Asahi Kasei Corp. is investing $264 million to install new lines making lithium-ion battery (LIB) separators at plants in the U.S., Japan and South Korea.
The new lines in Charlotte, N.C.; Hyuga, Japan; and Pyeongtaek, South Korea, are expected to start up in the first half of fiscal 2026, officials with Tokyo-based Asahi Kasei said in an Oct. 31 news release.
Asahi Kasei supplies two types of Hipore-brand wet-process LIB separators. One is a polyolefin microporous base film membrane and the other is a coated membrane separator produced by applying ceramic and other coatings to the base film.
LIB separators are one of Asahi Kasei's 10 Growth Gears (GG10) businesses that the firm has identified to lead the next phase of growth in its medium-term management plan for fiscal 2024. Officials said Asahi Kasei is expanding capacity to meet "a significant increase" in demand for electric vehicle applications.
"Expanding Hipore operations globally to keep pace with the electric vehicle market is an important milestone for our separator business," senior executive officer Hiroyoshi Matsuyama said in the release. He added that with established global locations, Asahi Kasei can support customers quickly by investing in existing infrastructure and then expanding further with new greenfield sites.
Officials said that Asahi Kasei will continue investing to build its LIB separator supply infrastructure for automotive applications to meet growing demand, especially in North America where significant expansion of electric vehicle production is forecast.
The expansions will raise Asahi Kasei's coating capacity for LIB separators to more than 2.6 billion pounds per year, enabling the supply of coated separators for batteries equivalent to 1.7 million electric vehicles. Asahi Kasei's plant in Charlotte is co-located with membranes systems maker Celgard LLC.
Asahi Kasei is an industrial conglomerate that employs 48,000 worldwide. The firm's Asahi Kasei Plastics North America unit ranks as one of North America's 30 largest compounders, making compounds based on polypropylene and engineering resins.