Table of Contents
1. Brief introduction to lithium battery
2. Overview of lithium battery industry
3. Lithium battery market
4. Lithium battery cathode material market and industry
5. Trends in lithium battery cathode material development
6. 14 lithium battery cathode material manufacturers
7. 13 lithium battery companies
Given bright prospects in electric vehicle market, many manufacturers, especially those from China, have crowded into the lithium battery industry. Unlike competitors from other countries, most Chinese manufacturers have a single type of product, which leaves them highly dependent on lithium battery market and thus brings with it extremely high risks. And as for the manufacturers outside of China, lithium battery typically occupies a rather low proportion of the total revenue.
Despite a sharp rise in shipments of mobile phones and tablet PCs as well as battery capacity in recent years, the average price of lithium batteries declined amid the fierce market competition. The electric vehicle market hasn't really started, and the significant decline in benefits of lithium battery companies has brought great pressure to the upstream raw materials. The US QE has led to a gradual fall in metal prices starting from 2011, lithium battery cathode material manufacturers have the ability to lower the prices. However, as the US QE programme is being phased out, the metal prices are very likely to bottom out. In future, if lithium battery cathode material manufacturers continue to lower the prices, their profits will shrink, but in face of the insufficient demand from downstream sectors, the manufacturers still have to cut prices.
The price is one of the main factors that hinder the development of xEV vehicle market, followed by mileage and charging infrastructure. It is impossible for the government to provide a long-term subsidy to xEV vehicle market. And once the subsidies come to an end, xEV vehicle still cannot compete with traditional gasoline vehicles, which will inevitably result in a severe decline. During 2014-2015, there will still be a lack of cost-down potential for xEV battery, for the market size remains relatively small. Even the xEV battery manufacturer with the largest output is unable to supply more than 150,000 xEV vehicles. But when the output reaches 500,000 units, the battery cost is expected to see obvious decline, which will therefore bring down the xEV prices remarkably. It is projected that by 2017 the market will present a substantial increase, to 698,000 units, and that this figure will climb to 1.32 million units by 2019.
Lithium battery cathode materials for electric vehicles will develop toward NMC, and the LFP favored by Chinese manufacturers is not suitable for electric vehicles. Currently, it is generally believed that LFP is applicable to ESS market rather than electric vehicle market. The NMC materials are divided into two types: one is represented by LiNi0.8-xCo0.2AlxO2 (NCA) supplied by Panasonic to Tesla, which raises energy density by increasing the proportion of nickel to improve the performance. The other is represented by LG CHEM, which lowers the costs by reducing the proportion of cobalt. With the success of Tesla, high-nickel NMC materials are believed to have great potential, with the major global manufacturers now including SMM Group and TODA KOGYO. In terms of ESS market, the costs of lithium battery are too high and extremely less competitive, and the ESS is used only in the power supply for communication base stations.
Even if the electric vehicle market gradually expands, not all of the lithium battery suppliers will benefit from it. The first-tier manufacturers—LG CHEM, Panasonic and AESC have occupied more than 70% of market share. Samsung SDI and LEJ are among the second-tier manufacturers, of which Samsung SDI monopolies the supply of BMW and Volkswagen electric vehicle batteries, and is expected to be among the first-tier manufacturers in future.
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