The global battery
market is about $50 billion US, of which roughly $5.5 billion is
allocated to rechargeable (secondary) batteries. The growth is estimated
at 6% annually through 2006. China, India, Brazil, the Czech Republic
and South Korea will record some of the strongest market gains.
The Freedonia Group, Inc.
predicts a US demand of primary and secondary batteries of $US 14
billion by the year 2007. A new generation of energy-hungry electronic
devices, such as digital cameras, camera phones and high performance
portable computing devices, will drive the growth. Figure 1 projects the
consumption of primary and secondary batteries in the USA to the year
Figure 1: Projected demand
improvement of the battery opens the doors for new applications
Alkaline will dominate the
primary battery market. Others primary batteries will be lithium and
zinc-air. Primary batteries can be stored up to 10 years and have much
higher energy densities than secondary batteries. Figure 2 compares the
predicted use of primary alkaline with other chemistries.
Figure 2: Primary alkaline is leading the market.
Other primary chemistries
are expected to increase at a slower pace.
Lead-acid will account for
half the demand of rechargeable. This battery is mainly used for
automotive and stand-by applications. Because of low cost and dependable
service in adverse environmental conditions, lead-acid will enjoy a
steady increase through to the year 2012. Lithium-based batteries may
start to take over some lead-acid applications if the price can be
lowered and the service life prolonged.
The demand for lead acid
batteries is governed by vehicle production. Battery replacements have
decreased as new technologies have extended battery life by 6 months.
With the switch to electronic braking and steering by wire in upscale
cars, the 3kW capability of the single 12-volt battery will no longer be
sufficient, ushering in the 42-volt system. Two 12-volt batteries may be
the interim solution.
Hybrid vehicles require a
high voltage battery of about 150V, which is currently provided by
connecting nickel-metal-hydride cells in series. Battery manufacturers
are asked to provide a 8-10-year warranty to ensure that the battery
will last for the life of the car. A replacement of the main battery
would cost as much as installing a new motor.
Figure 3: Lead-acid will be the most commonly used secondary battery.
Among portable secondary
batteries, lithium-ion shows the most promise.
Lithium-ion will lead the
demand in powering portable devices. The market for nickel-cadmium, on
the other hand, is shrinking. This chemistry will be replaced with
nickel-metal-hydride. Nickel-cadmium still holds a major share for power
tools, two-way radios and medical devices. This chemistry is preferred
over nickel-metal-hydride for its high durability and reliable service
but some countries will ban its use by 2006 for environmental reasons.
Exceptions will be made if the substitute is unsuitable.
Little excitement is in
store for alternative rechargeable batteries. If the predictions are
correct, new chemistries will make up less than 7% of all secondary
With no major breakthrough, the fuel cell will play an insignificant
role in providing power for future applications. Cost, size and
performance are the main obstacles. Although continuous in operation by
replacing fuel capsules, the fuel cell, as we know it today, still needs
a backup battery to satisfy the power requirements of modern portable
By the look of things, the
electro-chemical battery may keep its present position for some time to
come. This puts the miracle battery to the back burner, a battery was
supposed to power a laptop for days and enable heated clothing for North
Where will commercial
batteries come from?
The battery industry is
becoming consolidated; competition will remain intense. The top Japanese
suppliers held 80% of the market last year, but new contenders from
other countries in Asia are making strong in-roads. BYD Battery Co. Ltd.
in China is an example of a major new global battery producer. LG
Electronics Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. in South Korea are
following. These companies are gaining ground due to low pricing and
The price of lithium-ion
batteries has dropped by 20-50% during the last few years. This prompts
established battery manufacturers to shift production to lower-cost
regions such as China. Nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal-hydride batteries
are not immune to price declines. Prices have dropped by 10-20%.
The USA and Europe will
continue to produce specialty batteries, mainly used for defense and
industrial applications. In comparison to the mass-produced batteries
from Asia, American and European packs will be more expensive.