As Elon Musk pushes out from his California base to make electric vehicles ubiquitous, a Japanese firm deep in the depths of the battery supply chain is riding his wake.

Tanaka Chemical Corp., which has a long history in developing battery materials, says it's boosting output to meet surging demand for its materials for making cathodes. The Fukui-based company, which has slightly more than 180 employees, plans to invest ¥500 million ($4.56 million) to boost output capacity by about 1,000 tons a year.

The relatively small investment flowing into battery components from Tanaka could be a precursor to even more spending from suppliers anticipating new electric car models on the road in the next three years, Mamoru Shimakawa, an executive officer at Tanaka, said in an interview.