Dr Xiaoxi He, Technology Analyst, IDTechEx
Many interests have been raised within the battery business in 2015 through a number of activities: the launch of Tesla's Powerwall with low prices supported by the capability of Gigafactory, Apple's patent relating to charging and managing power in a device with solid-state batteries, LG Chem's opening of a mega battery plant in Nanjing, Bosch's purchase of polymer solid-state battery company Seeo, etc. Not to mention the tremendous number of investment, acquisitions, partnerships and joint ventures.
At the same time, new battery technologies are appearing continuously with descriptions like "doubled performance", "charged in a few minutes", "cost reduction of more than 70%", making the public even confused about the real breakthroughs. This article will discuss the emerging technologies, new opportunities and potential markets in the battery industry.
Opportunities can be found
Since the first introduction by Sony in the 1990s, lithium-ion batteries have become one of the most familiar and common battery technologies in our life. The involving technologies are relatively mature and the facilities are in place. With the expansion of existing manufacturing plants by battery giants such as Samsung SDI, LG Chem and Panasonic, economy of scale will be further achieved.
However, with so many advantages, the improvement of lithium-ion batteries is slow compared with other electronic components, both in terms of performance and cost reduction. The liquid electrolyte used in the traditional lithium-ion batteries may cause serious safety concerns. On the other hand, with the development of wearable devices, printed electronics, Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and electric vehicles, batteries with more features, more powerful performances and lower costs are required. Those factors have motivated players to find bigger opportunities.
Interests have been aroused in:
•Thin-film batteries (based on thickness)
•Micro-batteries and large-area batteries (based on size)
•Flexible batteries (based on mechanical properties)
•Special-shape batteries (based on form factors)
•Printed batteries (based on manufacturing methods)
•Solid-state, lithium anode, silicon anode batteries (based on technologies)
•Energy storage system (ESS) and electric vehicle (EV) applications (based on applications)
All the areas listed above indicate new opportunities. Those areas may be influenced by each other and may have some overlap. For instance, batteries with better technologies may be used in ESS and EV applications, providing better safety and better performance. A thin-film battery is also flexible, and can be made by printing, or based on all solid-state components, or be very small. Market growth of these areas is affected by the costs. Except the last one (ESS and EV applications), the others are also limited significantly by technology maturity. The IDTechEx Research report "Flexible, Printed and Thin Film Batteries 2016-2026: Technologies, Markets, Players" focuses on the first 4 areas as well as solid-state batteries with these features.