It’s all about those batteries, ’bout those batteries, ’bout those batteries. The electric car market is influenced by aesthetics, aerodynamics, tech efficiency, semi-autonomous and infotainment features, and more. However, it seems no single element is more important than the batteries. We wouldn’t have modern electric cars if not for lithium-ion batteries, and electric vehicles wouldn’t have nearly the market share they’ve acquired across the world if Tesla hadn’t had the idea of sticking a bunch of little Panasonic battery cells underneath a car to develop one of the most monumental automobiles in the history of transportation.
2020 is far different from 2000 or 2010, though, in regards to batteries. A handful of battery companies are getting battery costs (per kWh) to a level that even slow-walking automakers can’t help but put out hyper-competitive electric vehicles that will show us more and more that the Osborne effect is arriving for gasoline/diesel vehicles.
If you follow the electric vehicle market closely, you tend to notice the same few names of battery producers over and over. There are more than a few supplying the many electric models now on the market, but the market’s biggest names are clearly now LG Chem, Panasonic, and CATL.
Panasonic, which is closely aligned with Tesla, had the biggest score in March (in terms of GWh of EV batteries deployed), according to Adamas Intelligence, but it was inched out in the first quarter as a whole by LG Chem, which scored the most GWh in both January and February.
China-based CATL hasn’t been as popular a name in the industry for as long as Panasonic and LG Chem, but it has risen up the ranks rapidly and is now far apart from the rest of the pack. According to Adamas Intelligence, it was actually ahead of LG Chem — only trailing Panasonic — for a few quarters. However, it was a steep step below the top two producers in Q1. That said, with a budding relationship with Tesla, we may see it rise higher again in coming quarters. (See our coverage of the partnership here, here, here, and here.)
Getting to some numbers, here’s what Adamas Intelligence says the top two major players deployed in the 1st quarter of 2020:
LG Chem — 6.07 GWh
Panasonic — 6.05 GWh
And in March:
LG Chem — 2.2 GWh
Panasonic — 3.8 GWh
In total, these two firms reportedly took 60% of the EV battery market.
It looks like CATL provided about 3 GWh of batteries in the first quarter, which would be another ~6.8% of the market.
“By cathode chemistry, NCM 6-Series was the most used variety in the first quarter of 2020 by GWh deployed, followed closely by Tesla/Panasonic’s 3rd generation NCA and NCM 5-Series. In fourth place, high-nickel NCM 811 captured 9% of global market share by GWh deployed and an imposing 32% in China specifically.”
Adamas Intelligences says that 20.5 GWh of EV batteries were deployed in Q1 2020, compared to 20.9 GWh in Q1 2019 and 26.5 GWh in Q4 2019.