Lithium Energy Japan (LEJ) has today announced that it will build a new plant in Ritto City, Japan where it will commence full mass production of lithium-ion batteries for use in electric vehicles.
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The 37.5 billion yen (AUD$430.6 million) plant, which will be fully operational by 2012, will initially manufacture 4.4 million cells each year - or enough to supply 50,000 Mitsubishi i MiEVs with completed battery pack modules.

LEJ first began mass production of lithium-ion battery packs for electric vehicles in June last year, and has since that time been running at full capacity to meet growing demand for the new technology. At the present rate, LEJ manufactures 200,000 cells a year, or enough for 2300 electric vehicles.

A second line will be introduced to the existing Kusatsu Plant this year that will double that capacity, while another plant at Kyoto will produce an additional 1 million cells per annum (enough for 11,000 EVs) from December this year.

While the numbers may seem plentiful, the ongoing demand for EV battery packs for electric cars such as the Mitsubishi i MiEV, Nissan LEAF -- and hybrid vehicles such as the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius -- means future production will only continue to expand.

LEJ says that in successfully developing technologies to produce the large capacity lithium-ion cells (similar to the one pictured above) in a specially designed mass production line, it will by the second half of 2012 be capable of stepping up production to 6 million cells annually (enough for 67,800 EVs). The manufacturer aims to further expand its Japanese operations to accommodate 100,000 EVs per year by the middle of the decade.

For its construction of the Ritto plant, LEJ will receive the maximum subsidy of 5 billion yen (AUD$57.4 million) under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's "Regional Development Subsidy Program for Green Companies Towards Employment Creation" for the fiscal year 2009.