The product that has the largest share of the electric storage device market
The lead-acid battery has been playing an important role in the automobile and motorcycle industries for a long time. In recent years, the lead-acid battery’s applications can be seen in the markets of Uninterruptible Power Supply Systems (UPS), UPS used in communication base stations, medical equipment, and electric vehicles. Because of the early commercial applications, product maturity, and the low cost, it is still the product with the largest market in electric storage technology. Whether it is the selection, research and development of the materials, processing technology, or the battery recycling technology, the industry technology and the market have entered the mature stage.
The anode material used in a lead-acid battery is lead dioxide, the cathode is lead, while the electrolyte is sulfuric acid and water, in the proportion of 1.24. In general, the voltage specifications of the lead-acid battery sold in the market are 12V, and 24V, which are assembled with multiple 2V batteries connected in a series circuit, while the capacity is dependent on the surface area of the electrode plates. When the battery is in a discharged state, the active materials of the anode and cathode react with sulfuric acid and form lead sulfate; when the discharge stops, the concentration of the sulfuric acid in the electrolyte decreases, and the resistance inside the battery increases. It is during this time, that it requires the generator in an automobile, or a motorcycle to recharge.
From the perspective of the existing lead-acid battery market, the global market share of the lead-acid battery in 2010 was 36.2 billion U. S. dollars, a growth of 8.6% compared to 2009. The future of the industry, following the market growth of automobiles, motorcycles, and storage applications, is estimated to have a 2~5% annual market growth rate until 2015. Compared to the 2.8 billion U. S. dollars of nickel-based rechargeable batteries, and the near 10 billion U. S. dollars of lithium batteries sold, the lead-acid battery still has the highest market share of all electric storage device products today.
The starter battery for automobiles and motorcycles is still the major application
Of all the current downstream market applications for lead-acid batteries, the largest ratio is still the starter battery for automobiles and motorcycles. The combined total of the two applications accounts for nearly sixty percent of the market, followed by UPS, driverless transport vehicles, electric forklifts, and electric bicycles. Therefore, when considering the growth of the future market, it must be based on the growth of the application markets. In 2010, the recovery of the global consumer automobile market, and the growth of automobile market shares in the Asian countries, became the major contributors to the market growth for the lead-acid battery. In addition, the exceptionally hot summer weather, resulting in higher failure rates for lead-acid batteries, has led to an increased demand for starter battery replacement. Other application markets, such as UPS, achieved an annual growth rate in the range of 5 to 15% in 2010, because of the global economic recovery, which is the main reason for the global output growth of the lead-acid battery.
The production zones are concentrated in Mainland China, and the United States
In observing the output value market shares, we found that up until now, U. S. vendors made up the majority of the top five vendors. Johnson Controls took the highest market share for a single vendor in lead-acid market in 2010, with over a quarter of the market share. Other vendors, such as Exide Technologies, GS YUASA, Enersys, and East Penn, took less than a 10% market share each. Other than GS YUASA, all of the top five vendors belong to the United States. The remaining smaller scale manufacturers take up a 47.6% share of the entire market, showing a characteristic of the mature and diverse market.
Currently, there are many manufacturers invested in the global lead-acid battery market. After a long period of industry development, the manufacturing processes, and the market channel management strategies are mature. Some manufacturers established factories in Mainland China, Vietnam and other countries; in addition, they are focused on allocation and integration of the factory manufacturing process and production capacity in trying to improve management performance. For example: Johnson Controls has long been attacking the automobile starter battery market, and its global channel marketing strategies have propelled its cooperation with major car manufacturers in many countries. In recent years, it has been targeting car manufacturers in Mainland China as the main sales focus, while setting up a market plan for electric vehicles, a hot topic in recent years; Exide Technologies major market is in the United States and Europe, and it is also targeting mid- and downstream car manufacturers of the automobile market as the main sales focus. GS YUASA has been the largest supplier for Japanese cars, UPS and transport vehicles until now, it has also started developing an overseas market since 2009, gradually increasing its current 40 percent overseas market ratio.
Key operation factors-low cost, market trends, and product demand from the downstream market
Due to the long period of development, and a mature and stable technology, the lead-acid battery market is gradually turning away from the pursuit of technology development, to focus on the competition of price and the stability of the battery. On the topic of battery prices, because of the gradual increase in the price of lead each year, lead-acid battery manufacturing, which accounts for over 60 percent of the global lead consumption, is experiencing the pressure of rising costs on battery pricing. Therefore, the industrys operation strategy, in order to save production costs, is that in addition to considering setting up factories in locations that are near, and thus easy to supply, major car manufacturing and assembly markets, it is establishing factories in countries with low production costs, such as Mainland China and Vietnam. The automobile market is growing in the countries of the emerging market, and the demand for vehicles is expanding. To lead-acid battery manufacturers, the double attractions of the production cost advantage, and the future market potential of the emerging market countries, will further affect their channel marketing strategy and regional market development plan.
As for the development of battery technology, in order to further stabilize the market, the new product series introduced by the manufacturers in recent years has focused on improving the performance of lead-acid batteries. For example: the PRODA NEO product series, made by GS YUASA, emphasizes the durability of the battery in high temperatures, as well as the enhanced battery safety and stability in the vibrating environment of transport vehicles like automobiles and motorcycles; the Blue Battery caos product series, made by Panasonic, offers the unique patented technology of cathode additives that greatly enhance battery charging performance, when used in an automobile battery. In the future, the lead-acid battery industry is expected to still focus on the demands of the starter battery for the downstream motor vehicles, and the industry-use energy storage, as the major development directions for future battery design and improvement. In the meantime, the industry will continue the practice of using regional market channel strategy, and lower production costs, as the important consideration factors in selecting the locations for factory setup, and establishing market strategies. The above-mentioned three directions are the key operation factors for lead-acid battery manufacturers.