As cars become more electrified around the world, domestic manufacturers have created a new council in the field of storage batteries, which are key components.

Our policy is to propose to the government concrete measures to stably secure rare metals as raw materials so that Japan's competitiveness will increase.

More than 50 domestic manufacturers involved in the production of storage batteries, such as the metal manufacturer Sumitomo Metal Mining and the battery manufacturer invested by Toyota Motor Corporation, participate in this council.

EV = Electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles, fuel cell vehicles, and other vehicles are becoming more and more electrified around the world, and storage batteries, which are key components, are expected to grow in demand worldwide.

For this reason, the council will make Japanese manufacturers competitive by securing stable rare metals such as nickel and cobalt, which are raw materials for storage batteries, creating a recycling system, and reducing the price of electricity from renewable energy. We will discuss concrete measures to connect and make recommendations to the country.

In addition, at the council, if the electrification of cars progresses and about 2.5 million EVs, which is about half of the annual new car sales, become EVs, battery and raw material manufacturers will make capital investment of 4 trillion yen. The policy is to seek support from the government as it becomes necessary.

Isao Abe, executive officer of Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., Ltd., who serves as the chairman of the council, said at the press conference, "Decarbonization and securing the competitiveness of the Japanese battery industry are difficult issues, but I would like to consider a new framework as soon as possible." I was talking.

"Rare metal" countries' "competition battle" will intensify

The areas where rare metals called "rare metals", which are the raw materials for storage batteries, can be produced are limited, and it is expected that the "competition battle" of each country will intensify in the future.

Of this, nearly 50% of the world's reserves of cobalt are concentrated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa.

Nickel is also concentrated in some countries such as Indonesia and Australia.

Regarding rare metals used in lithium-ion batteries, which are typical storage batteries, research firm Fuji Keizai predicts that nickel will increase 4.2 times and cobalt 1.8 times in 2023 compared to 2018. In the future, the competition for each country is expected to become even more fierce.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will invest in JOGMEC (Japan Oil, Gas and Metals Mineral Resources Organization) when Japanese companies acquire interests in resource development for stable procurement of rare metals, or sleep in the waters near Japan. We are developing production technology for undersea resources.

In addition, Japanese companies are working on technologies for reusing cobalt from used storage batteries and developing storage batteries that do not use cobalt.

Focus on fostering the storage battery industry in each country

Along with the electrification of cars, each country is also focusing on fostering the storage battery industry.

Korean and Chinese manufacturers are rapidly increasing their presence in the automotive battery market.

According to the research company "Techno System Research", the market share of lithium-ion batteries for cars is 37% for Korean manufacturers, 35% for Chinese manufacturers, 20% for Japanese manufacturers, and South Korea and China. It's just over 70%.

Especially in China, with the support of national subsidies, the battery maker "CATL" has grown to become the world's largest manufacturer in terms of production scale.

On the other hand, recently, in Europe and the United States, there is an active movement to foster the storage battery industry in Japan as the momentum for decarbonization increases.

In Europe, where storage batteries have been imported from China and other countries, the EU-European Union has created a new project called the "Battery Alliance" and is using a large amount of subsidies to encourage corporate investment.

In January, a new plan to support more than 40 companies was announced, and a new Swedish battery maker will set out to build a large factory that uses renewable energy.

Also in the United States, President Biden will sign a presidential decree in February aiming to secure four important items including storage batteries, and will strengthen the supply chain of storage batteries.

On the other hand, in Japan, in December last year, the government compiled a "green growth strategy" aiming for carbon neutrality in 2050.

Among these, we have decided to set up a fund totaling 2 trillion yen to support companies working on the development of innovative technologies, including storage batteries, for 10 years, and the focus is on how active investment will be.