Battery Technology Across Diverse Vehicle Segments
Nov 15, 2023 Dr Alex Holland
The electrification of cars has undeniably been at the forefront of the transition towards electric vehicles (EVs) and the growth in demand for Li-ion batteries, but the electric revolution extends far beyond passenger cars. Huge opportunities exist in other transport applications, which play a vital role in ongoing decarbonization efforts. IDTechEx forecasts that the market for non-car electric vehicle batteries will grow at a CAGR of 15.8% from 2023-2034. The IDTechEx report, "Li-ion Batteries and Battery Management Systems for Electric Vehicles 2024-2034", provides forecasts by GWh and US$B for electric cars, trucks, vans, buses, and micro EVs.
Battery demand share by transport segment. Source: IDTechEx
Battery chemistries differ across segments
Manufacturers are deploying various chemistries to meet the diverse needs of different electric vehicle segments. For electric cars, high nickel content NMC and NCA batteries are favored for their ability to enhance energy density and, therefore, range. However, these advantages come at the cost of stability and cycle life. This has led to the persistence of mid-nickel NMC variants like NMC 532 and 622, which better cater to higher throughput and higher daily mileage applications, such as commercial delivery vans and trucks. Here, electrification is driven not only by environmental concerns but also by increasingly compelling total cost of ownership (TCO) arguments.
In Europe and North America, turnkey pack manufacturers tend to lean towards NMC-based chemistries due to their superior energy density compared to LFP (lithium-iron-phosphate). Cycle life and C-rate performance can be equally competitive, if not better than their LFP counterparts. It also underlines the overlap in performance characteristics of different chemistries as well as the importance of cell and pack design beyond just the choice of chemistry.
Advertised pack and module energy density versus cycle life.
For 2-3 wheelers and micro-cars, particularly important segments in regions like India and China, cost considerations largely dictate battery choices. Lithium-ion batteries are gradually phasing out low-cost lead-acid batteries. Additionally, Na-ion batteries are emerging as a promising alternative for these lower-power mobility applications due to their potential for improved cost-effectiveness and safety profiles.
Modularity or cell-to-pack in commercial EVs
While cell-to-pack (CTP) battery designs have gained traction in the electric car market, modularity maintains some advantages, especially in some commercial EV sectors. Modular pack designs allow manufacturers to supply multiple sectors and vehicle models without the need for fundamental redesigns while simplifying serviceability and streamlining repair and maintenance. Nevertheless, the benefits of CTP technology may be difficult to ignore in the long term, with companies such as Our Next Energy planning to deploy CTP batteries for light commercial vehicles. Similar improvements to pack design and energy density could enable the adoption of LFP with the cost and safety benefits that come with it.
Heavy-duty vehicles present unique challenges
Battery requirements for electric trucks, heavy-duty, and off-road vehicles present unique challenges. The requirement for a clear TCO benefit necessitates low cost, high cycle life, and added ruggedization. Daily endurance or mileage requirements can also necessitate high energy density or large battery packs, highlighting the difficult task of optimizing battery design and the need for ongoing technology innovation.
These typically lower-volume segments may continue to rely on third-party and turnkey pack manufacturers. Commercial vehicle OEMs and automotive suppliers are bringing battery know-how in-house through acquisitions and partnerships with pack manufacturers. This allows them to bolster their electrification product offerings or cater to their own vehicle electrification needs. For example, mining company Fortescue acquired battery and BMS (battery management system) developer WAE Technologies, automotive supplier Borg Warner acquired pack manufacturer Akasol, while agriculture vehicle manufacturer John Deere acquired battery and immersion cooling developer Kreisel. Major automakers such as Tesla, Daimler, VW, and Volvo are heavily investing in long-haul battery electric trucks, where improvements to battery energy density are likely needed for more widespread adoption.
The role of non-car applications
Non-car applications are also serving as vital test beds and data sources for new BMS technologies and software services. Software-as-a-service solutions are emerging to enhance EV fleet utilization, combining physical and data-based models to maximize battery life. Cloud analytics can provide insights into remaining useful life, battery optimization strategies, and fault diagnostics, enabling commercial vehicle users to optimize asset utilization and prolong EV life.
The electrification of transportation is a multifaceted endeavor, with diverse segments requiring tailored battery solutions. Cell-to-pack designs, innovative battery chemistries, and the integration of more advanced BMS technologies and analytics are paving the way for the electrification of many vehicle segments. To find out more on battery technology and market development in electric vehicles, please see the IDTechEx report, "Li-ion Batteries and Battery Management Systems for Electric Vehicles 2024-2034".
For the full portfolio of IDTechEx market research on electric vehicles, please visit www.IDTechEx.com/Research/EV, and for the portfolio of energy storage market research, please see www.IDTechEx.com/Research/ES. Sample pages are available for all IDTechEx reports.
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