In 2018, 4.28 million BEVs, PHEVs and HEVs were sold globally—an increase of 28.6% over the year prior—amounting to 5.2% of total global passenger vehicle sales, according to Adamas Intelligence.
Not only is the EV market growing extremely rapidly, the modern EV itself is also undergoing a rapid technological evolution, from model to battery pack to cell and cell chemistry, Adamas says.
At the model level, scalable modular platforms are the future. Automakers such as VW are building their next-generation EVs around the concept of a low-cost and scalable modular platform that will be shared across the maker’s model lineup, enabling it to thrust its EVs from niche to affordable mass market. Volkswagen in particular is planning to commence mass production in late-2022 with the aim of producing 10 million EVs based on the VW electrification platform “in the first wave alone”.
At the pack level, average pack capacity is on the rise. This increase is happening for a number of reasons; such as advances in cell chemistry, greater sales of BEVs relative to HEVs, and due to an urgency on the part of automakers to expand driving range (distance per charge) so as to differentiate their EV model(s) from those of incumbents.
Overall, the global sales-weighted average EV battery capacity has increased by a factor of 18x in nine years, from 1.4 kWh in January 2010 to 24.8 kWh in December 2018.
At the cell level, average cell volume and capacity are increasing. As of 2019, the three main form factors (prismatic, pouch and cylindrical) continue to be widely used but if—and when—some cell suppliers do broadly adopt high-nickel NCM 811 (or other high-nickel NCM or NCA cathodes), cylindrical and pouch form factors will become the logical choice to accommodate the thermal expansion associated with these chemistries.
Although form factors haven’t evolved much in recent years, the sales-weighted average cell volume and capacity continues to expand, as reflected by Tesla’s switch from 18650 to 21700 cylindrical cells, as well as CATL’s shift from 45Ah to 50Ah prismatic cells, and beyond.
At the cell chemistry level, ‘higher-’ not 'highest-' nickel cathodes are the flavor of the day. The market is rapidly moving towards ‘higher’ nickel cathode varieties (i.e. NCM 523/622) but remains broadly cautious of adopting the ‘highest’ nickel varieties (i.e. NCM 811) due to cost, reliability and safety concerns.
In 2018, global deployment of NCM 523 (in GWh) for passenger EVs increased 129% year-over-year and deployment of NCM 622 increased 230% year-over-year while global deployment of NCM 811 among first movers decreased 46% year-over-year.