IDTechEx forecasts no let up in the growth of the global lithium-ion battery market even in 2027. These batteries are now steadily replacing lead acid in its last strongholds such as mobility vehicles for the disabled, fork lift trucks, golf carts and cars though there is a long way to go in each case. The Porsche Spyder hybrid car has no lead acid and an increasing number of pure electric vehicles have abandoned the lead acid battery alongside their huge lithium-ion battery.
The fact that the lithium-ion battery can be 60% of the cost of a pure electric car or bus is a triumph for battery suppliers. And yet. Engineers do workrounds just when investors over invest in the status quo. Consider pure electric buses. As the IDTechEx report, Electric Buses 2018-2028 details, there is a strong move beginning towards top up charging in many forms meaning the 250 kW battery can be one fifth of the size, making room for more passengers. One solar bus is being sold with no battery at all for those wanting to use it in daylight with very long life.
At IDTechEx we see the possibility of lithium-ion battery demand peaking at some stage. We are running the world's first conference on Energy Independent Electric Vehicles at the Technical University of Delft September 27-28. These are being developed in the form of land, water and air vehicles and many are already on sale and deployed. Just military and internet-beaming upper atmosphere EIVs will be a multi-billion dollar business and most EIVs will use less or no battery.
In the meantime, a fast-growing lithium-ion demand is no guarantee against over capacity. Indeed, China's automotive battery manufacturers face "a saturated market" in the next couple years, according to the China Daily newspaper.
"The Chinese power battery sector entered overcapacity status in 2016, and will be more excessive in 2018 or 2019," said Zhang Junyi, partner of Nio Capital, an investment firm with links to electric vehicle company NextEV. "The battery makers decided to build more plants when they saw the e-car market leapfrog in 2015, and hoped to seize the opportunity," he added.
China's Vehicle Traction Battery Industrial Development Action Plan, launched in March, set out an industry-wide target of 100GWh annual battery production capacity by 2020. But industrial data shows the nation's total production capacity exceeded 100GWh in 2016, and may exceed 170GWh by 2020 - with more than 124GWh coming from the country's big five producers.