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Power pioneer Hideaki Horie invents new battery 90% cheaper than lithium-ion

Power pioneer Hideaki Horie invents new battery 90% cheaper than lithium-ion

Safety remains an issue for lithium-ion batteries, which have been the cause of fires. | BLOOMBERG

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Lithium-ion batteries play a central role in the world of technology, powering everything from smartphones to smart cars, and now one of the people who helped commercialize them says he has a way to cut mass production costs by 90 percent and significantly improve their safety.

Hideaki Horie, formerly of Nissan Motor Co., founded Tokyo-based APB Corp. in 2018 to make “all-polymer batteries” (hence the company name).

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Earlier this year the company received backing from a group of firms including general contractor Obayashi Corp., industrial equipment manufacturer Yokogawa Electric Corp. and carbon fiber maker Teijin Ltd.

“The problem with making lithium batteries now is that it’s device manufacturing, like semiconductors,” Horie said in an interview. “Our goal is to make it more like steel production.”

The making of a cell, the basic unit within every battery, is a complicated process requiring “cleanroom” conditions — with airlocks to control moisture, constant air filtering and exacting precision to prevent contamination of highly reactive materials. The setup can be so expensive that just a handful of top players, like South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd., China’s CATL and Japan’s Panasonic Corp., can spend billions of dollars building a suitable factory.

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