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© wizzyfx dreamstime.com Business | May 09, 2013

Reduced cell cost suggests upcoming era of large capacity cells

As thin digital devices continue to lead the trend, cylindrical and polymer cells may bring the once promising large-capacity cells back into the market.
It is expected that starting from 2013, the average size of cell modules will be significantly reduced; the volume of large capacity cylindrical cells, for example, has been reduced by 34%, and cell price has dropped in two consecutive quarters. In addition, due to its large capacity, polymer cell price has dropped rapidly. Small-capacity cells are therefore being less applied in the market, and polymer cells have acquired a larger market share than cylindrical cells.

Large-capacity cell price continues to fall due to increased production

According to EnergyTrend, thin laptops have initiated the thin component trend. In 1Q13, the traditional off-season, polymer cell price has increased due to the lack of supply; during this period of time, both large-capacity (>3.5Ah) and small-capacity (<3.5Ah) cells have maintained a high price. Although large-capacity polymer cells are still in the initial stages of amortization, compared with small-capacity cells, large-capacity cells will still have more room for price increase due to its higher efficiency. Large-capacity cell price will start to decline in 2Q13 because these cells will then be more widely applied to tablets.

As for cylindrical cell price, small-capacity cell unit price has dropped lower than cost and manufacturers could no longer afford to acquire market shares by reducing product price. It is expected that price will remain flat in Q2. As for Large-capacity cells, most of the production line has amortized, so the average price is very competitive; it is expected that the use of large-capacity cells (such as 2.8Ah and 3.0Ah) will continue to increase and accelerate the price decline of large-capacity cells.

Penetration rate of large-capacity cylindrical cells continues to rise

Although cells used in laptops may be different, the market has continued to follow the specifications and launching time of Apple’s various products. The trend of larger cell capacity in 2013 not only accelerates price decline but also suggests that thin systems are causing shifts in the cell industry.

TrendForce forecasted that before 2014, polymer cell and cylindrical cell demands from laptops and tablets will form a golden cross –polymer cell demands will reach 59M/m, which is greater than cylindrical demands (55M/m). Though the overall demand for cylindrical cells is continually decreasing, these cells can still be divided according to their capacity.

In addition, while the application of large-capacity cells increases, the unit price also declines. 2.2Ah cells currently accounts for less than 50% of the laptop cell market (and may continue to decrease); the penetration rate of 3.0Ah and 3.2Ah cells, on the other hand, will continue to grow by 10% each quarter.

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