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Plastic batteries that won't catch fire set for mass production

Sanyo Chemical unit to start new factory in Japan next year

Conventional lithium-ion batteries explode when punctured by a nail, as in this experiment.

KYOTO -- Japan's Sanyo Chemical Industries aims to begin mass production next year of a new, fire-resistant type of rechargeable battery made almost entirely of plastic.

A 15 billion yen ($136 million) factory for the new batteries is slated to begin operation in the spring of 2021.

The factory, which Sanyo Chemical describes as the first of its scale in the world, will produce plastic lithium-ion batteries that will not catch fire even if punctured by a nail or drill.

Tokyo startup APB, which Sanyo Chemical took control of last year, will outfit the factory for production. APB was founded in 2018 by Hideaki Horie, a researcher at Tokyo's Keio University who helped develop Nissan Motor's Leaf electric vehicle.

Replacing metal with plastic in such key components as cathodes and anodes has been hailed as the next generation of lithium-ion battery technology. A number of companies have reported progress in this field.

Production costs are said to be to up to 60% less than for conventional lithium-ion batteries.

Sanyo Chemical plans to market the plastic batteries for such applications as backup power systems for plants. The factory's output capacity will be 1 gigawatt-hour in 2025 -- the equivalent of 25,000 electric-vehicle batteries a year.

The plant is located in Fukui Prefecture, north of Kyoto. APB will raise roughly 9 billion yen for the effort through a private offer of shares. JFE Chemical and five other Japanese companies are expected to purchase the stock.

Sanyo Chemical's stake in APB is seen shrinking from 66% to less than a majority once the private placement wraps up.

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