Battery Technology Will Change the Marine Market
By Felix Frisch, VP Marketing and Sales, Epsilor Electric Fuel
The global battery market is currently in the midst of a transition that will disrupt most electronic industries and will have far-reaching implications for additional markets.
The market segment that attracts most attention is the electric vehicle battery market, which is exhibiting exponential growth and is expected to reach $10 billion by 2025. Other high profile industries include grid storage and renewable energy applications which are forecast to surpass $12 billion by 2025.
Another sector which receives less publicity but is growing just as fast is Lead-Acid replacement batteries, which is also expected to reach $10 billion by 2025. Markets such as marine and boating, which rely on old-fashioned batteries are about to change dramatically.
Modern lithium rechargeable battery technology, especially designed for boats, yachts and underwater vehicles, is now mature enough to transition from “introduction to market” phase to “growth” phase. Demand for such technology is growing as manufacturers are looking for batteries that can serve a wide range of applications in marine environments, where the conditions are tough and reliable clean energy is needed.
In addition to Li-ion battery superior energy density, battery manufacturers also promise to minimize the expensive field logistics of marine batteries, as new Li-ion maintenance-free batteries will have a lifetime of 10 years.
19th Century Technology
Traditional Lead Acid batteries, which were introduced in the middle of the 19th century, have been in use by boat owners since World War 1. This technology has gone through only one modernization phase, in the 1970s, when sealed lead acid batteries (SLA) were introduced.
This is about to change as a growing number of players in the marine market seek superior battery solutions.
The Tesla Effect
Boats and yachts are just the tip of the iceberg as far as change is concerned. The main drive for change is the buzz surrounding Li-ion electric vehicles in general and Tesla in particular.
Car manufacturers realize that in order to survive, they need to change their business model and also become battery manufacturers that integrate their cars into home power grids and other storage applications.
The cost of Li-Ion cells for cars dropped from some $500/kWh five years ago, to $250/kWh and is expected to continue to decline to less than $100/kWh by 2020. The energy density of Li-Ion cells improved from 200Wh/kg 10 years ago to approximately 270Wh/kg today.
The revolution will not stop with the car industry. Niche markets such as ships, boats, yachts, watercraft, drones and underwater vehicles will eventually benefit from the reduction in battery price.
Li-ion is already offering these markets batteries with four times more energy than lead-acid and a 10-year life cycle.
The initial cost of adopting Li-Ion batteries is presently higher than of lead-acid, but will become more attractive in the near future. While lead acid will not disappear so quickly, niche markets where volume, weight and logistics are important will lead the way towards the adoption of lithium batteries.
Great strides have been taken to address safety issues related to Li-Ion. Battery makers are now incorporating fire suppressive materials and technologies into their batteries to facilitate fast incorporation of lithium batteries.