Samsung SDI is tightening its grip in the global battery market for electric bicycles as demand for them surges on their economic and eco-friendly benefits.
As of the end of last year, the company was No. 1 with a 27 percent share in the global electric bicycle battery market, according to U.S.-based data analytics firm B3. The battery-making affiliate of Samsung Group expects the market to grow more quickly in years to come.
The company estimates that the lithium-ion battery market for electric bicycles will grow 18 percent to 252 million cells this year from 214 million last year.
Despite the relatively-high initial purchase price, electric bikes are gaining traction here and abroad, as they can travel up to 100 kilometers per charge, which is a fit for daily commuters, the company said. On top of that, the emerging transportation does not emit carbon, as it does not use fossil fuel.
One notable difference from traditional bicycles is that electric bicycles drivers do not have to hassle to pedal up slopes.
The global electric vehicles industry is on a path to adopt the lithium-ion batteries as a major power source instead of lead-acid batteries, according to Samsung SDI. The company estimates more than 80 percent of existing electric bicycles are equipped with lead-acid batteries, but lithium-ion batteries expanded their market share to 17 percent last year.
Jun Young-hyun, Samsung SDI CEO
Global sales of electric bikes were 40 million in 2015, up from 32 million in 2012, according to the Electric Worldwide Report.
"Even if Koreans are lesser-known for electric bikes, other countries ― particularly China and European countries ― remain quick to embrace the emerging transportation as a substitute for cars," a Samsung SDI official said. "This is because demand runs high for eco-friendly products in such countries."
In Korea, only some 17,000 electric bicycles were sold in 2015, lagging far behind the numbers in other major economies, according to the Korea Transport Institute.
But Samsung SDI remains optimistic for the industry's growth potential here, as the nation is one of the most optimized markets for the electric bikes because of geographical features ― represented by many hills, mountains and heavy traffic jams in most downtown areas.
Samsung SDI tapped into the industry in 2010 when the market was in its infancy. The company then focused on some target countries ― mostly in Europe and Asia, rapidly expanding its sales channels with the firm's touted high battery capacity, long-term life cycle and compact design.