The electric car, and the hybrid, could be poised for explosive growth over the next decade if a technology analyst’s prediction turns out to be accurate. Or even less than accurate.
Dr Peter Harrop and Raghu Das of IDTechEx, an independent tech research firm, are calling a “New Gold Rush” among makers of car batteries, asserting a nearly 12-fold growth of the market to $54.2 billion in 2022. This huge emerging market has triggered efforts to create a $10 billion traction battery company to obtain the key materials in places as far afield as Kazakhstan and Bolivia, they say in the report titled, “Car Traction Batteries – the New Gold Rush 2012-2022.”
The UK-based research firm’s optimism is based on crucial breakthroughs in battery technologies that can take electric cars beyond the 200km range, not to mention other performance barriers and safety concerns.
“We are in the decade of the hybrid vehicle in terms of market value and the pure electric vehicle in terms of numbers. Users demand greater all-electric range from both of them,” says Dr Harry Zervos, a technology analyst at IDTechEx. “Consequently, their battery needs are converging now that the particular need of hybrids of good cycle life and fast charge discharge (energy density) is overcome with the rapid move to lithium-ion batteries.”
The Winning Chemistry
Currently, a car needs a 40kWh battery weighing 400kg to have a range of 200km. “Such a huge, heavy device is not fitted into a car. The car is designed around it. The battery is the car,” says Zervos, citing an exciting prospect for stunning new car designs. An additional possible consequence could be a sharp rise in the price of batteries as a proportion of that of the car – from 27% to 57% of the ex-factory price of a car.
IDTechEx sees cobalt-free lithium-ion batteries, especially LFP, or lithium iron phosphate, gaining traction, ahead of other battery chemistries. In the “acid test of use in the field” LFP batteries are apparently showing up successful in trucks, buses, cars, two-wheelers, military vehicles and small and large boats. “Doubt not. They work and, increasingly, they are in demand,” the firm says.
Still, IDTechEx expects a variety of battery chemistries to emerge to meet distinct needs “as disparate as battle tanks and land, sea and air mobile robots.”
“It is unlikely that one type of battery chemistry will serve everything. Even the needs of a hybrid vs a pure electric car are very different,” the report pointed out.