© tesla (illustration purpose only!) Analysis | January 13, 2016

Plug-In electric vehicles driving growth in lithium battery markets

The latest generation of lithium batteries includes very large cells suitable for powering vehicles or storing significant amounts of utility power, as well as very small thin-film cells capable of powering micro-electromechanical systems.
BCC Research states in its new report that improved lithium batteries have allowed the commercialization of entire new classes of products, including smartphones, portable and tablet computers, as well as commercial plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).

The global market for lithium batteries is projected to reach USD 13.3 billion in 2020 (from USD 10.6 billion in 2015); demonstrating a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.5 percent. The secondary (rechargeable) lithium battery segment, which dominates the global market, should total USD 9.4 billion in 2015 and USD 11.9 billion in 2020, reflecting a five-year CAGR of 4.8 percent. The global market for primary (nonrechargeable) lithium batteries, which reached USD 1.3 billion in 2015, should reach USD 1.4 billion in 2020, indicative of a five-year CAGR of 2.2 percent.

Lithium batteries have a firm market base for medical, military, and specialty and niche consumer and industrial applications. But on the other hand, once-promising markets like camera power have all but disappeared. During the 1990s, lithium batteries posted double-digit market growth. Between 2000 and 2005, there was a period of steady sales or incremental growth (as opposed to the double-digit growth of the 1990s). Lithium battery unit sales then picked up through the 2008 financial crash. In mid-2008, sales and market value fell due to the global recession. The market has now recovered and is once more growing incrementally.

The future of lithium batteries remains the plug-in electric vehicle. Despite tremendous investment and technical achievement, growth has been disappointing (at least compared with the expectations of principals and analysts. Low gasoline prices, reduced government buyer incentives and some lingering safety problems are all disincentives to faster lithium EV battery growth. However, issues with clean diesel, government commitments to more efficient, less polluting designs and the eventual construction of lithium battery "giga-factories" portend a bright future for this market segment, at least in the long term.

"Predictions that a new era of double-digit growth will soon take place depend on the fortunes of the electric vehicle market, and to a lesser extent, the large stationary utility power markets," says BCC Research analyst Donald Saxman. "Companies are now preparing to expand production to support both these markets, even as sharply reduced oil prices remove some of the economic incentives for EVs."


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