Over in Japan, reports indicate that a quartet of Japanese companies is banding up to mass-produce a cutting-edge lithium ion battery material, both domestically and overseas.

Kureha, Kuraray and Itochu are set to work together with public-private investment fund Innovation Network Corporation of Japan to produce negative electrodes – a core battery component – through a joint firm, the Nikkei says.

Both Kureha and Kuraray have established processes that turn a plant-derived material into charcoal for use in the negative electrodes. The companies say the new material can improve battery durability by as much as 30% and also halve the time required to charge EV and plug-in hybrids.

The partnership is to raise around 20 billion yen to build the necessary factories, with volume production set to begin in Japan by 2014; production is also targeted in the US, China as well as other locations following the start of domestic production.

Additionally, the alliance is looking at getting other Japanese manufacturers to develop other key materials for lithium ion batteries, with the vision being to pool each firm’s technology to jointly develop core components by 2017. The report adds that talks have already begun with some manufacturers.

The partnership and pooling of resources is designed to concentrate state-of-the-art materials technology and maintain Japan’s lead in this field, which is under threat from Chinese and South Korean rivals.