Explosive Growth for Lithium-ion Batteries in Electric Vehicles

The credit crunch has hit global and European economies hard. The lack of available finances has affected investments and has been accompanied by a drop in consumer spending, rising unemployment and a decline in industrial output.

As the major market for lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries is in the consumer, industrial and automotive end-user segments, demand has fallen, evidenced by the drop in revenues. However, the market is poised to rebound around end-2010 and, with the electric vehicles (EV) segment projected to explode in 2012-2013, the market is set for sustained expansion.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (www.powersupplies.frost.com), European Secondary Lithium Battery Market, finds that the market earned revenues of $1,618.5 million in 2008 and estimates this to reach $1,759.4 million in 2015.

"Superior performance characteristics that make Li-ion batteries the preferred choice of industry will push growth in the future," notes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Rajanand Rao. "Li-ion batteries have a high energy density of 120-160 Wh/kg, compared to 30-80 Wh/kg for Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries."

Moreover, Li-ion batteries do not suffer from memory effect and have a low self-discharge rate of about 5 per cent per month, compared to 10 per cent for common NiMH batteries. These superior characteristics of high power and long runtime make them suitable for consumer, industrial and upcoming electric and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) applications.

The Li-ion battery is emerging as the chemistry of choice and is set to dominate the future of the battery industry, especially with Electric Vehicles and HEVs poised for mass production. These segments are looking to adopt this chemistry owing to its advanced performance characteristics.

When Li-ion batteries were first introduced in the market, there were several problems connected with their safety and particularly, with their thermal runaway. The best example of these safety issues was the recall of millions of laptop batteries by Sony in 2006 that caused massive losses, both in terms of revenues and trust in Li-ion batteries.

"Li-ion batteries have a tendency to become unstable at temperatures above 140 degrees C," explains Rao. "This needs to be overcome in order to boost customer trust in these batteries and promote their usage in the industrial as well as electric car automotive segments."

The need of the hour is to invest in R&D and find new materials that are safer as well as low cost. New cathode chemistries such as Li-iron phosphate and manganese spinel as well as anode and electrolyte technologies promise higher performance, while also providing improved safety.

"Continued R&D to find new and better chemistries, increasing process efficiency and curbing production costs will ensure a steady revenue flow," advises Rao. "This, together with efforts to expand into the new space created by EVs should help increase, if not maintain, the current market share."

European Secondary Lithium Battery Market is part of the Power Supplies Growth Partnership Services programme, which also includes research in the following markets: World Hybrid Electric and Electric Vehicle Lithium-ion Battery Market, World Hybrid Electric Vehicles/Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles Battery Market and, North American Starting, Lighting and Ignition (SLI) Lead Acid Battery Aftermarket. All research services included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.