A recent study says the global battery market is due for extreme growth, to the tune of $9 billion annually by 2015.
This growth will, however, be accompanied by massive overcapacity, says German strategy consulting company, Roland Berger. The study reiterates past predictions that many small battery companies will be either driven out of business, or left fighting over a comparative sliver of the market pie in just a few years.
We’ll note also, this news comes as IBM says it intends to relegate lithium-ion batteries to history sometime after 2020. And beyond that, others are quietly working in labs around the world on alternative energy storage as well. All this behind-the-scenes work stands to throw further wild cards into otherwise well-researched market predictions.
And even without a radical breakthrough, Roland Berger’s in-depth findings about lithium-ion and nickel metal hydride and other batteries are actually an update and refinement on the same study done around two years ago.
One bit of positive news for watchers of the move toward vehicle electrification is things are happening rapidly, with major indicators that the shift toward using batteries to one degree or another in vehicles is underway.
On the other hand, Roland Berger’s amended report now already shows its forecasts from only a couple years back were not accurate in some areas, while more or less consistent in others.
For example, in February 2010, Roland Berger projected a major shakeout whereby “only six to eight global battery manufacturers will survive the next five to seven years.” In the updated report released Thursday, April 19, Roland Berger amended its outlook, and said, “in the course of this consolidation, five top players will share most of the battery market in 2015.”
Thinning the Herd
Today, says Roland Berger, more than 100 companies are competing in the li-ion automotive battery segment. But the firm also said that more than double supply over demand for li-ion by 2015 will decimate the number of battery makers, forcing market consolidation as pricing becomes competitive.
Companies expected to control the majority of the li-ion battery market and their anticipated shares in 2015 are: AESC (20 percent), LC Chem (15 percent), Panasonic/Sanyo (13 percent), A123 (11 percent) and SB LiMotive (9 percent).
By 2016/2017, Roland Berger forecasts in addition to the five big fish, “one or two other companies will join the ranks of the top players controlling 80-90 percent of the market.”
Automotive demand for batteries includes those for all sorts of applications, including battery electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, stop/start technology, and other efficiency increasing sub systems. Legislation plus consumer demand in Europe and the U.S. has every automaker looking for more ways to squeeze higher mileage and lower emissions from its offerings.
By 2015, Roland Berger forecasts original equipment manufacturers facing prices in the $237-264 per kilowatt-hour range for high-energy packs on large orders.
This is a sizable drop from today’s prices, and even if later this estimate is revised again, Roland Berger has consistently said, in short, prices will drop, as big players take over 80-90 percent of the market.
Further key findings are:
• New and confirmed programs, especially in Asia, are being partly offset by volume reductions in Europe and America
• Major overcapacity and falling prices will lead to strong market consolidation
• Chinese competition is growing, while China could become the leading market for e-mobility by 2020
Trust Us, We’re Experts
If you’ll pardon the snarky sub-headline, we’re just noting even the self-described “experts” have had to change their forecasts, so we won’t be surprised to see that happening again, as the battery market has many variables to contend with.
If anything is clear, this is a “dynamic” industry, as Roland Berger also notes. And, there are huge positive pressures for transportation-oriented batteries – particularly nickel-metal hydride and the up-and-coming lithium-ion varieties.
Another positive slant to all this could be that having had two years to refine its study, contact companies, crunch numbers, and so forth, Roland Berger’s present snapshot does give a picture at least worth considering. Further, it could very well be more accurate being that it is that much closer to the electric vehicle “future” many are attempting to prepare for.