Japan quake could rock battery industry

Battery manufacturers are turning to alternative components sources besides those in quake-hit Japan to ensure there are no shortages in supply.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

A report by Wall Street Journal last week stated that battery component makers from countries such as the United States, Europe and Taiwan have noticed an upswing in business, as battery makers seek to increase their list of suppliers beyond Japanese plants that were forced to shut down.

Japanese company Kureha, for one, had to shut down its plant in Iwaki, which is located near the epicenter of the earthquake that hit Japan on Mar. 11. The company, which supplies polyvinylidene fluoride that is used as a binder in lithium-ion batteries and acts as a critical component in batteries used for electric vehicles, previously held sway over 70 percent of the global market for the polymer.

As a result, a spokesperson for U.S. component supplier Arkema, which produces polyvinylidene fluoride, said they received an uptick in calls since the earthquake. Taiwanese battery component maker C-Tech United is also benefitting from the changing supply chain landscape. Jason Wong, a company spokesperson, told the Journal that times have never been better for its business since the earthquake. Lithium-ion batteries are used to power a variety of consumer devices including smartphones and tablets.

Despite the shuttering of Japanese plants, there is currently no shortage of batteries for mobile phones and laptops due to a two-month supply buffer, noted Gartner analyst Jim Tully in the report.

For more on this story, read Supply 'shakeup' expected in battery industry on ZDNet Asia.

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