Pike Research – With sales expected to reach over 30 million units in 2012, electric bicycles are the world’s best-selling electric vehicles. Rapidly accelerating urbanization, the increasing need for low-cost transportation in developing markets, and expanding opportunities for new market entrants are all helping to drive e-bicycle sales.
The worldwide market for e-bicycles is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5% between 2012 and 2018, resulting in global sales of more than 47 million vehicles in 2018. China is anticipated to account for 42 million of these e-bicycles that year, giving it 89% of the total world market. The e-bicycle market is anticipated to generate $6.9 billion in worldwide revenue in 2012, growing to $11.9 billion in 2018.
Under a more aggressive forecast scenario, worldwide e-bicycle sales could reach 51 million units and $13.2 billion revenue in 2018, the cleantech market intelligence firm forecasts.
The vast majority of the e-bicycles sold in China, the world’s largest market, utilize sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries. While this has resulted in extremely low-cost e-bicycles in China, it has also led to a number of challenges including e-bicycle traffic congestion, lead contamination, and manufacturers effectively ignoring laws relating to e-bicycles speed and weight limits. Pike Research anticipates that the global penetration of lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries will grow from 6% in 2012 to 12% in 2018. Cost pressures from Asia Pacific will keep manufacturers interested in SLA batteries through this decade, but once manufacturing efficiencies have driven down the costs of Li-ion, we will start to see the decline of SLA as the battery of choice in e-bicycles.
Lux Research believes larger-scale production of Lithium ion batteries will help reduce costs. The effect of scale-up and likely technology improvements bring nominal battery pack cost only to $397/kWh in 2020 – far short of the $150/kWh target from the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) and not enough to reach the mass market.
* Materials improvement and scale are insufficient to cut costs. While scale does have a significant impact in driving costs down, it is not likely to lead to a disruptive drop in battery pack costs unless coupled with other innovations.
* Cathodes remain the biggest target. Cathode capacity and voltage improvement hold much more value than anode innovation. In the optimal case, with a maximum voltage increase of 1V and capacity increase of 200 mAh/g, the nominal pack cost dropped 20%.
* Beyond Li-ion remains a focus. Technologies such as Li-air, Mg-ion, Li-S and solid-state batteries push past the limitations of Li-ion batteries and achieve higher energy densities and specific energies. Each technology has its supporters – PolyPlus and IBM for Li-air, Toyota for Mg-ion, Sion Power and BASF for Li-S and Sakti3 for solid state batteries — but all face significant obstacles. A clear leading contender that can meet strict requirements on cycle life, power performance, and manufacturability has yet to emerge.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
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