This July A123 announced they shall be supplying BAE Systems with lithium-ion battery packs for its new HybriDrive Series to be used on municipal buses. The following day A123 signed a deal with Chinese Ray Power Systems to supply a grid energy storage system. This is great news for shareholders of A123. Share price has risen for the first time since the company announced in June that it is struggling financially.
South Korea shipped 20% more rechargeable batteries overseas in 2011 finacial year than the previous year. Of these, 56% were lithium-ion making South Korea the world’s largest exporter of lithium-ion batteries for 2011. The exports of the batteries were valued at US$3.8 billion according to the Korea Customs Service.
A plant to make components for lithium-ion batteries is to be built in South Korea by Belgian company Umicore. The high-tech recycler and specialist materials maker will double its capacity of the product as it expands into the market. The plant should be operational in 2014 to make parts for rechargeable batteries.
Lithium demand is booming due to to an explosion in tablets and smartphones. GTSO Resources is beginning to recover used lithium using ‘urban mining’ (or recycling) techniques.
"Lithium prices have already tripled, and no one expects them to level off anytime soon,” said GTSO CEO Paul Watson.
Electronic waste contains metal deposits 40 to 50 times richer than mined ores, up to 85% are lost to landfills. GTSO is planning operations to recover lithium, tungsten and other discarded materials.
Johnson Controls Inc. has begun a new partnership with PolyPlus Battery Corporation, a California-based battery manufacturer, and also announced plans for a Chinese automotive battery plant.
PolyPlus will receive US$8.99 million from the US Department of Energy to invest in manufacturing lithium-ion batteries over the next three years.
PolyPlus is developing batteries that are lighter store more energy than the lithium-ion batteries that Johnson Controls currently produces.
Johnson Controls also announced this week signing a deal in China for a facility producing batteries for stop-start vehicles. It will be the first of its kind the company has in China.
Japan is losing out to Chinese and South Korean competitors in supplying lithium-ion battery components around the world. In the 2011 financial year Japan supplied less than half of these key parts.
Global shipments of cathode and anode materials, separators and electrolytes are estimated to have grown 11.2% to US$70.2 million last fiscal year. Japanese firms' share fell 5.7% points to 46.6%, dipping below the 50% mark for the first time since 2008.
The Japanese Yano Research Institute believes Japan’s dominance was weakened following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that halted the supply of some essential parts around the country. This, combined with the strong yen cutting into Japan’s competitiveness, meant a demand for cheaper materials grew. Another factor is the shift in South Korean battery manufacturers to use domestically made parts over imports.
Lead supplies could fall into deficit for the first time in five years. Recycling of car batteries has stunted demand for raw resources but, with a growing market in Asia for electric bikes, industry demand for lead is rising.
The 2012 global lead market is set to record a surplus of 144,000 metric tons. The price has declined in recent years due to this surplus, with value falling from US$2 700/t to $1 900/t from last year.
Demand for electric bikes should reduce the surplus and push prices up, lead producers would welcome this as prices have fallen steadily since 2007 when it was valued at US$3 890/t on the London Metal Exchange.
With lead producing factories closing in China and environmental concerns hindering expansion, the demand for lead is outstripping supply.
General Electric Co said it will invest $70 million in its Schenectady battery plant in New York to double production and create 100 jobs there. This will take the plant’s workforce 450 at full capacity.
The factory manufactures GE's Durathon batteries, which are half the size of conventional lead-acid batteries but last ten times longer.
Saft is producing lithium-ion cells for Schuco’s photovoltaic energy storage system available this year.
The system determines if energy is stored, consumed or sold back to the grid. The system control unit detects how much self-generated electricity is available and combines this information with external data. Electricity is only exported when production exceeds storage capacity.