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Economy & Tech

Furukawa Battery: Meeting the Challenge of Zero Emissions in the Energy Transition

As Japan races to meet its net zero carbon emissions, a Japanese company is helping to pave the way with batteries that meet the challenge for transportation on the sea, in space, and more.

Greg Atkinson

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Furukawa Battery display at a Maritime Exhibition in Amsterdam in 2015 (Source: Greg Atkinson)

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As the global economy adapts to the transition away from carbon-based sources of energy, there is an increased focus on the use of renewable energy to provide a zero-emission source of electrical power. An integral part of the solution is batteries and energy storage systems. One Japanese company that is leading the field in this respect is The Furukawa Battery Company (Furukawa Battery). 

Furukawa Battery traces its origins back to 1914, when Furukawa Electric established its battery factory in Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture, and started production of lead-acid batteries. In 1950 Furukawa Electric spun off its battery business, and Furukawa Battery as a separate company was formed. Since then, the company has continued to evolve & expand, and now employs over 2,400 people. 

In 1992 it also expanded overseas and established Siam Furukawa Battery Co., Ltd. in Thailand, and in 2013 it established Furukawa Indomobil Battery Manufacturing (FIBM) in Indonesia.

In addition to being a manufacturer of high-quality batteries and power supply devices, the company is also a leading innovator with engineering research and development divisions at several locations. The Innovation Laboratory in the Iwaki Plant is one of its key development sites. 

This focus on research has led to the development of a number of market-leading battery technologies, including in 2003 the world’s first lithium-ion battery for space application. This innovative battery technology was installed in Japan’s Hayabusa asteroid explorer. The spacecraft Hayabusa 2 was also equipped with a high reliability, long-life lithium-ion battery supplied by Furukawa Battery.

Another example was the development of the MgBOX – a Magnesium Air Battery that can be used in emergencies. It is so simple that it is activated by adding water. This product was launched in Japan in 2014, after having been developed based on the experience of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. 

In 2017 as part of its ongoing focus on cutting-edge research, Furukawa Battery also established a next-generation lithium-ion battery development company – ABRI Co., Ltd. (Advanced Battery Research Institute) in conjunction with the Tokyo Metropolitan University.

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MgBOX Magnesium Air Battery (Source: Furukawa Battery)

Although there has been much focus on lithium-ion batteries recently, Furukawa Battery has also developed advanced valve regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries, including the FCR and the UltraBattery® series. FCR batteries are a high quality and long life VRLA battery technology suitable for standby, emergency, cycle and dual use. 

They are also suitable for applications in which charging and discharging are repeated frequently. These batteries can be used for emergency or back-up power, and charged from a range of charging systems, including solar power. They can also be used for renewable energy applications. 

The UltraBattery® is a long-life hybrid battery that incorporates unique ultracapacitor technology. It is suitable for a wide range of applications, including land-based and marine renewable energy projects, and has been used for a ship-based solar power project.  

Performance chart for FCR-50-12 battery (Source: Furukawa Battery)

In addition to supplying batteries for a wide range of automotive, transportation & industrial uses, Furukawa Battery has also cooperated with Eco Marine Power since 2014 on promoting the use of batteries on ships, including marine solar power systems. Several battery types are also suitable for emergency backup power onboard ships.

RELATED: Japanese Shipbuilders Poised to Beat Rivals with Clean Air Technology

Quality at Furukawa Battery applies not only to the products themselves, but to every stage, every category and every level of corporate activities – from research and development to manufacturing, service and administrative operations. The company continually iterates on a PDCA-based (plan–do–check–act or plan–do–check–adjust) management cycle that maintains and improves the quality of products, services and business operations. 

The company has an environmental policy that encompasses a commitment to “reducing CO2 emissions and conserving resources throughout the entire life cycle of its business activities including order-taking and agreements, design and development, purchasing, manufacturing and providing service.” Its lead-acid batteries, for example, are over 90% recyclable. Solar panels are installed at its production facilities at Iwaki, Fukushima. 

Another measure taken to protect the environment includes cleaning industrial waste-water to remove pollutants. The company has attained ISO 14001 certification for its environmental management system (EMS). In addition, the Imaichi Plant has received the highest award from the Kanto Branch of the Japan Electric Association for its steady efforts to cut power consumption and the implementation of measures that lead to energy savings.

Solar Panels Installed at the Furukawa Battery Iwaki Plant

In 2020 The Furukawa Battery Company of Japan reflected upon the 70 years since its formation when it was spun-off from Furukawa Electric. It has evolved and expanded, while at the same time maintained its proud heritage and focus on quality. It is now a world leader in the manufacture of batteries and is also at the forefront of developing the new & innovative solutions required for the energy transition.

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(Additional information about Furukawa Battery can be found on the company’s website

Author: Greg Atkinson

Greg Atkinson is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and founder Eco Marine Power (EMP) in Japan. EMP develops innovative renewable energy systems for shipping including Aquarius Marine Renewable Energy (MRE), the EnergySail and Aquarius Marine Solar Power. His qualifications include a PhD in Maritime Engineering, an MBA, a BSc in Electrical Engineering and an Associate Diploma in Electronic Systems Maintenance. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects (FRINA) and a Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (FIMarEST).