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NextGen Predicts "Power Shortage" in Batteries/Fuel Cells (posted 9/15/09)

September 15, 2009
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As portable devices have become smaller in size and richer in features, their power needs have grown, but battery designers and manufacturers have not been able to keep pace by squeezing more energy into less space, according to “Batteries and Fuel Cells: Portable Power for Portable Devices,” a new study by NextGen Research. Existing battery chemistries are approaching the limits of their energy densities, creating the potential for a “power shortage” as increasingly smaller gadgets make growing demands on batteries that cannot provide sufficient sustained power to take advantage of the latest power-hungry features.

The study forecasts that the market for such portable power products will mirror the global economy: contracting in 2009 and seeing negligible growth in 2010, with more robust growth beginning in 2012. Overall, NextGen Research projects the global market for batteries and fuel cells for portable products will grow from $46 billion in 2009 to almost $64 billion in 2013.

“This is a staid, conservative market, where developments are evolutionary, not revolutionary,” said Larry Fisher, research director of NextGen Research. “This does not bode well, because portable devices increasingly require more power, and battery designers and manufacturers do not have a near-term solution to ameliorate the problem. The latest generation of smart phones serves as a prefect illustration, with consumers complaining loudly about the shrinking battery life of these devices.”

The NextGen Research market study foresees incremental improvements in both the primary (disposable) and secondary (rechargeable) segments of the market, such as faster recharge times for lithium-ion batteries, and tweaks in chemistries that provide performance enhancements in both primary and secondary batteries. However, NextGen Research does not anticipate any major technological developments in the near term; lithium-ion will continue to be the principal chemistry in secondary batteries while alkaline and carbon zinc will continue to dominate the primary battery market. Much-heralded micro-fuel cells will not gain traction in the market until late in the forecast period.

Fisher noted that batteries will also be growing more eco-friendly in the coming years. “Environmental concerns are driving manufacturers to reduce or eliminate the use of cadmium, mercury and other dangerous substances in their batteries,” he said. “At the same time, the drive to recycle spent batteries is just beginning to take hold.”

For more information, call (516) 624-2526 or visit www.NextGenResearch.com.

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