Sumitomo Electric Industries and SWCC Showa Holdings will steal a march on foreign competitors by beginning production of superconducting wire to be used in electric car motors and smart grids.
The use of superconducting wire will mean significant reduction in power loss by conserving electricity and improving mechanical performance, which can mean in the region of 20 percent energy savings for a large factory. For the motors of electric vehicles the wire will be able to increase driving range by around 25 percent, which could assist in the take-up of environmentally friendly transportation.
Sumitomo Electric seeks to become the world’s largest superconductor wire manufacturer next year by increasing capacity next year by double to 1,000km at its Osaka plant. Its increased output of bismuth-based wire will see it overtaking US firm American Superconductor Corp. The wire costs twice as much as copper, though volume production will lower this cost by 30 percent.
One of Sumitomo Electric’s customers will be Tokyo Electric Power, which will be purchasing superconducting wire for installation at a transformer station in Yokohama, making it the first utility in Japan to use the wire in commercial power transmission. Further orders have been received including one for 40km from China, and an order for more than 100km from an unspecified buyer, according to Nikkei (subscription needed)
SWCC Showa, meanwhile, will begin the mass production of an yttrium-based superconducting wire this year for use in high-output motors, with needed plant investments to total $12 million.
Overall the domestic market for superconducting wire used in power cables will measure about $589 million in 2030, according to the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization. It is also expected that US will increase demand as it replaces its aging power grid infrastructure.