Lithium-ion batteries were one of the hot energy products of 2017 and look to continue their strong R&D invest- ments through 2025 as global demand for their use in
electrified cars and trucks gathers steam along with rising
consumer demand for cheaper power sources. Surprisingly,
only a handful of global companies are currently involved
in the development of the lithium-ion cells that make up the
batteries, following a rash of overheating-based failures in
computers, cell phones and vehicles that soured the market a
few years ago, but have since been resolved. Even Tesla’s Mega
Battery Factory in Nevada purchases the lithium-ion cells
from Korean suppliers such as Panasonic, LG Chem and Samsung. Efforts to develop lithium-ion cells are hindered by low
margins and the large existing supplier base. Tesla explored
this option but declined as being unprofitable.
Global solar photovoltaic installations are being driven
by China and the U.S. China is expected to install about 22
GW of photovoltaic (PV) systems in 2017, with an expected
installed capacity of 125 GW by year’s end. The U.S. is the
second largest installer of PV systems with 12. 5 GW being
installed in 2017. India is in third place, followed by Japan.
Germany and France are the only two countries in Europe
expected to exceed 1 GW of PV installations in 2017, with
Spain and the Netherlands exceeding 1 GW in 2018.
All of these installations are being put in place with exist-
ing materials and technologies and relatively little new R&D.
The R&D that is being invested is going into increasing the
efficiency of the existing systems and tweaking the overall
performance and operating life. However, the fact that so much
installed capacity is being put in place drives
the development of new PV materials and
technologies. Wind power installations also
continue to see steady, albeit slow, growth in in-
stalled systems. At the end of 2016, total global
installed capacity was approximately 500,000
GW with annual installations exceeding 60
GW. As a result, R&D investments for solar and
wind energy systems both globally and in the
U.S. are only expected to increase about 1.5%.
Oil and natural gas suppliers have been
buoyed by the return to $60/barrel pricing,
which gives these companies some breathing room to increase their R&D investments. Shale and oil sand developers have
also been buoyed by R&D that has allowed
them to be profitable at production values
of less than $50/barrel, a level never envisioned just 10 years ago.
Systems research being developed in academia has also resulted in the development of
smart greenhouses that capture solar energy
for electricity without reducing plant growth,
according to researchers at the University
of California, Santa Cruz. The new system
utilizes wavelength selective photovoltaic systems which works out to be less expensive and
more efficient than traditional PV systems.
Spenders – Energy
GeneralElectric $4.782 $4.195 $3.668
Petrochina $2.530 $1.777 $1.055
ExxonMobil $1.058 $0.622 $0.206
Total SA $1.050 $0.877 $0.711
Royal Dutch Shell $1.014 $0.905 $0.799
Total Top 5 $10.434 $8.376 $6.439
Industrial Energy R&D Spending
20. 6 21. 4
8.1 7. 7 8. 3
2016 Global 2016 U.S. 2017 Global 2017 U.S. 2018 Global 2018 U.S.
Source: R&D Magazine Survey 2017
Source: R&D Magazine Survey 2017