Over in Japan, automakers – working with partners – as well as companies in other industries are researching technologies to improve the performance of storage batteries for use in both vehicles and homes, according to a report.

Toyota is one of these; working together with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation, the automaker has come up with a prototype next-generation storage battery that’s based on a solid core instead of a liquid one. Because it doesn’t have an easily combustible liquid core, the new-gen battery doesn’t require fire-retardant materials, which will allow the use of a simple structure to lower costs.

The battery can easily be processed into sheet form, and is able to store several times the amount of electricity, volume for volume, than the current generation of electric vehicle batteries, its developers say. The extra capacity could thus enable a higher maximum driving distance per charge for compact EVs to around 1,000 km, from the 200 km or so now, the report added.

Toyota and its partners aim to further improve the battery and commercialise it sometime in 2015 to 2020, and adds that the tech can also be used to design compact, home-use storage batteries.

Meanwhile, Mazda – together with Hiroshima University – has come up with a new electrode material that it says can boost battery capacity by roughly 80%. The material, which is based on molecular spheres of carbon measuring several hundred nanometers in diameter, can approximately halve a battery’s weight but maintain the same levels of storage capacity. Mazda says the new electrode material is likely to be commercialised in about five years.

Besides the two automakers, electronics giant NEC says it has developed a lithium-ion battery with an electrode that uses manganese instead of cobalt, which is more expensive. It has also altered the composition of the battery’s electrolyte and improved its durability, making it possible for the unit to be recharged 20,000 times.

This will make for the development of household storage batteries with a 13 year life span, compared with seven to eight years right now – NEC is looking at getting the durability up to 20 years, and have the battery out into the market in five years.