Lithium-ion batteries were first developed in the 1970s; however, it wasn’t until the 1990s that they became commercialized. Thanks to new technologies, such as electrified vehicles, the lithium-ion battery market will grow from $11 billion in 2010 to $43 billion in 2020, according to Pike Research.
In the last year, lithium-ion has become the most used battery technology, slowly replacing Nickel-Metal Hydride chemistry. It happened because lithium-ion batteries offer better Wh/L (energy density per unit volume) and Wh/kg (energy density per unit weight) characteristics, as explained by the figure below:
Where is the Lithium-Ion Battery Market Headed?
Research continues to look for ways to improve battery density in both volume and weight; the grail being Lithium/Air or Aluminium/Air technologies. This, however, will take time, as new battery technologies take between 15 and 20 years between lab tests and commercialization.
We will also see the development of micro-scale graphene-based supercapacitors that are batteries made from a one-atom-thick layer of carbon, being able to charge and discharge 100-1000 times faster than lithium-ion batteries.
Better Lithium-Ion Batteries with the Same Chemistry
Change in chemistry is not the only way to improve batteries. A high sophisticated battery management system (BMS) is a major enabler for increased battery lifetime and enhanced performance. It is also needed in electrified vehicles to enhance safety.
Some of the current algorithms calculated by most BMS are:
- State-of-charge-, state-of-health-, state-of-function-calculation
- Active or passive cell balancing algorithm
- Startup / shutdown procedures
- Thermal management
According to Uwe Wiedemann, Product Manager Battery Systems Engineering and Technology, and AVL, BMSs will further improve in the near future by detecting early cell failures and with monitoring the mid-term life of batteries.
New Applications in the Lithium-Ion Battery Market
Electricity is unfortunately a resource that cannot be easily stored, and utilities have to constantly balance supply based on demand levels. This can be quite challenging and sometimes leads to high CO2 production if peak demand requires the utility to start a coal powered plant to provide the requested electricity.
The growth in the lithium-ion battery market is also beneficial to utilities. Renewable energies are high on the policy agenda of most countries in the world – for example EU27 aims to have 20% renewable electricity by 2020. However, renewable energies, such as wind or sun, are difficult to predict. Batteries can help store the electricity produced and deliver clean energy when needed.
Furthermore, batteries used in automotive applications can have a second life in the energy storage sector, as they are considered “too old” for automotive applications as soon as their max energy storage has reached 70% of its initial capacity, offering them a possible second life in the energy storage industry.