TT-479 -- Progress on Electric Car Li-ion Batteries, ebiz news from Japan

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A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, July 27, 2008 Issue No. 479


- What's new
- News
- Candidate roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming events
- Corrections/Feedback
- News credits

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While we are in the midst of one of the hottest summers we
can recall, and it's not even August yet, our thoughts
naturally turn to global warming, air pollution, and
efforts being made to deal with these problems. Thankfully,
one major cause of air pollution: gasoline-powered Internal
Combustion Engines (ICE), is about to make an exit and will
be replaced with power plants of a much cleaner and
economical nature. We don't know which technology will win
out: Hydrogen, Hybrid fuel/electrics, Plug-in electrics,
Fuel cells, or something more exotic. But for now we're
punting on the plug-ins.

There are already a number of niche players making rapid
strides towards bringing commercially viable plug-in
electric vehicles (PEVs) to the market, most notably Tesla
Motors of the USA. They finally started delivering
production vehicles earlier this month. But it won't be
until the Japanese, German, and US auto majors enter the
market that PEVs will really start to make their mark. Our
opinion is that once the neighbors start seeing early
adopters zipping around town in urban rockets costing just
one yen per kilometer to power, and with almost zero
emissions, it won't be long before there is a stampede to
electric car dealers. Think flat screen TVs or
records-to-CDs. We believe the conversion period from ICE
to hybrids or PEVs will be almost as rapid.

Most worrying for the auto makers is whether they should be
offering range-extended dual-source (electric and gas)
hybrid power plants or just go straight to plug-in
electrics. Commonsense would say that the answer to this
conundrum is in the characteristics of each driving market.
In Asia, the average driver has a short start-stop commute
and is likely to be able to use PEVs early on, even if they
still have relatively limited battery range. In Western
countries, however, although the weekly commute may be
relatively short, people also like to drive their vehicles
for recreation, and so hybrids may fit better.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

Thus, it is the Japanese who will be first off the start
line. Mitsubishi Motor's i Miev will be available to
fleet and commercial operators this time next year and to
the general public around 12 months later. Interestingly,
Mitsubishi will simultaneously release the car in several
other markets, including Australia -- a nation that we
thought would surely have required extended range vehicles

The other major PEV player from Japan is Fuji Heavy, with
their R1e, also due sometime next year.

But Mitsubishi is farthest along in marketing, and is placing
a big bet on the new vehicle pulling it out of the pond of
red ink in which the company has floundered for the last
few years. In case you want to buy one, the i Miev will
supposedly retail for around JPY4m, but should actually
cost JPY3m after government subsidies kick in. Mitsubishi
reckons it can get manufacturing costs down sufficiently
that the vehicle will be selling for around JPY2m by 2011
-- and accordingly the company has created a sales target
of just 2,000 units next year and around 10,000 vehicles
within two years.

The big hurdle for all car makers has of course been the
batteries, and Toyota in particular has been stressing how
"untried" and "early stage" Lithium Ion (Li-ion) batteries
still are. As if to emphasize this point, Toyota has
launched an R&D lab dedicated to developing a whole
new type of air battery that it hopes will supercede the
Li-ion. However, with all the battery manufacturing tie-ups
happening recently, including Toyota's own with Matsushita,
we think the major Japanese auto companies are in fact much
further along in their development than they are letting on.

The first indications that this may be so arise from the
fact that Mitsubishi has already increased its estimates
for the i Miev vehicles, from an initial 120km/charge to
around 160-200km/charge now. The company appears
increasingly confident that its new batteries will stand up
to commercial use -- and in fact gave
journalists a test run just recently.

Another indication that things are heating up is the
involvement of METI in the establishment this month of two
battery/electric specific organizations. The first is a
Li-ion batteries standards organization which includes the
nation's 9 top auto and motorcycle makers, 6 battery makers,
and Tokyo Electric Power Co. The standards will cover
testing, safety, charging methods, and general performance.

The second organization is a raw materials procurement
group which consists of around 30 top miners, product
makers, and trading houses, all of whom are seeking to
ensure a steady supply of 14 so-called rare metals -- most
notably including lithium, titanium, manganese, and nickel.
Three of these four elements (Li, Mn, and Ni) are in high
demand for Li-ion batteries.

This got us to thinking.

If Mitsubishi's i Miev is a hit, and demand significantly
exceeds supply, then it will be a free-for-all in 2010 as
other makers try to play catch-up. This will mean a
tremendous ramp up in the demand for electric motors,
sensors, and in particular, batteries. We then started
wondering about the supply chain behind Li-ion batteries
and whether stratospheric growth might cause the industry
to either strangle itself for a while -- or worse still,
whether a few key foreign suppliers could create choke
points similar to what the world is currently experiencing
with oil. No doubt, this is a similar set of concerns to those
METI is trying to address with its Raw Materials Forum.

So far as we can see, the supply of Lithium itself is not
particularly endangered nor restricted. At present Lithium
comes from both mining of Lithium-rich ore and also the
evaporation and processing of ordinary sea brine (salt
water). Brine as a source is nowadays most popular because
it is cheap, and currently the two main suppliers globally
are Chile and China. The Japanese mining companies are well
connected both in South America and also in Australia (for
their ore-based product).

A more volatile and difficult material to source is cobalt,
which is used for battery cathodes. Right now, most cobalt
in Japan comes from the processing of nickel ore and the
only domestic supplier of the stuff is Sumitomo Metal
Mining -- a good monopoly for them to be holding. Sumitomo
Metal says that it will increase its production of cobalt
by 80% next year to cope with increased demand. Like
everyone else, they source their raw materials from the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, which produces 40% of the
world's supply, followed by Canada, Zambia, Russia, Brazil
and Cuba.

The good news is that a number of Japanese companies have
reported recently being able to replace cobalt with manganese,
a much more common and cheaper element.

So our assessment is that the supply of the raw materials
for Li-ion batteries is relatively robust, and although
exposed to price increases, it is still not so unstable so
as to threaten Japanese supplies.

Overall, not just for autos, the production of Li-ion
batteries by Japanese companies is predicted to rise
dramatically over the next five years. Matsushita said
earlier this month that it plans to increase its investment
in Li-ion battery production facilities to the tune of
JPY100bn (US$940m) over the next 2 years, so as to be able
to pump out 75m batteries for all shapes and sizes per
month, up from the mere 25m a month it produces currently.
The new plant will make Matsushita the world's 2nd largest
maker, after Sanyo.

In case you were wondering, Sanyo produces 90m Li-ion
batteries a month, and owns 26% of the global JPY968bn
(US$9.13bn) market.


The Japan Inc. Business Awards (JIBA) deadline for
accepting nominations is September 1st, 2008. We suggest
that you make a point of submitting your nomination this
coming week.

The URL again, is

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Meat packer to start tuna farm
- High court upholds Horie prison term
- Inflation hits 10-year high
- Asian tourist numbers soar
- Tokyo to be hotter than normal this summer

-> Meat packer to start tuna farm

Taking a leaf out of the play book of the wild tuna farmers in
Port Lincoln, Australia, Nippon Meat Packers announced that
it will start cultivating wild Blue Fin Tuna (Indo Maguro)
in a joint venture with a local fisheries co-op in Uwajima,
Ehime. The group is forecasting revenues of JPY1bn by the
end of 2009, from sales to sushi chains and supermarkets.
Farming tuna involves catching them wild, then fattening
them in a type of "feed lot" process over a period of
18-30 months. (Source: TT commentary from, Jul
27, 2008)

-> High court upholds Horie prison term

Well, it is now official. If you don't show repentance in a
Japanese court, you're likely to get the book thrown at
you -- especially if you're Takafumi Horie, the ex-boss of
Livedoor. While showing penance in front of the judge is a
good strategy anywhere in the world, presiding judge
Tetsuji Nagaoka stated that "The defendant has a flimsy
sense of standards and lacks any grace," in referring to
Horie and his lack of personal appearances at his court
hearing. The judge subsequently upheld the lower court
judgment of a 2 1/2 year prison term against Horie.
Horie's lawyer was outraged and responded, "This is not
a trial in a modern nation." ***Ed: Since when did anyone
think the Japanese judiciary was modern or even fair?
They have their own way of evaluating things, and it
behooves any defendant to work within the system, rather
than fight it. In doing so, Horie could have received a
suspended sentence by now -- as have others who
committed similar crimes in the last 10 years.** (Source:
TT commentary from, Jul 26, 2007)

-> Inflation hits 10-year high

Japan's core Consumer Price Index (CPI), which excludes
fresh food prices but does include energy (unlike the US
figures), hit a 10-year high in June of 1.9%. This is the
highest rate since a 2% peak in January 1998. The increase
was almost entirely due to a 13.7% price increase in oil,
and to a lesser extent a 3.5% rise in non-fresh food.
Analysts are saying that the Bank of Japan (BoJ) is
unlikely to increase interest rates, since the CPI
increases were caused by external factors and not by
public demand. (Source: TT commentary from, Jul 25,

-> Asian tourist numbers soar

A major sea change is happening in Japan-bound tourism.
While the number of tourists coming in from the West has
stalled, in 2007 visitors from South Korea, Taiwan, China,
and Hong Kong soared to 5.36m people, almost double the
number from 5 years earlier. The new wave are apparently
coming to see temples, factories, go shopping, and enjoy
the onsen and nature tours in Hokkaido. Although they may
be competing with Japanese who are staying home instead of
traveling overseas, they are popular with stores and hotels,
because of their propensity to shop and spend more.
(Source: TT commentary from, Jul 26, 2008)

-> Tokyo to be hotter than normal this summer

According to the Japan Meterological Agency, Tokyo and East
Japan in general will experience hotter than normal
temperatures next week, and possibly for the whole of next
month. The Agency is saying there is a 60% chance of hotter
temperatures next week and a 50% chance for the rest of
August. Certainly it's been hotter than normal in July so
far. The best way to gauge the impact of the heat is the
surge in electricity demand for air conditioners. Chubu
Electric Power, servicing Nagoya, saw its power demand hit
a record high on Thursday. (Source: TT commentary from, Jul 25, 2008)

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.

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=> LINC Japan Ltd., an affiliate of the LINC Media group,
is actively marketing the following positions for market
entry customers setting up in Japan, as well as other
employers of bilinguals.


BiOS is urgently seeking a web page designer with
experience in Microsoft Sharepoint 2007 Designer and also
Sharepoint servers, for a 2 month project for the design
and construction of our clients website. In addition to
this opportunity, the successful applicant will also be
involved in troubleshooting and de-bugging, as well as
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Remuneration is Negotiable, and charged on an hourly rate.


- IT Support Engineer for international bank, JPY3m – JPY4m
- In-House IT Support MNFC law firm, JPY4m – JPY6m
- Unix Systems Administrator in Okinawa, JPY4m – JPY5m
- IT Info Security Officer for insurance co., JPY – Neg.
- Senior Prof. Services Director, sw company – JPY8m – 10m

Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to:

** BiOS Job Mail

Every 2 weeks BiOS sends out a regular communication to its
job seeking candidates, called BiOS Job Mail. Every edition
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Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to:


The Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan
requires a bilingual, native-English speaking Operations
Manager. Australian or New Zealand national preferred.
The successful applicant should be able to commence
training by early September 2008.

The successful applicant will have excellent computer,
organizational and people skills and fluent Japanese.
Marketing/Sales skills are advantageous.

Applicants should be comfortable working in a small office
environment where initiative and multi-tasking are
essential. An excellent opportunity for someone looking to
develop their professional career.

Key attributes of the Operations Manager:

- Organizational skills
- Presentation / interpersonal skills
- Computer knowledge and ability
- Japanese ability equivalent to Level 2 (Japanese Language
Proficiency Test)
- Professional and flexible attitude
- Ability to work unsupervised and with small teams and
numerous stakeholders
- Marketing/Sales skills
- Ability to work well under pressure, manage projects and
meet deadlines

Remuneration: This position is expected to pay between
4-5 million yen per annum.

Applications: Please forward a covering letter and resume
to: The Chairman, Australian and New Zealand Chamber of
Commerce in Japan, 4F Rune Yotsuya Building, 2-4-1 Yotsuya,
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0004

or via email to
No telephone inquiries. Applications close COB Monday 4th
August 2008. Early applications are encouraged.


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YMCA/FCSC 2008 Grand Gala Charity Ball:

One of the international community's most anticipated
social events of the year, the FCSC will hold their 2008
Grand Gala Charity Ball on October 17th at the Hilton

This year's event will feature Beatlemania as the theme,
with one of Japan's best known cover bands, the Beatle
Dollar Band. The evening also features fine wine, five
course dinner, dancing, and a grand raffle draw.

The highlight of the evening will be a Live Auction
including a guitar signed by Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo
Starr, other rare Beatles memorabilia, a guitar signed by
Led Zeppelin, photos of Tiger Woods, Harry Potter items,
and many more sports, cinema, and rock memorabilia.

All proceeds go to benefit the YMCA's Challenged Children
Project (CCP). Donations are 25,000 yen/per person, with a
10% discount for table reservations (10 persons). Special
overnight accommodation is available at the Hilton only for
YMCA/FCSC guests.

Attendance is limited so please contact the FCSC office;
03-5367-6640, for tickets and more

Events announcements are priced at JPY50,000 per week.
For more information, contact sales at



In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to

** No corrections this week.

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