According to a new forecast by Lux Research, the likely 48 V micro-hybrid market will exceed 7 million vehicles in 2024, with the first adoption year beginning in 2015 and more focused on premium vehicles, in which cost sensitivity in order to reach regulation targets without sacrificing performance is lower.
Europe will lead global demand with 2.6 million units sold in 2024, followed by the US and China. With 1.6 million units, China will be the third-largest market for 48 V micro-hybrids despite having a more attractive total cost of ownership than 48 V micro-hybrids sold in the US. This is due to stricter long-term regulations in the US as well as a greater need to ramp up fuel efficiency to catch up to regulations, Lux said. Europe will lead all other key markets in terms of adoption percentage, with 48 V micro-hybrids representing 11% of all vehicle sales in 2024, according to the forecast.
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While there are no 48 V models in production today, these are the next phase of an incremental multi-generational product plan for cost-effective improvement in vehicle fuel economy. Like all new approaches to automotive fuel efficiency, 48 V micro-hybrids will have to compete on upfront costs and total cost of ownership with technologies that improve internal combustion engine (ICE) efficiency as well as all other forms of hybridization and electrification.
Importantly, Lux suggested, 48 V power systems represent a white space not addressed today between 12 V start-stop micro-hybrids and larger mild hybrid systems, allowing them a seat at the table and revenue to show for it as regulations force automakers to find cost-effective methods to meet fuel economy standards.
There is not a clear winning 48 V power system architecture and associated components. It is nonetheless possible to forecast the adoption of 48 V micro-hybrids, taking into account factors such as changing fuel prices, decreasing battery costs, shifting profit margins, the price premium compared to an internal combustion engine (ICE), and improving ICE efficiency, according to Lux.
A key question for the segment is the nature of the energy storage for the system. Noting a predicted 3.7 GWh energy storage opportunity in 2024, Lux sats that Li-ion battery systems will have the inside track for the segment, with Li-ion batteries with traditional anodes representing more than than 2.7 GWh of the total market. The first models of 48 V micro-hybrids are using this electrode material combination.
Once an automaker commits to a battery chemistry, Lux explains, it is likely that it will continue with that chemistry choice for at least one automotive product cycle—about five years. For example, after more than 15 years of selling the Prius hybrid, Toyota is just beginning to shift some of its models to Li-ion batteries from nickel metal hydride (NiMH).
That said, into the 2020’s other chemistries will emerge to displace Li-ion with conventional carbon anodes, and lithium-titanate (LTO) will be the system to emerge, capturing 22% of the total dollar value market size. LTO is able to charge and discharge faster than other Li-ion batteries, but has a lower energy density. For 48 V batteries, dynamic charge acceptance has a premium to energy density and, as such, with increasing LTO volumes will come in lock-step with growing 48 V micro-hybrid adoption.
Automakers committed to other chemistries will compete for a small sliver of the total 48 V micro-hybrid marketplace. In 2024, just 8% of the market by dollar value will go to lead-carbon and nickel-zinc batteries, according to Lux.
As the number of model production vehicles increase from the first iterations of 48 V systems around 2015 to second-generation systems in the 2020s, an increasing amount of auxiliary loads will be moved onto the 48 V system, only increasing the value of battery performance and durability.
First-generation auxiliary loads will likely include the water pump, engine fan, auxiliary heater, air conditioning compressor, and windshield heating, while second-generation applications will also add to the list the vacuum pump, fuel pump, audio amplifier, power steering, and interior fan.
There is work to be done from OEMs down through their tier suppliers, Lux said, but the regulatory forcing functions that drive the adoption of new technology are in full effect for those willing to invest the time in an inevitably growing market.