Report: Little things mean a lot for electric vehicle batteries

Bikes and micro-hybrids will help market grow to $30 billion by 2016.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

It may be time for you to recalibrate your notion of what constitutes an electric vehicle, as well as the size and shape of the ones that will drive the most market growth.

A new report from Lux Research suggests that energy storage technologies for electric vehicles will grow from about $13 billion this year to $30 billion by 2016. But most of that growth is likely to be generated by sales of electric vehicle formats like e-bikes and micro-hybrids rather than by plug-in passenger cars.

The report, "Small Batteries, Big Sales: The Unlikely Winners in the Electric Vehicle Market," suggests that much of the demand for energy storage technologies over the next five years will be driven by a transition from lead acid to lithium-ion batteries -- and capacitor storage technologies -- in smaller electric vehicles during that timeframe.

Micro-hybrids are a class of vehicles that use approaches such as regenerative braking to improve fuel efficiency. The reason they are interesting is that most of the time they are less expensive for automakers to retrofit than full-fledged hybrids or electric vehicles. Micro doesn't necessarily refer to the size of the vehicle. If you look at many of the service fleet initiatives going on in corporate America or within municipal governments, this is where micro-hybrids matter. Aside from lithium-ion technologies, supercapacitors will be a factor here.

Replacement batteries for electric bicycles -- many of them in China -- will grow about 13 percent on a kilowatt-hour basis and about 15 percent in sales, according to the Lux Research report.

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