December 11, 2012
How Much Electric Vehicle Battery Prices Have Dropped

Looking back at a piece Kevin Bullis did on A123's failure in the electric vehicle battery market place a statement by one of the A123 founders gives an insight into a recurring debate that has raged off and on in the comments of FuturePundit posts: electric vehicle battery costs are now at $500 per kilowatt-hour.

Battery makers have driven costs down over the last several years, from about $1,000 per kilowatt-hour to $500 per kilowatt-hour, says Yet-Ming Chiang, a materials scientist at MIT and one of the founders of A123. And those costs are likely to be cut in half again over the next decade, he says. If startups are to succeed, they’ll need to offer something far cheaper and higher performing.

But $250 per kilowatt-hour is still too much to allow EVs to succeed in the mass market. Yet with current trends in lithium ion batteries that's where we'll end up. So it is not surprising that Jim Lentz of Toyota says lithium ion batteries are a transitional technology. The start-ups that claim they can get down to $150 per kilowatt-hour or even less are the ones to pay attention to. For example, Alveo Energy claim they can hit $100 per kilowatt-hour. If they can pull that off many of us will be driving around on electric power.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 December 11 10:37 PM 

Ronald Brak said at December 12, 2012 3:19 AM:

With a ten year life span $250 a kilowatt-hour battery packs should be money savers for most people in the world - if what they are competing against is standard internal combustion engine cars. Even current $500 a kilowatt-hour batteries could pay for themselves in the right applications such as taxis and delivery vans. Maybe in Melbourne electric taxis could charge off the tram lines, but since Melbourne's electricity is some of the most greenhouse gas intense in the world that's not really helping anyone.

Engineer-Poet said at December 13, 2012 3:18 PM:

The other factor in the savings is the specific power and cycle life.  An ultracap at $1000/kWh and a lifespan of 1 million cycles at 100 C charge/discharge rate would be a bargain for hybrid vehicles; the kinetic energy of a 1500 kg vehicle moving at 60 MPH is only 150 Wh, so $300 in capacitors would provide plenty of margin.

Wolf-Dog said at December 14, 2012 4:08 PM:

But the most astounding insult is this: In all these Middle Eastern wars we wasted more than a $1 trillion in 10 years, but for academic battery research, the government merely grants a few million dollars here and there. Since October 2001, if the government had given $10 billion per year for academic research for batteries only, we would have already obtained some results.

Engineer-Poet said at December 15, 2012 5:51 AM:

Government tried the "throw-money-at-it" thing with solar.  We got Solyndra.  A123Systems got government money, then went bankrupt; it is selling out to the Chinese.

Ronald Brak said at December 15, 2012 4:22 PM:

Germany spent money on solar and got $2 an installed watt as a result, although they didn't quite throw money at it, they more moved large amounts of money around as most of the work was done through feed in tariffs which are mostly a transfer and not a cost. Thanks to them solar is now the cheapest source of electricity for most Australians, so I'd like to thank Germany. And so the US doesn't feel left out I'd like to thank them for the transistor, radiocarbon dating, acrylic paint, spray paint, compilers, hard drives, lasers, bubble wrap, satellites that don't just make beeping or barking noises, computer chips, a vast amount of mining equipment, and all sorts of stuff. And World War II. Here in Australia most of our research goes into mites and things, which is vital work and saves lives, but we are research light on low carbon energy. We spend a little here and a little there, but currently we are just getting incentives right, or at least righter, with our carbon price. A carbon price is neat beacuse it is the most efficient way to cut emissions and doesn't require top down control. Anyway, while it's possible to support a winning technology as Germany did, picking a winning company is more difficult, and putting a price on what you don't want tends is most efficient.

Wolf-Dog said at December 15, 2012 5:37 PM:


Excellent point: The government threw money at the wrong method. Instead of subsidizing pure research, it subsidized the mass-production of immature technologies.

Nick G said at January 3, 2013 9:45 AM:

There's a really basic point here that is being missed: Fuel is badly underpriced in the US.

We all agree that pollution (including CO2) and security of supply are very real costs, right? Climate Change, and ME military costs and domestic security costs (probably $500B per year) are very expensive.

So, these costs should be priced into fuel, right? Fuel should probably be priced in the US at least where it is in Europe.

Right now partial electics (hybrids) are the optimal point for cost savings, but if fuel was priced at $7-$8/gallon, we'd see much, much faster movement towards hybrids, PHEVS, EREVs, and EVs, right??

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