One of the tenets of capitalism is that businesses and manufacturers will quickly jump on any marketing and sales opportunity they believe is viable—and if they’re successful, they can quickly lock down a major portion of a market. Following that idea, Matsushita—which is the parent company of the consumer electronics brand Panasonic—announced today (Japanese) that it has boosted its production capacity of spark-resistant batteries from 100,000 units a month in April 2006 to five million units per month now, filling thhe market and confidence gap left in the wake of rival Sony’s recent 10 million unit battery recall, as well as smaller-scale recalls from Sanyo.
Matsushita’s batteries include heat-proof layers which insulate the battery cell, adjacent to an existing separator which insulates the battery’s anode and cathode. If that separator is punctures or compromised—perhaps by foreign matter introduced during manufacturing—a battery can overheat and even catch fire. Matsushita says that with its new insulating layer, the battery won’t overheat even if the battery short-circuits.
Matsushita’s batteries will be available in bulk to manufacturers, rather than to consumers directly. The company says it hopes to first bring the insulated design to lithium-ion notebook computer batteries, and intends to deploy the technology in half the lithium-ion batteries it produces by 2009.
Matsushita currently produces about 15 million lithium-ion batteries a month for notebook and 10 million lithium-ion batteries for cell phones, and accounts for about one eighth of the global lithium-ion battery market.