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Electric vehicles to boost Li-ion battery market

Posted: 11 May 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Li-ion battery? hybrid electric vehicle? automotive? HEV?

The economic downturn has hit global and Europe economies hard. The lack of available finances has affected investments and has been accompanied by a drop in consumer spending, rising unemployment and a decline in industrial output. As the major market for Li-ion batteries is in the consumer, industrial and automotive end-user segments, demand has fallen, evidenced by the drop in revenues. However, the market is poised to rebound around end-2010 and, with the electric vehicle (EV) segment projected to explode in 2012-2013, the market is set for sustained expansion.

"Superior performance characteristics that make Li-ion batteries the preferred choice of industry will push growth in the future," noted Frost & Sullivan research analyst Rajanand Rao. "Li-ion batteries have a high energy density of 120-160W-hr/kg, compared to 30-80W-hr/kg for NiMH batteries."

Moreover, Li-ion batteries do not suffer from memory effect and have a low self-discharge rate of about 5 percent per month, compared to 10 percent for common NiMH batteries. These superior characteristics of high power and long runtime make them suitable for consumer, industrial and upcoming electric and hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) applications.

The Li-ion battery is emerging as the chemistry of choice and is set to dominate the future of the battery industry, especially with EVs and HEVs poised for mass production. These segments are looking to adopt this chemistry owing to its advanced performance characteristics.

When Li-ion batteries were first introduced in the market, there were several problems connected with their safety and particularly, with their thermal runaway. The best example of these safety issues was the recall of millions of laptop batteries by Sony in 2006 that caused massive losses, both in terms of revenues and trust in Li-ion batteries.

"Li-ion batteries have a tendency to become unstable at temperatures above 140C," explained Rao. "This needs to be overcome in order to boost customer trust in these batteries and promote their usage in the industrial as well as automotive segments."

The need of the hour is to invest in R&D and find new materials that are safer as well as low cost. New cathode chemistries such as Li-iron phosphate and manganese spinel as well as anode and electrolyte technologies promise higher performance, while also providing improved safety.

"Continued R&D to find new and better chemistries, increasing process efficiency and curbing production costs will ensure a steady revenue flow," advised Rao. "This, together with efforts to expand into the new space created by EVs should help increase, if not maintain, the current market share."

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