Improvements in lithium ion (Li-ion) battery technology are helping to accelerate the worldwide market for electric vehicles (EVs).
In the last few years, most automakers have shifted from nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries to Li-ion batteries. This shift represents a major endorsement of Li-ion chemistry and its ability to perform consistently in an automotive environment.
According to a recent report from Navigant Research, total worldwide capacity of Li-ion batteries for transportation applications will increase more than ten-fold, from 4,400 megawatt-hours (MWh) in 2013 to nearly 49,000 MWh by 2020.
The immediate future looks to be secure for the Li-ion chemistry, although there are many variants still under development to improve performance and reduce cost. The technology continues to improve, and leading battery cell manufacturers have built new factories utilizing the latest production techniques including greater automation and faster throughput.
“Li-ion technology continues to improve, as increased energy densities translate into smaller and lighter battery packs with more power,” says David Alexander, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “At the same time, leading battery cell manufacturers have built new factories utilizing the latest production techniques, including greater automation and faster throughput. This will lead to a reduction in the cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) over the next few years, provided that volumes continue to increase.”
The market for Li-ion batteries will primarily be driven by the growth of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), as they utilize much larger battery packs than plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).
Today’s BEVs use battery packs ranging from 16 kilowatt-hour to 85 kilowatt-hour, compared to PHEVs that typically use packs ranging from 4 kilowatt-hour to 16 kilowatt-hour.
Additionally, many recently introduced hybrid vehicles, such as the Honda Civic Hybrid, use Li-ion batteries, and the percentage of hybrids using Li-ion technology is expected to grow steadily as automakers update their models.
The report, “Electric Vehicle Batteries”, provides a detailed examination of the growing market for Li-ion batteries, including profiles of all of the leading Li-ion battery manufacturers.