The personal electronic
device market is growing at an incredible rate and electric
vehicles powered by li-ion batteries are creating waves
be it in eBike sales, plug in motors or aeroplanes. Its
hard to imagine life without handheld powertools, rechargeable
vacuum cleaners, electric vehicles and personal electronic
devices yet five years ago this space was still
burgeoning. What then, Siobhan Lismore-Scott, Editor, asks,
does the future hold?
US car manufacturer Tesla Motors
hit the headlines in November when its Q3 2013 results revealed
that it was experiencing a battery shortage, which would last
until a new deal with Panasonic starts next year.
Limited supplies of the battery
components have restricted Teslas ability to enlarge its
global reach, to the extent that it has had to temper
deliveries of its flagship Model S car in North America over
the last year in order to supply European customers who have
been on a waiting list for the vehicles.
We plan to continue to
increase production over the next several quarters in order to
keep up with the growth in demand, Elon Musk, CEO
Our suppliers are also
ramping up their capacity to meet our production targets,
Tesla revealed that along these
lines, it has expanded its 2011 supplier agreement with
Japanese battery manufacturer, Panasonic. Under this new
agreement, Panasonic will increase its production capacity of
automotive-grade li-ion battery cells to supply Tesla with a
minimum of 1.8bn cells over four years, more than three times
its previous agreement.
This number should be viewed
as more of a floor than a ceiling, Musk said in a
Following the companys Q3
results, Musk then went further still to say that it was
considering building a Li-ion battery factory, which could be
the biggest in the world.
This will be a giant
facility. We are talking about something that is comparable to
all of the li-ion battery production in the world - in one
factory, Musk said.
So where will the new supply come
from? Tesla uses a lithium-nickel-cobalt battery and will no
doubt need graphite, lithium and cobalt sources to power
The battery market
As the infographic overleaf
suggests, the battery market is expected to grow significantly
over the next five years, boosted by sales of personal
electronics, electric vehicles and cordless power tools.
However, while these industries are
evolving - it doesnt mean that the batteries are.
Consider the evolution of
Apples iPhone: between its first generation in 2007 and
todays iPhone 5c, processing speed increased from 0.4 GHz
to 1.3GHz, random-access memory (RAM) jumped from 128 MB to
1,024 MB, and screen resolution multiplied from about 150,000
pixels to 730,000 pixels. One performance metric, however,
remained almost static Ñ the iPhones Li-ion
battery capacity was 5.2 Wh in 2007, and is 5.5 Wh today,
limiting device runtime, particularly when features like
Bluetooth, 4G,or streaming video are used, a note from
Lux Research in June set out.
Lux Research however believes that
in 2013 consumer electronics will have contributed 65% to the
mobile energy revenue share. E-bikes 20% and plug in vehicles
8%. Hybrid vehicles are expected to contribute 6%. Of these
applications li-ion batteries bring in 65% of the revenue
share, lead-acid batteries 15%, supercapacitators and NiMH
Apples and pears
Its worth remembering also, that a single Tesla Model S
EV can pack 85 KWh, equivalent to more than 15,000 iPhone
batteries. During the first quarter of 2013 Tesla delivered
4,900 cars, containing about 400 MWh worth of batteries in
total, while Apples record iPhone sales during the same
period of 48m units amounted to only 270 MWh.
Source: Lux Research
Sources for infographic include: Lux Research; Northern
Graphite; Molycorp; Focus graphite; American Vanadium;
See the IM infographic on battery minerals: