The global battery market is expanding fast, and the revenues in 2009 were whooping $47.5 billion. With a huge surge in demand for wide range of portable electronics and desire to connect and work from just anywhere, many experts predict this figure could easily reach $74 billion in 2015. All these numbers are speculative and also include automotive batteries for electric powertrain of vehicles.
An Overview of Different Types of Batteries
Market is flooded with different types of batteries, but most of them can be grouped under two categories-primary and secondary. In 2009, primary batteries constituted about 22.7 percent of the global market. According to Frost & Sullivan, there would be about 7.4 percent decline in the use of primary batteries by 2015. These types of batteries are mostly used in electronic keys, watches, children’s toys, remote controls, military devices, and light beacons.
So the real growth now lies in secondary batteries. According to Frost & Sullivan, the rechargeable batteries have around 76 percent share in the global market, and this number is expected to increase to 82 percent by 2015. Sometimes batteries are also classified on the basis of their chemistry and the most common ones are lead, lithium, and nickel based systems.
Lithium-ion has now become a battery of choice for most consumer products on the market, and no other system can threaten to interfere with its dominance at this time. Lead acid market is also as big, and its applications are divided into starter battery for vehicles, power-backup, and deep-cycle for running wheelchairs, golf cars, and scissor lifts. This battery holds the solid position since the past 100 years. Currently there are no other systems that can threaten its dominance any time soon.
Alkaline batteries, invented by George Leclanche in 1868, have become more popular than carbon-zinc mainly due to their high specific energy and long storage capacity. The environment friendly NiMH (nickel-metal-hydride) batteries have now successfully replaced the applications previously served by NiCd (nickel-cadmium) batteries. However, with a mere three percent market share, they’re not a dominant player in the battery world and might relinquish most of its market to Li-ion by 2015.
Many new markets for batteries are now emerging in developing economies. The most promising ones are storage batteries for supplying electric power to remote African communities and other parts of the world. Electric bicycles are also becoming more popular in this part of the world. Solar power, wind turbines, and many other renewable resources also use different types of storage batteries for load leveling. These days, large grid level storage batteries are used for collecting excess energy from various renewable resources during the period of high activity, and to supply power when there is heavy user demand.
The biggest user of new batteries that would hit market in coming years would be electric power train for personal cars. However, longevity and battery cost will finally decide how automotive industry will adopt this new form of propulsion system. The energy from oil is not only cheap, but is also convenient and readily available everywhere. So any alternative will definitely face some challenge. Government initiatives will be necessary, but this type of intervention distorts the actual cost of energy, and only satisfies some lobby groups by offering short-term solutions.
In the past few years, no new battery system has emerged that could claim to provide disruptive technology. Though lot of research is being done, but there’s no ready concept to enter the market at the time of writing. There are so many reasons for this lack of progress. For instance, users want long life, low price, safe operation, high specific energy, and minimal maintenance. In addition, they want their batteries to perform well in both cold and hot temperatures, charge quickly and deliver high power on demand. However, only some of these attributes are achievable with latest battery technologies.
Users of portable devices are satisfied with the performance of its batteries. The latest battery technology serves wheeled mobility and power backup reasonably well. Using this new technology on power-trains of automobiles, however, might prove difficult mainly because its long-term effects on environment are not fully understood. The switch to batteries that offer only a fraction of kinetic energy offered by fossil fuels will be difficult for motorists who always demand much bigger and better vehicles.