteries using SCMGTM

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