Top automakers Toyota, Nissan and Honda have teamed up with the Japanese government and battery makers in a programme to develop solid-state batteries for electric vehicles of the future. The programme is aimed at returning Japan to the forefront of automotive battery tech, as other countries have eroded its once dominant position in the field.

Starting this month, the programme marries the Consortium for Lithium Ion Battery Technology and Evaluation Center (Libtec) – a research body whose members include Asahi Kasei, Toray Industries and Kuraray – with the automotive players and battery makers Panasonic and GS Yuasa. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will provide 1.6 billion yen in funding to Libtec, Nikkei Asian Review reports.

Solid-state batteries use a solid form of the liquid electrolytes found in lithium-ion batteries, making them easier to manufacture and safer, as there’s no chance of leakage. Compared to today’s Li-ion batteries, the next-gen batteries also have fewer components, cost less, and provide higher energy.

Main goals of the programme include improving battery performance using solid electrolytes – said to be more difficult than with batteries using liquid electrolytes – and establishing safety criteria. Libtec hopes to develop a solid-state battery that doubles the range of EVs to 800 km by 2030 over the current 400 km. The medium term target is 550 km by 2025.

According to the report, Toyota’s solid-state battery tech is believed to be the world’s most advanced, but the company has yet to commercialise it. The programme aims to accelerate this by combining expertise from each member of the consortium, leading to mass production.

The formation of the coalition is in response to falling market share. Japanese companies accounted for 70% of the global automotive battery market in 2013, China and South Korea have gained ground. Chinese companies expanded their combined global share to 26% in 2016 from just 3% in 2013. Over the same period, Japan’s share shrunk to 41%.

Claiming the future tech can be a way to re-establish the lead. Japan’s industry ministry is eager for the country to reclaim its dominance by setting standards for solid-state batteries. It may seek to register related technologies with the International Electrotechnical Commission, a standards organisation for electronics.

This comes as EVs are the talk of every town. China eventually wants to have 80 million electric vehicles on the road, up from 650,000 in 2016, while Germany is aiming for six million battery-powered vehicles, up from 70,000 in 2016. Japan hopes to increase the percentage of next-gen cars to between 20% and 30% of new vehicle sales by the end of 2030.

Joining forces for greater good isn’t something new. Recently, Japan’s top three carmakers also created new company to accelerate the development of hydrogen stations in the country, for gassing up fuel cell vehicles. They have also previously co-developed hydrogen station infrastructure and worked together to increase the number of EV charging facilities in Japan.