Li-Ion Batteries for Transportation Applications

Dave Alexander
Navigant Research

Most major automotive manufacturers now have electric vehicles (EV) in production. Tesla produced the first of the new breed of EVs in 2008, with the launch of its roadster model powered by a battery pack assembled from lithium ion (Li-ion) laptop battery cells.  Then 2010 saw the launch of the all-electric Nissan Leaf, the Mitsubishi iMiEV and the range-extended series hybrid Chevrolet Volt, all of which use Li-ion batteries.  In 2012, Toyota introduced a plug-in version of the Prius that uses Li-ion energy storage, even though the current Prius hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) model continues to use NiMH batteries.  New models coming to the market all use Li-ion battery packs. The Ford Focus Electric and BMW’s i3 go on sale at the end of 2013 and the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive will come to market in 2014.  VW expects to have the e-Golf available in 2015.

The market for Li-ion batteries will primarily be driven by the growth of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), which use much larger battery packs than HEVs or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).  Today’s BEVs use battery packs that range from 16 kilowatt-hours (kWh) to 85 kWh, compared to PHEVs, which typically use packs that range from 4 kWh to16 kWh.  Additionally, many recently introduced hybrid vehicles use lithium ion batteries, and the percentage of HEVs using the technology is expected to grow steadily in the coming years.  Navigant Research expects that the best-selling Toyota Prius will convert to a Li-ion battery pack when the fourth generation model is introduced in 2016, although some think that the switch will be made earlier.

Denser, Faster, Cheaper
To enable more PEVs to be sold, Li-ion battery manufacturers must improve energy densities, reduce charging times, increase cycle life, and reduce the cost per kWh.  As the Li-ion battery market develops, there will be a consolidation of manufacturers; this has already started with some lithium ion battery manufacturers, including Ener1 and A123 Systems, having filed for bankruptcy protection.  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.

Navigant Research’s report, Electric Vehicle Batteries, published in 1Q13, projects strong growth in the middle of this decade that starts to slow in the latter years as markets approach the saturation level for electric vehicles.

Total Lithium Ion Transportation Battery Revenue by Region, World Markets: 2012-2020

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