Until 10 years ago, the US 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.
Lithium batteries, developed in the 1960s, were first commercialised in the early 1970s, but did not receive wide consumer use until 1981.
There are now six commercial and developmental lithium battery types, nearly 30 commercialised electrode couples, and more than 1,000 specific designs.
According to a recent study from Business Communications, the US lithium battery material market is estimated at over $1.9 billion in 2001. Growing at an AAGR (average annual growth rate) of 9% during the forecast period, this market is expected to total nearly $3 billion by 2006. A higher AAGR of 10% is anticipated between 2006 and 2010, thereby pushing the market across $4.8 billion by 2010.
The market for nonrechargeable (primary) lithium batteries is estimated at $327 million in 2001 and is expected to grow at an AAGR of 2.5% to reach $370 million in 2006.
The largest and fastest growing market is that for rechargeable (secondary) lithium batteries. Currently estimated at $1.6 billion, this market is likely to reach nearly $2.6 billion in 2006 as it grows at an AAGR of 10.1%.
Improved lithium batteries (along with high-performance nickel-based approaches) are furthering the commercialisation of entire new classes of portable products, including laptop computers and cellular phones. Lithium batteries have been used in prototype electric vehicles (EVs) and eventually may be commercialised to provide automobile power or to supplement internal combustion or fuel cell power in hybrid vehicles.
Since many lithium batteries currently are manufactured in Japan, most leading lithium material companies are concentrated in the Far East. As more US companies begin to manufacture lithium batteries, they will have to develop domestic material sources.
This shift from Far East to US sources will accelerate as the value of the lithium battery market grows. The study claims that this will be a significant opportunity for companies that now produce lithium battery chemicals for applications other than batteries.