Japanese Startup PJP Has Pride On The Line With ‘Breakthrough’ Battery Tech

Last week, the story broke of an extremely hopeful “Ryden dual carbon battery” developed by Power Japan Plus (PJP), and responses have ranged from optimistic, to pessimistic reminders that unfulfilled battery “breakthroughs” have been touted before.

If you’re just hearing of this prototype chemistry now being proof tested by an undisclosed “famous” go-cart race team and with results expected in August, the Japanese start-up company promises a lot but not without reason.

While its energy density is within range of existing li-ion chemistries, PJP’s chemistry can use 100-percent of the stored energy with no need to limit output to prevent degradation.

Cathode capacity degradation over first 10 charges. Source: PJP's own testing.

Cathode capacity degradation over first 10 charges. Source: PJP’s own testing.

Strictly speaking, it’s a derivation of lithium-ion tech, but it departs from convention having properties of a battery and a capacitor, and charges 20-times quicker than the best li-ion chemistries today.

And as for degradation, the dual carbon battery far exceeds the chemistries used in a Nissan Leaf, or Tesla Model S.

The dual carbon chemistry is also made with inexpensive cotton-derived materials with no rare earths or danger of thermal runaway and fire. Indeed, it does not even get hot during operation, thus needs no cooling system, and its life expectancy is over 3,000 charge cycles.

Cathode capacity degradation over >1,000 charges. Source: PJP's own testing.

Cathode capacity degradation over >1,000 charges. Source: PJP’s own testing.

If this all pans out, it could mean mainstream-priced EVs with over 300 miles range and significantly less loss of performance over time. It also means their resale value could be better preserved compared to today’s EVs.

The company is looking to sell into all industries that need advanced batteries, including automotive, food supplements, consumer electronics, construction, and medical equipment, with the latter – surgical tools – being ”low-hanging fruit.”

Its 18650 form factor can be made on existing assembly lines, and fewer of these cool-running units should slot in place nicely to make lighter-weight instruments for doctors performing operations.

12 Years

To learn what we could, we spoke this week at the EDTA conference in Indianapolis with the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, Chris Craney who said it just came out of “stealth mode” after a dozen years of development.

Behind it all is the work of Prof. Tatsumi Ishihara, an applied chemist at Kyushu University in Japan, a top-five national university, and “like an MIT.”

For the last six years, Dr. Ishihara has worked with Dr. Kaname Takeya, a cathode expert who helped develop PJP’s carbon cathode to replace rare earth metal cathodes.

Dr. Takeya is known for his work on batteries used in the Prius and Model S, and Craney said third-party organizations have already verified their claims.

“This is thoroughly vetted by the national lab in Japan; it’s real science and self funded by our executive team,” he said of the National institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

The company is now talking with venture capitalists, and representatives from various industries including undisclosed “world renowned automotive companies.”

PJP's battery utilizes a unique chemistry, with both the anode and the cathode made of carbon. Combined with an organic electrolyte, it allows for a unique current flow within the battery.

PJP’s battery utilizes a unique chemistry, with both the anode and the cathode made of carbon.
Combined with an organic electrolyte, it allows for a unique current flow within the battery.

Before issuing a press release, it also submitted to intense questioning by IHS, said Craney, and analysts “bombarded” Dr. Takeya and company principles with tough technical questions.

Craney said after the analysts were done, they would say effectively that this was unlike any other battery they’d investigated before, though really, it’s a new development for an idea that’s been known for decades.

The notion of a dual carbon battery was first written about in 1978 by Kyoto University, but PJP’s innovation over a design with initial shortcomings is its higher power and suitability for real-world use.

The company’s dual carbon battery does operate at higher voltage – 3-3.5 volts per cell, and up to 5 volts, but Craney was under strict orders not to share too much, including how large a battery that could discharge 100 percent would be needed to travel 300 miles in an electric car.

Capacity of dual carbon battery over 100 charges.

Capacity of dual carbon battery over 100 charges.

PJP classifies itself as a materials engineering company, and Dr. Ishihara’s recyclable carbon-based material used in the battery’s electrolyte can be used in other industries as well.

Dr. Takeya took the materials from cotton and changed the structure and morphology for various applications.

As an electrolyte for the battery, he adapted the particle science in one direction. For other things, like food supplements, he can tweak it again to develop a type of activated charcoal that’s ingested to pull away toxins from the body.

Or, he can make a super conducting material for wild ideas like heating carpets – or rooftops or airplane runways in frigid climates for pushbutton snow and ice melting.

“Professor Ishihara is a genius,” said Craney.

What’s Next

If key technical details are omitted from the company’s Web site and materials, this is not an accident.

The company has patents pending, and in process now is proof of concept for a small battery pack and battery management system being used by a go-cart race team.

Where in the world this experiment is and the name of the team is undisclosed, as are other critical details but the company expects a new technical video to be posted “very soon.” It will make more announcements up through August when the race team is expected to have results.

At that stage, PJP hopes to be able to share more including more performance claims for automotive applications.

To date, Craney said the company is being somewhat “mysterious” and conservative rather than tip its hand to others in the industry who could interpret clues and know more than it wishes to divulge.

Charge/discharge profile of dual carbon battery.

Charge/discharge profile of dual carbon battery.

The fact that the battery also uses no rare earths could help solve a sticky geopolitical issue between Japan and antagonistic China which controls over 90 percent of rare earth supplies.

If anyone thinks this has the makings of one more hype machine, Craney emphasized in addition to third-party vetting already done, personal pride and reputations are on the line. The last thing these recognized PhDs want to do is lose face after making claims for a game changer.

“Current advanced batteries have made great improvement on performance, but have done so by compromising on cost, reliability and safety,” said Dr. Takeya, CTO of Power Japan Plus. “The Ryden dual carbon battery balances this equation, excelling in each category.”

Craney observed also, Dr. Takeya used to teach engineering ethics at Kyushu University, and does practice what he preaches.

Meanwhile, the company is seeking investors and customers for a battery it will have more news on in the coming months. It is not tied to any major automakers now, but could answer objections the majors now have – both Honda and Toyota are aiming for fuel cell tech, and Toyota has famously stated li-ion batteries are not ready for prime time.

The Japanese have been innovators before, and PJP hopes to be next in line.

“It’s time for Japan innovation to come back out to show what we do,” said Craney.

So, stay tuned.