Batteries set to become $60 billion industry by '13

Research firm offers guide to deciphering the players and funders of high-tech battery technology.

So far in 2009, battery companies have received over $600 million in venture capital funding, compared with $478 million garnered for 2008, according to research analyst Lux Research.

The investment isn't without reason. In a report released Tuesday, Lux predicted that the energy storage market will grow to become a $60 billion industry by 2013.

But for now, it's hard for even the experts to predict who will emerge as the victorious innovators. Instead of a few key players, there's a plethora of both established and start-up companies developing a wide range of approaches to power storage for things like cars, utilities, and gadgets, according to Lux.

A123 Systems' battery platform is being used for tools, transportation, and power grid energy storage. Martin LaMonica/CNET

A123Systems, of which GE is an investor , and NGK Insulators are seen as leaders in power grid energy storage.

And Lux sees Johnson Controls-Saft and Compact Power as leaders in developing lithium ion batteries for electric hybrid cars.

But when it comes to batteries for products like power tools, electric bikes, and portables, the space is wide open. That space is open not only to emerging companies, but also as to which type of battery technology will succeed, according to Lux.

"Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), nickel-zinc (NiZn) and even lithium-sulfur (Li-S) and lithium-air (Li-air) batteries are all pitching themselves as lower-cost alternatives," according to the report.

At least one company is already poised to make money off the uncertainty. Lux is offering a service to manufacturers and investors interested in the market. It's dubbed the Lux Innovation Grid, a chart that plots the variables for evaluating companies' battery tech and business models.

About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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