TOKYO – Nearly 1,600 exhibitors showed off their latest technologies at World Smart Energy Week 2014 held in late February in Tokyo while more than 100 representatives of the biggest names in the automotive and related energy industries offered their visions of the future of electric cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell electric vehicles.

Industry analyst Hideo Takeshita predicts the market for lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles will grow to 1.97 million units in 2020, nearly one-third of global demand.

Takeshita, president of the market-research firm B3, predicts hybrid and EV sales will grow to 6.22 million units including 1.18 million PHEVs and 960,000 EVs.

In 2014, he estimates Li-ion battery sales for automotive applications will grow to 5.8 GWh, up from 3.5 GWh last year and 2.6 GWh in 2012. Li-ion battery demand in all applications, including mobile communications, will grow 21% this year to 46.9 GWh, according to B3.

Anissa Dehamna, a senior research analyst at Navigant Research, predicts Li-ion battery demand in the transport sector will grow to $43 billion and nearly 50 GWh in 2022, up from $3 billion and 4 GWh in 2013.

Against this backdrop, Dehamna predicts battery cost will fall to $450 per kWh in 2020 from an estimated $650/kWh at present.

Of leading hybrid and EV models, Navigant reports the battery pack for Tesla’s top-selling Model S costs $40,000, including $25,000 for cells supplied by Panasonic.

Other models cited in the consultancy's report include:

  • Nissan's all-electric Leaf: battery pack, $16,000; cells, $11,000; cell supplier, Automotive Energy Supply.
  • General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle: battery pack, $17,000; cells, $9,600; cell supplier, LG Chem.
  • Toyota’s Prius plug-in hybrid: battery pack, $8,000; cells, $3,500; cell supplier, Panasonic.

Cosmin Laslau, research analyst at Lux Research reports the “hype bubble” for EVs is over and expectations have become more reasonable. "Even though EVs and plug-in hybrids will remain niche products for the foreseeable future, they still require a large number of batteries," he says.

During first-quarter of 2013, Laslau notes, Tesla delivered only 4,900 Model S sedans while Apple’s global iPhone sales totaled 47.8 million units. But in terms of Li-ion battery capacity, the Model S consumed 50% more than the iPhone worldwide.

Elsewhere, Honda R&D chief Koichi Shinmura reports the automaker hopes to lower Li-ion battery costs to ¥20 ($0.20) per watt-hour by 2020 while raising energy density to 200 Wh/kg.

Shinmura predicts hybrid vehicle penetration will vary by market, approaching 40% in Japan and 10% in the U.S.

Honda sold 187,257 conventional hybrids in 2013, down 19% from the previous year. All but 11,818 Accord Hybrids employ 1-motor systems. In addition, the automaker sold 585 Accord PHEVs and 640 Fit EVs. Of Accord PHEV and Fit EV sales, 90% were in the U.S.

Suzuki Claims 82 mpg for eNe-Charge Mild-Hybrid Microcar

In the microhybrid segment, Suzuki reports it sold 524,000 vehicles employing its eNe-charge system through January. The technology, introduced in September 2012 on the 0.7L Wagon R, employs a high-output alternator to generate electricity from deceleration and braking.

It now is featured on 10 models including, in addition to the Wagon R, the Alto Eco, Spacia and Swift. Used in conjunction with Suzuki's start-stop technology, the Alto Eco achieves 82 mpg (2.9 L/100 km). The automaker claims eNe-charge improves fuel economy 4.2%.