Over the last decade, billions of consumer electronics devices have been built and powered by lithium ion batteries and cars appear to be the next big li-ion applications. Even with all the lithium ion battery production that exists today however, capacity remains nowhere near where it needs to be to power all the plug-ins that are coming. Just think of the Tesla Roadster, which relies on standard 18650 cells like those used in laptop computers. A laptop typically uses six to nine of these cells. A single Roadster battery pack consists of 6,831 cells. Even a Chevrolet Volt, with a much smaller capacity and larger cell format, uses between 200 and 300 cells per car. If electric cars are to reach any significant volumes, li-ion cell production capacity will have increase dramatically.
The auto industry has always been extremely capital intensive and it doesn't look like that will change with a migration to electrification. Ener1, for example, is spending $600-800 million to build capacity of 120,000 units a year of pack production by 2015. Ener1 CEO Charles Gassenheimer told the Automotive News World Congress last week that even with the more pessimistic projections of electric vehicles comprising just one or two percent of vehicle sales, battery production would have to double. Plenty of potential suppliers are currently jumping into the market and building plants, but that will take many billions of dollars in investment over the coming decade.

[Source: Automotive News - sub. req'd]


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