About ten years ago, Japan was leading the industry of lithium-ion battery materials. Now the lead shifted to China mainly because of the country’s very low labor costs and less strict environmental standards.
This shift can be alarming in terms of environmental hazards, especially in the coming decades that electric vehicles and home energy storage systems are expected to boom, in addition to smartphones.
According to a recent study by Yano Research Institute of Tokyo, Japan, in the industry of lithium-ion major battery components, China currently controls and distributes 75.3% of the electrolyte solution, 75.2% of the anode materials, 62.6% of the cathode materials, and 45% of the separators. As the Nikken Asia Review says, “China is home to more than 40 battery makers, giving the country a definite advantage in the industry. And more companies are crowding in from other sectors.
“Easy market entry and stiff competition have forced former leaders to reconsider strategies. Japan’s Ube Industries, which once fed roughly half of global demand for commercial electrolyte solutions, last year decided to integrate its Chinese operations with Mitsubishi Chemical after years of losses.”
While China is gaining large proportions of the lithium-ion battery materials market, the country should consider increasing their strictness in environmental standards.