Demand for lithium-ion batteries exploding 447%

DC Energy Insights is predicting global production of lithium-ion batteries will almost quadruple in 2012 to feed growing demand generated by plug-in vehicles and stationary storage.

January 23, 2012

FRAMINGHAM, Mass.: IDC Energy Insights is predicting global production of lithium-ion batteries will almost quadruple in 2012 to feed growing demand generated by, among other things, plug-in vehicles.

An IDC Energy report, Business Strategy: Lithium Ion Manufacturing Global Buildout – Supply and Demand Forecasts expects worldwide growth of 390% from 6,689 MWh in 2011 to 26,149 MWh in 2015.

This explosive growth is being driven by the need for batteries in plug-in vehicles and stationary storage.

The Farmingham, Mass. Research firm says plug-in electric vehicles will require more than seven times the 2011 production level, rising to 17,331 MWh by 2015. North America will lead the demand in the coming year; however, Asia will quickly eclipse North America in demand.

If Li-ion costs fall as expected, IDC Energy expects global stationary storage lithium-ion demand on the electric grid will increase from 2011 levels by over 17 times to 640 MWh in 2015. In total, the research firm sees global growth in demand for batteries of 447% from 5,411 MWh in 2011 to 24,191 MWh in 2015.

To meet this expected demand, manufacturers throughout the world are engaging in one of the largest factory build-outs in world history. It is led by a combination of existing battery giants, such as Panasonic in Japan, Samsung SDI in South Korea, and Johnson Controls in the US, as well as emerging players, such as A123 Systems in the US, Electrovaya in Canada and BYD in China.

In the US, there is a thriving lithium-ion manufacturing industry reignited by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided 50% matching grants to plants. However, IDC Energy says most production will occur in Japan, South Korea, and China, whose governments have identified the lithium-ion industry as a vital national interest and have initiated significant subsidies to help build new factories.

Li-ion batteries are the preferred battery type in a number of applications ranging from plug-in electric vehicles to computers to power tools, based on their flexibility, durability, energy density, and power capabilities.

Historically, the one challenge that has delayed adoption has been price: they are significantly more expensive today than other battery types; however, IDC Energy says the enormous increase in production capacity will generate economies of scale, causing Li-ion battery prices to decrease significantly.

“As prices for Li-ion cells come down, more applications will become eligible for their use, creating a self-feeding cycle that will lead to lower prices and more widespread adoption,” says Sam Jaffe, research manager for IDC Energy Insights and one of the authors of the report. “Demand and supply will be in rough equilibrium for at least the next three years, allowing manufacturers to reach high levels of production capacity and leading to even lower price points.”