Hello everyone, this is Akito from Singapore.
In the spring of 2019, I was in Shanghai to report on the biennial auto show. I will never forget the words of a Nissan engineer who just announced a new electric car for the Chinese market. “EV production without Chinese-made parts is no longer possible,” he said.
Nissan was a pioneer of electric vehicles. It released the world’s first globally mass-produced model – the Leaf – in 2010, a project in which this engineer was involved. “Back then, all the parts were made in Japan,” he recalls.
However, the newly announced Nissan EV used batteries from Chinese manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology, better known as CATL. And Tesla was building a large-scale EV factory in Shanghai.
Four years have passed since then and Chinese automakers and parts manufacturers have become much bigger players in the EV market. In contrast, the presence of Japanese automakers has shrunk.
Under these circumstances, major Japanese automakers are trying to make a comeback with all-solid-state batteries, which are considered the industry’s next-generation technology of choice.
Toyota is betting on solid-state
Toyota Motor wants to market an electric car powered by a fully solid state battery as early as 2027, according to Nikkei staff writers. Chief Technology Officer Hiroki Nakajima said the company had “found quality material” to “keep up with the rest of the world” and that it would “be used in practice”.
Solid-state EV batteries can be charged in less than 10 minutes and power a vehicle over a range of 1,200 kilometers – 2.4 times the distance achievable with conventional lithium-ion batteries.
Toyota’s Japanese rival Nissan also plans to launch an EV with a solid-state battery by the end of March 2029, and German giant BMW plans to mass-produce them by 2030.
Toyota, which has a strong lineup of hybrid vehicles, is looking to accelerate its EV business by using solid-state batteries. The company sold only about 20,000 electric cars worldwide last year, but wants to increase that to 1.5 million by 2026 and to 3.5 million by 2030.
CATL looks at Thai EVs
Meanwhile, Chinese battery giant CATL announced it will open a factory in Thailand to assemble batteries for electric cars with Arun Plus, a subsidiary of Thailand’s state oil company PTT, says Nikkei staff writer Francesca Regalado.
The joint venture’s investment of 3.6 billion baht ($104 million) is the latest in Thailand print to become a hub for electric cars in Southeast Asia.
The plant is expected to begin assembling batteries in the fourth quarter of 2024. It will supply Thailand-based EV manufacturers, starting with Horizon Plus, Arun’s EV production arm, with a target capacity of 50,000 cars per year by 2024 and 150,000 by 2030.
“This is a great opportunity for both PTT/Arun Plus and Thailand as CATL is a global leader in new energy innovative technologies, spanning the entire global battery value chain,” said Arun Plus Managing Director Ekachai Yimsakul, who was in Shanghai to sign the cooperation agreement with CATL executives.
Microsoft brings top AI experts from China
Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) stood out as a rare example of successful US-China collaboration in high-tech research. Many of China’s leading tech entrepreneurs have gone through the Beijing Institute.
But tensions between the two superpowers have dented MSRA’s freedom, according to insiders who spoke to the Financial Times. Eleanor Olcott, Qianer Liu And Ryan McMorrow. And now Microsoft is moving some of its top AI researchers from its facility in Beijing to a new facility in Vancouver, Canada, a move that threatens to undermine an institution that has been a critical training ground for the country’s tech talent.
Microsoft said the Vancouver lab would be “organizationally aligned” with the MSRA and staffed by researchers from China and other countries around the world.
The decision by the US tech giant to relocate the workers came in response to heightened political tensions between the US and China. It was also a defensive maneuver to prevent researchers from being poached by domestic tech groups desperate for AI researchers to develop homegrown versions of OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
It threatens to spark a backlash in Beijing, which has been trying to lure Chinese high-tech researchers working abroad back to the mainland through generous grants and prestigious teaching posts.
Indonesia’s nickel surplus
Global nickel supplies are heading for a larger surplus this year as more Indonesian smelters powering the EV battery and stainless steel industries come on stream and threaten to close. keep prices low the record highs of 2022, according to Nikkei staff writer Erwida Maulia.
Prices rose to new heights last year after major nickel producer Russia invaded Ukraine, and due to rising demand for so-called Class 1 nickel used in EV batteries.
However, nickel production also rose in 2022, as China-backed smelters in Indonesia rapidly increased production as slowing global economic growth dampened demand for stainless steel. Indonesia is tied with Australia as home to the world’s largest nickel reserves, with each country holding one-fifth of the world’s reserves. According to one analyst, the market is heading for “a bigger surplus in 2023” and “will not see a deficit before 2028”.
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#techAsia is being coordinated by Nikkei Asia’s Katherine Creel in Tokyo, with assistance from the FT tech desk in London.
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