Strategies to combat volatility in the lithium-ion battery market

November 26, 2018 // By Tim Parker
Rapidly increasing market demand and the rationalisation of product offerings from Li-ion cell manufacturers are impacting the choices available to design engineers. We’ve all heard of the considerable increase in demand for lithium-ion batteries driven by their increasing inclusion in portable devices and electric vehicles.

Since the first Li-ion batteries were commercialised by Sony in 1991 their use initially steadily increased and then levelled, but recently Tesla has led a surge in demand with 18650 size cylindrical cells in its existing electric vehicles and now the larger 21700 size in the new model 3, all manufactured in partnership with Panasonic. Tesla’s target for 2018 is to reach a production of 35GWh, but may ultimately be dwarfed by the VW automobile group with its plans to install 150GWh-worth of batteries each year from 2025 in 80 new electric models.

Portable devices and other applications such as mobility, grid storage and stationary equipment are not being left behind though, with their share of the Li-ion pack market actually predicted to be about twice that of all EVs in 2025 at about $24B. Other reports are more bullish and put the total Li-ion market even bigger at $93.1B by 2025.

Lithium battery usage. Source - Avnet Abacus, estimated.

Currently raw material supply is not meeting projected demand and extra capacity is planned for lithium extraction with major expansion in China, Canada, Australia, South America and elsewhere. Other exotic materials are required as well; cobalt is used as a cathode material with China controlling 80% of that market. From data compiled by Deutsche Bank Markets Research, global lithium demand is set to increase three times between 2015 and 2025, cobalt eleven times and overall battery consumption five times.

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