Known for their high levels of reliability and long shelf lives, thermal batteries are used in applications that provide an immediate or sudden demand for electric power. Low maintenance, robust design, and the ability to perform well even in volatile environments makes them ideal for applications such as military, requiring superior reliability and performance in harsh environments. However, being a niche market, manufacturers face stiff competition, high production costs, and possible supply threats as demand cycles are uneven.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (batteries.frost.com), World Thermal Battery Market, reveals that revenues in this market totaled $88.3 million in 2006, and expect to increase at a stable level due to the importance of this battery system usage in military applications.
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“Thermal batteries offer a power source that is extremely reliable. The technology can operate at a wide range of temperatures, in addition to operating successfully after long storage periods,” notes Frost & Sullivan Director Sara Bradford. “This is the primary reason key military defense equipment such as missiles and torpedoes rely on thermal batteries, as they require an extremely reliable power source that can be stored or used at any point in time.”
Munitions are growing smaller and smarter, demanding more power. Certain smart artillery projectiles are also experiencing issues with their current battery choices, in turn spurring demand for the ever-reliable thermal battery. Additionally, fuzes cannot be delivered without batteries, making it imperative to have a decent supply to satisfy the demand. Thermal batteries can greatly enhance antisubmarine warfare (ASW) sonobuoy performance.
As defense spending is cyclical, demand and market growth is largely dependent on replacement levels in traditional applications and exploration of new applications for this technology. Hence, commercial civil applications are limited due to the expensive nature of this battery and its limited supplier base.
“As the market is dominated by two major participants, competition remains a major challenge in the thermal batteries market, constraining profit margins,” says Bradford. “Furthermore, complex technology, constantly evolving military equipment and intrinsic technological issues are all barricading the entry of new companies.”
To overcome these challenges, market participants should increase research and development, strengthen prime contractor relationships, form strategic partnerships and diversify market segmentation. Given the current competitive nature of the thermal battery market, manufacturers must also remain technologically competitive to differentiate themselves from the competition, in addition to employing lean production manufacturing operations.
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