Not too long ago, some analysts were predicting a big oversupply of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. Yeah, that sounded strange to us, too. Oliver Hazimeh, the director and dead of Global E-Mobility Practice for global management consulting firm PRTM, has now issued a statement saying that these estimates are "largely unfounded," and warns that there are "potential shortfalls looming." Those words might be just as unfounded, but Hazimeh's numbers predict that the market will be asking for four times as many lithium ion batteries in 2020 (200GWh) as the industry will be able to make given the production capacity (50GWh) that has been announced thus far.

More details are available in Hazimeh's release after the jump, but the takeaway point from his research is that li-ion battery manufacturing capacity will start to fall short somewhere around 2016 under the "most probable" scenario. Hazimeh also says something that no one really disagrees with, that Asia is best-poised to take advantage of the increasing demand for automotive li-ion products, while the U.S. and Europe are falling behind.

[Source: PRTM]


Statement from Oliver Hazimeh, Director and Head of Global E-Mobility Practice, PRTM, a global management consulting firm

PRTM Analysis Shows Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) Battery Overcapacity Estimates Largely Unfounded, with Potential Shortfalls Looming; Total Market Demand in 2020 Will Require 4x Capacity Announced To Date
Greater Cell Manufacturing Investment Needed in the US and Europe to Alleviate Shortfalls

Recent market reports predict that the global market for large format lithium ion batteries (the size used for electric vehicle applications) will see a substantial overcapacity in the coming years, with some predicting an excess of more than 100% in 2015. PRTM believes that the notion of overcapacity is largely unfounded, and that, in fact, significant additional capacity may be needed to support the long-term growth of the electric transportation market. PRTM's assessment, based on a thorough review of the operational market dynamics, found the following:
  • Under a "Most Probable" scenario, battery manufacturing capacity will hit a shortfall by 2016. Additional capacity investments beyond those recently announced by battery manufacturers will be required to avoid a Li-Ion battery shortfall of 30% by 2017.
  • The total Li-Ion battery market demand in 2020 will require about 200GWh capacity, which is 4x the 50GWh capacity that has been announced to date.
  • A global footprint assessment of top battery manufacturers suggests that the United States and Europe are facing a shortfall in cell manufacturing capacity-the largest value-added step in battery production and a rapidly increasing source of global competitive advantage. Approximately 70 % of the value of a Li-Ion battery pack resides in the Li-Ion cells, and low labor needs make manufacturing investments strategically sound.
  • Asia has been the center for consumer electronics-based Li-Ion battery manufacturing to date. As many countries worldwide consider building out automotive cell manufacturing to meet rising demand in the electric transportation sector, Asia is positioned to remain a leading net exporter of automotive battery cells under their current level of investment. Under-investments in cell manufacturing in the US and Europe to date – while offshore investments continue to rise – have wide-ranging consequences in global competitiveness. These outcomes include an inability to capitalize on an automotive battery market estimated to be $60B in 2020. The risks also include missing high-quality job creation opportunities in this sector.
As shown in Figure 1, the market could be under-supplied by nearly 10% by 2016.

PRTM's assessment is based on a thorough review of the operational dynamics within the market, including the following key aspects:
1. All manufacturers will base future capacity investment on market demand. While battery companies are making initial investments slightly ahead of the market to optimize cost and scale, future investments will be made only when the market conditions justify such an investment.

2. Capacity expansions will not take place in one tranche – they will be rolled out in several phases, through 2015 and beyond. Many companies plan to build large facilities capable of supporting future volume, but initial machinery capex will remain relatively small.

3. Companies funded through US DOE stimulus may be incented to build ahead of the market, however stimulus-funded investment represents only 1/3rd of planned global capacity expansion – the remaining 2/3rds will remain driven purely by market demand.

4. Previous reports matching market growth to planned capacity were relatively bullish on capacity expansion while being bearish on market growth. Moreover, large format cells can also be used in utility applications, which are not included in most market growth forecasts. This combination almost definitely would lead to an overcapacity projection.

5. There are only a handful of capable and qualified suppliers of the capital equipment required for a Li-Ion battery manufacturing facility. PRTM believes that lead-times are currently in the range of 18-30 months, significantly impacting the rate at which capacity can be installed.

As Shown in Figure 2, the US and Europe have under invested in cell manufacturing capacity, which could lead to a potential shortfall in domestic Li-Ion cell supply

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