The market for batteries for hybrids and plug-in vehicles is growing fast, more than tripling over the past three years to reach 1.4 GWh per quarter, according to a new report from Lux Research.
Led by US demand, batteries for plug-ins and hybrids were a $660m market in the first quarter of 2014.
Panasonic has emerged as the leader thanks to its partnership with Tesla, capturing 39% of the plug-in vehicle battery market, overtaking NEC (27% market share) and LG Chem (9%) in 2013, the report, the Automotive Battery Tracker, finds.
The electric vehicle drivetrain is the most lucrative for battery developers. Hybrids move the most cars – the Toyota Prius is the best-selling car in Japan and California – but their small battery packs mean they require less energy storage in total than full electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf. Hybrids demanded 481MWh of batteries in the first quarter, while electric vehicles called for 774MWh. Nonetheless, in terms of demand by OEMs, hybrid leader Toyota (28%) edges EV providers Tesla Motors (24%) and Renault-Nissan (21%).
Regulations and consumer preference drive significant regional differences. China has the highest ratio in the world of plug-in vehicles to hybrids, but its average EV battery packs are less than half the size of those sold in the US Adoption of hybrids also varies widely: Japanese consumers bought more than three times as many hybrids as US drivers did, despite Japan being a much smaller automotive market overall.
Lithium-ion extends its lead, but NiMH sticks around. Lithium-ion batteries captured 68% of the 1.4GWh of batteries used in plug-ins and hybrids in the reporting period, with nickel metal hydride (NiMH) technology trailing at 28% – but kept aloft by Toyota’s loyalty to the lower-cost technology for its top-selling Prius. Next-generation solid-state batteries continue to make only a small dent, with less than 1% of the market.
“Even at relatively low volumes – less than 1% of all cars sold – plug-in vehicles are driving remarkable energy storage revenues for a few developers, like Panasonic and NEC, that struck the right automotive partnerships,” said Cosmin Laslau, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the report.
“To understand this opportunity, we combined a comprehensive data set of vehicle sales with detailed battery specifications for each car and supplier relationships, yielding a flexible tool that uncovers unexpected insights into this fast-changing market,” Laslau concluded.