Originally, the term "battery" referred to a number of individual electrochemical cells; therefore, a single cell, like the familiar cylindrical flashlight power source, was not considered a battery at all. Now, a battery refers to any electrochemical storage mechanism.
A battery has five components: two active elements (a cathode and an anode), a separator, and an electrolyte medium for carrying ions between the reactants through the separator. One reactant or electrode has a net negative charge and is called the anode. In lithium batteries, the anode material is lithium, or in a few cases, a lithium/aluminum alloy. In some cases, the anode is metallic lithium; in other instances, including lithium-ion cells, the anode consists of an ionic lithium compound. The other reactant electrode, with a positive charge, is called the cathode.
The cathode usually is a metallic compound. The electrolyte is usually similar to the cathode to promote ion transfer. Finally, the battery is contained in a case that provides dimensional stability and a positive and negative electrode or battery cap for discharging (or recharging) the cell. A number of separate electrochemical cells can be combined within the same case to create a battery.
Until about 20 years ago, the U.S. battery market was considered mature, with demand closely related to sales of either automobiles or various consumer products. Since then, improved lithium batteries have helped spark a dramatic change in this relationship.
Lithium batteries, developed in the 60s, were first commercialized in the early 70s, but did not receive wide consumer use until 1981. There are now six commercial and developmental lithium battery types, nearly 30 commercialized electrode couples, and more than 1,000 specific designs. A new generation of lithium batteries includes very large cells suitable for powering vehicles or storing significant amounts of utility power as well as very small cells capable of powering micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS).
In fact, improved lithium batteries are allowing the commercialization of entire new classes of portable products, including laptop computers, cellular phones, and portable music players. Lithium batteries have been used in prototype and pre-commercial plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), and eventually may be commercialized to provide automobile starting power or to supplement internal combustion or fuel cell power in next generation hybrid vehicles.
After a period of steady sales or incremental growth (as opposed to the double-digit growth of the 1990s), Lithium battery sales have picked up. Due to falling prices for some popular lithium battery types, this is especially true for unit sales.
On the other hand, lithium batteries have been linked to serious failure modes, including now notorious incidents where they set portable computers on fire. In at least one reported case, a meltdown occurred in an airliner-although a catastrophe was avoided, it was a close call. New designs and better quality control reduce this risk but give pause to some designers and open the door to competing energy storage systems.
With this in mind, this study summarizes the global primary and secondary lithium battery markets. This provides the basis for a detailed analysis of global lithium battery material technology and markets.
SCOPE OF STUDY
The scope of this report covers:
- The primary and secondary lithium battery technology and markets, including portable products, medical products, secondary applications, military/aerospace, automotive and motive power
- The principal electrode materials and active elements, from aluminum metal, cobalt compounds and conductive polymers to fullerenes, rare earth compounds and vanadium compounds
- Market sectors, and market analysis (including a 5-year market projection)
- Industry structure and competitive aspects, including profiles of leading global companies and research activities
This report is based on literature reviews, patent examinations, and discussions with commercial and government sources. Throughout the report, past market data is expressed in current dollars, and estimates and projections are in constant 2007 dollars. Historic markets and the projected market for 2012 are provided. Most market summaries are based on a consensus scenario that assumes no unanticipated technical advances and no unexpected legislation. Pessimistic, consensus, and optimistic market scenarios characterize several developmental markets. Totals are rounded to the nearest million dollars. When appropriate, information from previously published sources is identified to allow a more detailed examination by clients.
Market assumptions used in this report include those based on updates of material from an earlier version of this analysis, as well as from BCC Research studies Portable Battery Powered Products and Large and Advanced Battery Technology and Markets. This report's author prepared these studies as well. Although many segments of the industry are well documented, much of this information is based on estimates, not hard facts. The distinction between these estimates and hard facts can be vital, and wherever possible, sources are identified.
This report's project analyst, Donald Saxman, is editor of the BCC Research newsletters, Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Progress and Fuel Cell Industry Report and has founded several other BCC newsletters. Saxman has over 25 years experience in market analysis, technical writing, and newsletter editing. Since 1983, he has operated as a technical market consultant and subcontractor to BCC Research, and in this capacity, he has prepared over 65 Market Research Reports. His previous experience includes supervision of a quality-control laboratory at a major secondary lead refinery, experience as an analytical chemist at a hazardous waste testing service, product assurance manager for a space station life support system project, and an information technology business analyst and project manager.