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USA: Building better batteries

Obtaining and developing the right sources of energy is key, but there’s plenty of scope to improve its storage too. Giles Crosse looks at how new technology could impact on the cars we will drive in the future.

Electric vehicles are gaining more and more importance, as rising prices on oil and emissions standards seek to change the way we travel.

These trends are fuelling ever-increasing interest in energy storage technologies, and this is attracting an increasing number of competitors to an already-crowded market. Soon, some commentators are suggesting it will be impossible for all of these companies to survive, making strong partnerships a necessity.

Reporting on potential areas where firms might team up, on July 12 Lux Research ranked technology developers in both Li-ion batteries and supercapacitors, to help determine which will make the strongest potential partners as the electric vehicle market matures.

“The electric vehicle value chain is growing so integrated that battery makers must have strong partnerships with one or more automakers,” said Kevin See, a Lux Analyst and the report’s lead author. “These relationships are necessary to build credibility and drive new business, as illustrated by Li-ion battery-maker LG Chem, whose strong partnerships propelled it to the top position in our rankings.”

Key report findings on batteries

• LG Chem Power leads the Li-ion battery-maker pack. LG Chemical subsidiary LG Chem Power sits atop the rankings, with strong technical value, due to its high energy lithium-manganese-spinel-based cells and strong cycle life, at costs that are among the most competitive in the market. Its multitude of supply partnerships with the likes of GM, Eaton, and Ford, however, are what justify the company’s strong business execution score.

• A123 and Ener1 garner more headlines than momentum. Media darlings A123 and Ener1 land well out of the Dominant quadrant of the Lux Innovation Grid. Motivated by the potential for major automotive supply deals, both were originally building significant manufacturing capacity. But despite a few minor partnerships, neither has scored a major deal that will drive significant revenue.

• Among supercapacitor suppliers, Maxwell stands alone and leads the rankings for supercapacitors. Its high score for technical value derives from cost competitiveness and strong device performance, while its high business execution score stems from multiple partnerships, among them, supply deals for applications including hybrid buses and micro-hybrids, and more recently in starter modules for commercial diesel vehicles.


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