The ongoing development of EV batteries

24th July 2015
Nat Bowers

Tracking the development of 45 electric vehicle categories (not just electric cars), IDTechEx research indicates that there are now Li-ion battery options for everything from forklifts and mobility vehicles to e-bikes. Indeed, almost all the e-bikes in the West and Japan use them. 8,000 forklifts in the USA have fuel cells with Li-ion batteries though the Toyota Mirai fuel cell car and the Prius hybrid car still use NiMH.

Despite capturing the market in micro hybrid cars, lead-acid batteries are being squeezed out of other categories of pure EVs and HEVs. Li-ion batteries are standard within the pure electric car market, which grew 55% in 2014 from 2013. They are also the norm in plug-in vehicles from buses to cars and military vehicles.

According to IDTechEx, the bottom line is that Li-ion batteries have no serious rivals for the coming decade in terms of percentage market share as outlined in the Analysis of over 140 Lithium-based Rechargeable Battery Manufacturers: Chemistry, Strategy, Success report.

So who is winning with these batteries in EVs? BYD claims leadership but that appears to be in numbers when MWh is a better metric. Here Panasonic was well ahead again in 2014 with 2,726 followed by AESC at 1,620 then LG Chem with 886 and BYD  with 461MWh, closely followed by Mitsubishi/GS Yuasa at 451 and Samsung at 314MWh. Of those only BYD and Mitsubishi also make the vehicles. However the tables might turn in the following years as LG Chem became in 2015 the largest manufacturer of automotive battery packs. Indeed, LG Chem is supplying thirteen different global automakers out of the top 20 global brands, including GM, Ford, Hyundai, Renault and this year Daimler too.

Dr Peter Harrop, leader of the EV team at IDTechEx, commented: “Profits are another thing of course but we expect some of the leaders to be profitable in the blood bath of now 200 manufacturers of Li-ion capacitors with chronic over-supply even before the planned Tesla Gigafactory. Many will go to the wall. We observe that, although the lithium iron phosphate (cathode) batteries are made by the largest number of these manufacturers, they are not winning the leadership stakes partly because energy density is key for most EVs. The battery chemistry with largest battery production by far will be NMC in the following years.”

“Lithium titanate is still a minor part of the business though still taking market share (e.g. Toshiba is marketing them in micro and mild hybrid cars. The term actually refers to the anode, which give benefits such as improved cycle life and are made with five different cathode types. For now, good old graphite anodes win but a large number of companies are developing silicon-based anodes for EV batteries. Clearly there is a robust competition with consensus that costs will at least halve in the coming decade, further boosting the market. As for the production of EVs themselves, the Japanese are winning but the Koreans and Chinese are also forces to be reckoned with. The elephant in the room is Toyota, by far the biggest EV manufacturer in the world and having one of the most impressive patent portfolios and ongoing battery research programmes. Another fascinating development this year is XALT of the USA landing a billion dollar order for Li-ion batteries for Chinese buses based on a superior anode and cathode.”

The Analysis of over 140 Lithium-based Rechargeable Battery Manufacturers: Chemistry, Strategy, Success report covers 140 manufacturers and putative manufacturers across the world, concentrating on the chemistry and format of their batteries, EV sales success (where that is a chosen focus) and strategy in a detailed table, with separate explanation and easy-to-understand pie charts of analysis. Problems, opportunities and the global view of the future are analysed.

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