comment on this article

Electrifying changes ahead!

Who owns and controls the worldwide battery market and where is it heading? Neil Oliver wonders whether we are on the verge of a battery crisis.

The worldwide battery market is currently undergoing something of a renaissance thanks to the growing demand for long-life, high power batteries across consumer electronics, industrial, military and the hybrid electric vehicles sectors.

The worldwide battery market was valued at $54bn in 2013 according to market research firm Avicenne Energy and is currently growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 10 per cent and is expected to exceed $100bn by 2025.

According to Frost & Sullivan, the market can be broken down into two categories: primary (disposable) and secondary (rechargeable) batteries. Primary batteries are used in everything from military equipment – where time to charge is a luxury – to pacemakers, wristwatches, remote controls and toys. Although the primary battery market accounts for 90 per cent of the volume of all batteries shipped, it only accounts for 37 per cent of the market value, according to French research laboratory LRCS.

Here, secondary, rechargeable batteries, used in everything from portable consumer electronics, automotive, electric vehicles, starter batteries, industrial and medical devices account for 63 per cent of the global market by value. Breaking down the secondary market further, by chemistry, we can see that lead-acid takes the lead for its widespread use in starter, lighting and ignition (SLI) batteries.

However, growth in the hybrid electric vehicle, medical technology (MedTech) and energy storage (ESS) markets, as well as global demand for high discharge devices, is seeing increasing investment in Lithium-ion (Li-ion) chemistry.

Although there are hundreds of battery manufacturers throughout the world, today's global battery market is dominated by a handful of multinational corporations operating and manufacturing from just four countries, South Korea, China, Japan and the United States. From South Korea, we have Samsung SDI and LG Chem; from Japan there is Panasonic, Sony, TDK, Hitachi, NEC, Toshiba, GS Yuasa and Mitsubishi Electric; from China BYD; and from the USA we have A123 and Ultralife Corporation.

Of this line up just three companies, Panasonic, Samsung SDI and LG Chem dominate the portable consumer electronics and growing hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) markets, with their hold on cylindrical, prismatic and laminated Li-ion technology.

This oligopolistic structure raises concerns about the fast growing medical technology market. If a few multinationals control the design, development and manufacture of cells for batteries used in medical devices - many of them for use in critical applications - there is a risk that any strategic changes these companies make to cells could leave medical original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) high and dry.

While product development lifecycles in the consumer sector last between six months and a year, medical device lifecycles need to last ten years or more. Because the consumer sector typically makes up a larger proportion of the revenue stream for these large battery manufacturers, changes to the technology, size, energy density, and availability of the cells that make up the batteries can limit the options available to battery OEMs.

Many OEMs tell us they have struggled with this in the past, so we need to ensure that we mitigate future fluctuations in the supply of cells for medical batteries by engineering redundancies into our battery designs. This means that we can change the cells we use without affecting the shape, size and rated specifications of the batteries we supply. By doing this, we can offer a no-change guarantee to our customers that we will not modify the design of the battery for the lifetime of the product.

Whichever way you look at it, the battery market is set to undergo a sea change in the next decade. With early consideration of your battery in the design process, along with the right approach to sustainable procurement, design engineering and service, OEMs in the most affected sectors can stay ahead of the electrifying changes we expect to see.

Neil Oliver is a technical marketing manager at battery specialist Accutronics

Author
Neil Tyler

Comment on this article


This material is protected by MA Business copyright See Terms and Conditions. One-off usage is permitted but bulk copying is not. For multiple copies contact the sales team.

What you think about this article:


Add your comments

Name
 
Email
 
Comments
 

Your comments/feedback may be edited prior to publishing. Not all entries will be published.
Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Related Articles

Graphene scaffold

While lithium metal-based batteries are attractive in theory, practical ...

Driving innovation

Oxford University has a reputation not only as an internationally recognised ...

Careless whispers

Chris Edwards explores how timing, EMI and even sound can provide attackers ...

Power management IC

A power management IC, known as the ARG82800, has been launched by Allegro ...

HES conference

The High-End Sensors (HES) international conference will be held between April ...

MicroTech 2018

On April 9-10, 2018 the MicroTech exhibition will be held at the Royal Holloway ...

Get to market faster

A quick look at using Vicor's PFM and AIM in VIA packaging for your AC to Point ...

Tech trends

Last year was a busy one for technology and 2018 is unlikely to be any ...

Shaping the future

Alexander Everke, the CEO of ams, started his career in the semiconductor ...