From Model to Pack to Cell to Cell Chemistry, the Modern EV is Rapidly Evolving

Feb. 25, 2019

Not only is the market for EVs growing extremely fast, the EV itself is also undergoing a rapid technological evolution

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.

Not only is the EV market growing extremely fast, the modern EV itself is also undergoing a rapid technological evolution, from model to battery pack to cell and cell chemistry.

At the model level – scalable modular platforms are the future

Automakers like 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

The average EV pack capacity (in kWh) is continually increasing. 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 (see recent insight from Adamas Intelligence).

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’ nickel cathodes are the flavor of the day

Lastly, at the cell chemistry level, the landscape 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 (see recent insight from Adamas Intelligence).

EV Battery Capacity and Battery Metals Tracker

For more information (and to track the ever-evolving landscape of battery chemistries, cell suppliers and battery metals) subscribe to Adamas Intelligence’s “EV Battery Capacity and Battery Metals Tracker“.


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