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Asian suppliers lead electric vehicle battery race

BOULDER, COLO. (March 15, 12:30 p.m. ET) — Asian battery suppliers are poised to dominate the global automotive market for lithium ion batteries, according to Boulder-based Pike Research.

LG Chem Ltd. of South Korea is the top electric-vehicle battery supplier, according to Pike’s report, which used 10 variables to rate each supplier’s technology and staying power. Three Japanese companies – GS Yuasa Corp., Automotive Energy Supply Corp. and Panasonic Group – also were among the elite performers.

Two U.S. companies, Johnson Controls Inc. and A123 Systems, were rated highly. A German-Korean partnership, SB LiMotive, rounded out the top seven.

The Pike report parallels some findings of a September survey by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, which listed Automotive Energy Supply, LG Chem, Panasonic, A123 and SB LiMotive as early front-runners.

Pike rated the seven top battery suppliers on such factors as market share, product quality, financial resources, geographic reach, nonautomotive applications and product strategy.

But the report’s author, John Gartner, cautioned that it’s too early to assume these companies will dominate a mature battery industry in a decade or so.

“This is a snapshot in time,” Gartner said. “It’s a relatively new industry, so strong partnerships are critical at this point. We’ll probably see a shakeout.”

With that in mind, here’s a look at the top players:

1. LG Chem of South Korea generates annual battery sales of $8.5 billion for consumer electronics and other markets. A wholly owned subsidiary, Compact Power Inc., produces batteries for the Chevrolet Volt and Ford Focus EV.

2. Johnson Controls Inc. of Milwaukee ranks second because of its prominence in the market for lead-acid batteries. The company supplies lithium ion batteries to Mercedes, BMW, Ford and others, but has not aggressively sought market share.

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