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For The Electric Vehicles Market, Small Batteries Mean Big Sales

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For the electric vehicle market, it looks like small is the new big, especially when it comes to batteries. According to a new study by Lux Research, the market forecast for energy storage devices for electronic vehicles is bright. Lux sees the sector’s overall growth rising from $13 billion in 2011 to $30 billion by 2016 — a compound annual growth rate of 18 percent.

And what will cause this prodigious (and steady) growth spurt? Well, in spite of the current popularity (in headlines, at least) of plug-ins like the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, Lux sees big returns in small vehicles. The bulk of growth, the study says, will be driven by “more humble” vehicles, like e-bikes and micro-hybrids.

It also seems that, while many expected battery prices across all-electric and hybrid cars to drop, the decline has been more measured than anticipated. Prices have not yet reached that magic number that would begin to encourage true widespread adoption. As a result, small vehicles will step in to fill the gap, as will the batteries that power them.

For example: Replacement batteries for the currently deployed eBike base, especially in China where eBikes are thriving, plus growth in new sales, will drive the eBike market from $12 billion in 2011 to $24.3 billion in 2016, Lux says. And, as the eBike market transitions from lead acid batteries to lithium-ion technology, demand for lead acid-based storage technology will diminish, as will its lead in the market.

The other significant factor in market growth will be micro-hybrids, which offer an attractive, low-risk way for automakers to improve fuel efficiencies. Because micro-hybrids use regenerative braking applications to improve fuel efficiency, they do not require as much energy storage as their all-electric or hybrid counterparts.

Micros are also much less expensive for automakers to retrofit and don’t have nearly the same amount of battery costs as their bigger cousins. As this is such, Lux sees micro-hybrids eclipsing other passenger vehicles in terms of both storage and dollars, growing from 5.1 GWh and $495 million in 2011 to 41 GWh and $3.1 billion by 2016.

So, there you have it. The future is mini. Small electric vehicles will drive battery sales, and eBikes and micro-hybrids will be the ones to capitalize.