August 03, 2013
Car Electric Battery Prices Dropped In Half Since 2008?

A chart in Technology Review shows a decline in electric vehicle battery prices from $1000 per kwh to $485 per kwh since 2008. Realistic?

Suppose the $485/kwh number is correct. Then the 24 kwh Nissan Leaf lithium battery costs Nissan about $11600. Add in other costs including retail mark-up and it suggests the the approximately $30k Nissan Leaf gets sold at a loss. Nissan, GM, and other EV makers don't admit to selling at a loss. But batteries are still very expensive.

The Chevy Volt uses a 16.5 kwh battery which would cost about $8k at $485/kwh.

The Ford Focus Electric, with a 23 kwh battery is getting a $4k price cut to $36k. That 23 kwh battery costs over $11k at $485 per kwh. Keep in mind that those expensive batteries give the Leaf and Focus EV ranges of less than 80 miles per charge. Okay for commuting and shopping. But these are not road trip cars. Also, not practical for anyone who doesn't have an easy way to plug in a charger at home. e.g. EVs do not work well for most apartment dwellers.

Since the Focus Electric was built on the base Focus model we can compare costs. The at under $17k the cheapest Focus costs less than half the Focus EV price. The price difference will buy many years of gasoline.

We need at least another halving of EV electric battery prices to make EVs appealing to more than just the early adopters.

Update: The Leaf battery pack weighs over 600 lbs. Therefore weight, even more than price, currently prevents EVs from moving into use for longer range driving. However, newer lithium battery chemistries might be able to boost the energy density of batteries enough to make EVs practical for few hundred mile trips. For example, a lithium sulfur design has 4 times the energy density of current commercial lithium batteries.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 August 03 10:51 PM 


Comments
destructure said at August 4, 2013 6:01 PM:

They won't have a practical EV for 20 years. If ever. The cheapest, greenest most practical vehicle today is the Ford Focus Econetic that gets about 83 mpg. Only you can't get one in America because diesel is more expensive than gas. Ford marketing concluded that the higher cost of diesel would put people off and they couldn't sell enough to justify converting their Mexican plant to produce the Econetic engine.

So why is diesel so expensive? Because the environmentalists pushed for higher tax on diesel when it was dirtier than regular gas. But with new technology diesel has become cleaner. Only now the environmentalists don't want to drop the diesel tax because they have their little hearts set on EV's. If the tax was lifted then people would switch to more efficient diesels like they did in Europe. But that would kill the EV's. So now we drive cars that burn dirtier gas and get worse gas mileage so that environmentalists can jerk off to their little electric fair tale.

This is another example of how the left is anti science.

Engineer-Poet said at August 5, 2013 7:04 AM:

US diesel was cheaper than gasoline until the mandate for ULSD, at which point a number of refineries quit producing diesel and the rest had a bunch of expensive new hydrotreatment units to pay off, plus the additional hydrogen to run them.  Last, ULSD became a hot commodity on the international market which kept prices up, and tankers carrying crude to the USA could ship finished product back at trivial marginal cost.

Conspiracy theorizing is so silly.

Have I mentioned that my vehicle's lifetime average economy is over 130 MPG?  It's quite a practical car, TYVM.

destructure said at August 5, 2013 6:05 PM:

"US diesel was cheaper than gasoline until the mandate for ULSD"

Most diesel cars were from Europe and couldn't use American diesel until after the USLD mandate. A few European car companies redesigned their engines to handle American diesel but these were more expensive cars out of reach of most Americans. Because ULSD is comparable to European grades, European engines will no longer have to be redesigned to cope with higher sulfur content in the U.S. These engines may use advanced emissions control systems which would otherwise be damaged by sulfur. Thus the ULSD standard is increasing the availability of diesel-fueled passenger cars in the U.S.

Besides, gas was cheaper back then. Everyone was driving SUV's and not batting an eye. The price is more than double, now. People are a lot more concerned about fuel prices, mileage, alternatives, etc.

"Conspiracy theorizing is so silly."

Gore was talking about getting rid of gasoline engines 25 years ago. Most sane people would dismiss him as a nut if he hadn't been VP for 8 years, nominated for President and won the Nobel peace prize for spouting the same crap. Steven Chu got his tail in a crack for saying the same thing just lat year. And the environmentalists are continually ranting about EV's and the evils of fossil fuels. It's hardly a "theory" when they're saying it themselves.

"my vehicle's lifetime average economy is over 130 MPG"

I find that hard to believe.

Engineer-Poet said at August 5, 2013 7:29 PM:
Most diesel cars were from Europe and couldn't use American diesel until after the USLD mandate.
VW had been marketing diesels in the USA off and on since the 70's.  These cars were hardly "out of reach".
gas was cheaper back then. Everyone was driving SUV's and not batting an eye.
Hellooooo, 1979?  Oil price shock #2?  The age of the SUV didn't start until the 90's, after a prolonged period of lower oil prices (prompted by Saudi Arabia pumping all out to help collapse Russia's oil revenues and bring down the Soviet Union).
Gore was talking about getting rid of gasoline engines 25 years ago.
And right he was to do it.  He was late to the party at that; folks had been talking about it since the 60's.  With a PHEV it's not at all difficult to run the ICE 1/3 of the time.  Between batteries, SOFCs, MCFCs and the like, we can probably start getting rid of them in the next decade or so.  We'll gain thermal efficiency and lose all NOx emissions.
And the environmentalists are continually ranting about EV's and the evils of fossil fuels. It's hardly a "theory" when they're saying it themselves.
You're saying "environmentalists" are responsible for the high price of ULSD.  Your claim is provably false (the price differential on my corner is now ~25¢/gallon, of which Federal taxes only account for 6¢), and your hand-waving is dishonest and pathetic.
I find that hard to believe.
You believe nonsense, and disbelieve the truth, so it figures.  Most of my mileage is electric these days.  According to the trip computer I have burned 3.29 gallons since I last filled up.  That was in early June, almost 1200 miles ago.  The car reports lifetime fuel economy over 132 MPG.

The best I ever got on a tank in my old diesel was 44.6 (I think, I'd have to check).  When my average in this car hits 133.8 (3 times the diesel's best) I'm going to open a bottle of champagne.

Randall Parker said at August 5, 2013 9:16 PM:

First off, ULSD was enacted as a requirement because without ULSD it wasn't possible to reduce diesel emissions by much more. So that kept diesel out of the toughest air regulations states and caused them to be too dirty everywhere else. Particulates kill.

Second, federal tax on diesel is only 6 cents per gallon more than on gasoline. Given that diesels drive further per gallon that makes perfect economic sense. We really need to tax more efficient cars more heavily since their owners pay less in fuel taxes.

Third, E-P, 130 mpg? What is it? A Volt?

I am tempted by diesel vehicles because I want to be able to drive long distances without refueling. In a disaster situation that would be handy.

destructure said at August 5, 2013 9:27 PM:

These cars were hardly "out of reach".

VW's diesels may not have been as expensive as Mercedes and Volvo. But they were still pricier than the alternatives. The numbers didn't add up at the time.

"Hellooooo, 1979? Oil price shock #2?"

OPEC cut production to retaliate for the US backing Israel. Prices spiked and went back down. In order for it to affect the market it would have to be sustained above a certain price point.

"And right he was to do it. we can probably start getting rid of them in the next decade or so."

Gore has been saying that for over 25 years.

You're saying "environmentalists" are responsible for the high price of ULSD. Your claim is provably false (the price differential on my corner is now ~25/gallon, of which Federal taxes only account for 6), and your hand-waving is dishonest and pathetic.

Diesel is more efficient than gas. So it doesn't really matter that the tax only makes up 6 of the 25 cent difference per gallon. What matters is the total cost of ownership per mile and whether it's cheaper or more expensive. If diesel cars are slightly more expensive then taxing the fuel to make it slightly more expensive suppresses the transition to diesel. That's huge because refineries are currently set up to process gas and can't process diesel as efficiently. Once market demand flips to diesel like it has in Europe and a lot of other countries then they'll modify the refineries and diesel will become a lot less expensive.

"Most of my mileage is electric these days. According to the trip computer I have burned 3.29 gallons since I last filled up."

It's dishonest to claim your car gets 130 mpg when you're driving electric because very little of that 130 miles is actually fueled by "gallons". When you consider the total cost of ownership (car, batteries, etc) per mile it's not that good.

Engineer-Poet said at August 5, 2013 10:25 PM:
OPEC cut production to retaliate for the US backing Israel. Prices spiked and went back down.
Prices went back down because swing producer Saudi Arabia cooperated to demolish Russia.  Building long-term demand for its only profitable export (jihadis don't provide remittances) was a side effect.
VW's diesels may not have been as expensive as Mercedes and Volvo. But they were still pricier than the alternatives.
Pricier than what alternatives?  The TCO of the same vehicle with a gas engine?  It wasn't for people driving 20k miles/year in 2004, and the economics got even better as oil prices climbed through the decade.
Gore has been saying that for over 25 years.
You're repeating yourself, and making it sound like an accusation without showing that he was wrong.  IOW, you're behaving like a religious fanatic... or a troll.

If you know anything about hybrid and PHEV technology it's not hard to see that we could have built a lower-tech equivalent of the Prius HSD system using brushed motors in the 70's, maybe earlier.  Plug-in hybrids were a possible solution to much of the air pollution problem even then, reducing the emissions surges from throttle transients.  These were not pursued because regulations were crafted in such a way as to make plug-in hybrids uncertifiable for emissions!  If the car didn't idle, it was considered faulty.

Diesel is more efficient than gas. So it doesn't really matter that the tax only makes up 6 of the 25 cent difference per gallon.
You must be getting awfully tired, carting those goalposts around.  I hope you pull a muscle and have to limit your sophistic exertions to repetitions of Monty Python's "Argument clinic" for a week.
What matters is the total cost of ownership per mile and whether it's cheaper or more expensive.
The gas version of my last car was EPA rated about 26 MPG; I got about 38.  Over 150,000 miles that's about 1800 gallons of fuel.  The price varied, but I'm sure I got my money's worth (especially in reduced economy penalty when carrying a load).
It's dishonest to claim your car gets 130 mpg when you're driving electric because very little of that 130 miles is actually fueled by "gallons".
What am I supposed to measure, then?  I guesstimate upwards of 50 MPG when cruising in hybrid mode.  Cost of energy for battery-powered driving is about 2¢/mile.
When you consider the total cost of ownership (car, batteries, etc) per mile it's not that good.
Surprise, I agree that it probably isn't if you assume normal circumstances.  However, I gained the ability to operate for extended periods in local driving using almost no liquid fuel; if I so desire, I can run the entire summer season on half a tank.  If there's a local shortage of fuel, I can go about my usual routine and just wait it out; I can stockpile fuel for several months with a single trip to the service station.  Maybe you don't put a high enough price on that capability to pronounce it a good buy, but I consider it insurance.  It's also a lot cheaper than buying and insuring both an ICEV and e.g. a Leaf.

A capability I have not yet explored is the use of the vehicle as an electric generator.  A big generator can cost several thousand dollars, so that may be a bargain.  Sadly, the car's 110 VAC outlet is only rated at 150 watts.  OTOH, the power and energy capacity of the traction battery is more than enough to run welders or large electric motors.  That's for the future.

Engineer-Poet said at August 5, 2013 10:27 PM:
130 mpg? What is it? A Volt?
Fusion.  There are a number of free chargers around my usual haunts, and I have been running gas-free more often than not.
I am tempted by diesel vehicles because I want to be able to drive long distances without refueling. In a disaster situation that would be handy.
The Fusion will easily take 3 5-gallon fuel cans in the trunk, which will give you about 1250 miles total range.  This doesn't compare to the Passat TDI which can easily top 700 miles on its own tank, but the Passat remains dependent on liquid fuel for every mile.
destructure said at August 6, 2013 7:56 AM:

"Prices went back down because swing producer Saudi Arabia cooperated to demolish Russia."

After OPEC cut production, people demanded price controls. Which only caused shortages and higher prices. Prices went back down after Reagan ended the price controls. Not that it matters. What matters is what the price is not why the price is.

"It wasn't for people driving 20k miles/year in 2004, and the economics got even better as oil prices climbed through the decade."

Yeah. And a lot more people are buying diesels, too. Sales growth would be even higher if there was an incentives and subsidies (like there is for EV) rather than a tax (like there is for diesel).

"You're repeating yourself, and making it sound like an accusation without showing that he was wrong. IOW, you're behaving like a religious fanatic... or a troll."

It's not an accusation. It's a fact. And the word you're looking for is heretic.

"it's not hard to see that we could have built a lower-tech equivalent of the Prius HSD system using brushed motors in the 70's, maybe earlier. (..) These were not pursued because regulations were crafted in such a way as to make plug-in hybrids uncertifiable for emissions!"

Speaking of conspiracy theories...

"You must be getting awfully tired, carting those goalposts around."

Goalposts are right where they've always been -- total cost of ownership. I said that in the next sentence. But you omitted it when you quoted me.

"What am I supposed to measure, then?"

TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP??? I said that in the next sentence which you once again took out of context.

"Surprise, I agree that it probably isn't if you assume normal circumstances. However, I gained the ability to..."

You gained the ability to do stuff that's worthless.

***

Speaking of TCO, here's a spreadsheet where you can plug in the numbers and see which is lowest. Feel free to massage the numbers to get the answer you like. haha They have several examples and the results are all fairly close between EV's and gas. But you know what they left out? Well, aside from incentives and taxes -- which distort the true cost of EV's -- they left out the cost of replacement batteries which is $18 THOUSAND!!! for the Nissan Leaf. They also left out diesel.

http://www.squidoo.com/a-free-calculator-for-economy-hybrid-and-electric-cars

So here's one comparing gas with diesel. Diesel bested gas by thousands. Considering how close TCO is for gas vs EV's -- with incentives and subsidies -- this means diesel beats the crap out of your precious EV, too. Plug the numbers into the spreadsheet and see if it isn't so. And then realize that the most cost effective diesel (Ford Focus ECOnetic) isn't even available in the US. That's a shame.

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2013/06/umtri-20130628.html

destructure said at August 6, 2013 8:27 AM:

Randall

We really need to tax more efficient cars more heavily since their owners pay less in fuel taxes.

Based on that logic and Poet's claims, we should be taxing the heck out of EV's. Instead they're getting subsidies and incentives. Discriminatory taxes, subsidies & incentives distort the market which leads to inefficiencies.

Nick G said at August 6, 2013 2:37 PM:

Randall,

Someday, taxes on more efficient cars may make sense. At the moment, fuel taxes need to be increased sharply to internalize pollution and security costs - that'll be more than enough to pay for road construction and maintenance.

Abuzuzu said at August 6, 2013 8:50 PM:

fuel taxes need to be increased sharply to internalize pollution and security costs - that'll be more than enough to pay for road construction and maintenance.

No it will not. Fuel taxes get spent on urban bus systems and bike paths for tony suburbs. Fixing roads? Nobody gets re-elected for fixing roads

Engineer-Poet said at August 7, 2013 10:22 AM:
Goalposts are right where they've always been -- total cost of ownership.

Which has to include the opportunity costs of the things it CANNOT do, as well as the hedging against future trends.  For instance, having a single cheap SUV may be good for immediate cash flow, but it ieaves one exposed against fuel price increases and the bidding up of prices of economical vehicles which accompanies it.  If you have an outright fuel shortage, you are stranded much sooner than others.

You gained the ability to do stuff that's worthless.

People stuck in the great Southeastern gas shortage of 2008 would not agree with you.  There was recently a price spike in my area due to some refinery outages.  This affected me not at all, and wouldn't have even if it progressed to outright lack of fuel at stations; it would have had to affect food deliveries before it bothered me.  Prices were up about 50¢/gallon, during which time I drove about 700 miles.  If my car got 25 MPG, I'd've spent an extra $14 on top of the usual $98.  Instead, my total expenditure for fuel over the period was about $10.

Then there's opportunity cost.  Fuel cost is no longer a factor for most of my in-town trips; I am much freer.

they left out the cost of replacement batteries which is $18 THOUSAND!!! for the Nissan Leaf.

They're assuming the Leaf battery costs $720/kWh?  Try $400 and dropping.  By the time my Fusion needs a new traction battery, I expect the replacement pack to be lithium-sulfur or have silicon-based anodes and extend the electric range by at least 50%.  If the replacement is 12 kWh and costs $300/kWh in 2018, it'll be only $3600.  The savings will probably be up to $2000/yr or more by then.

They also left out diesel.

The turbo GDI engines are getting close to diesel efficiency, so I'm not sure that diesel is the killer it once was.  I have had trouble finding diesel fuel in some places (another opportunity cost) and am not going to miss that part either.

Nick G said at August 7, 2013 12:10 PM:

Engineer-Poet,

The standard criterion for battery replacement is 70% capacity. What's the expected timeframe for replacement? If the battery needs replacement after 10 years, the market value of the car will be much lower, and battery replacement might seem like a big expense, even if it's only $3,600.

I wonder if it wouldn't make more sense to simply add an additional 3.6kWh for about $1,100, perhaps with a kit that uses a bit of trunk space. Or, heck, add more and get more range!

Engineer-Poet said at August 7, 2013 7:52 PM:

If the car's major systems are still in good health (and for all I know, it may still be on the original set of brake pads!), it might well be worth a few grand of battery replacement and upgrade.

I'm interested in drop-in battery upgrades, but so far nobody's offering one and there's no provision for connecting one anyway.  And if you think about it, the usefulness of such an add-on battery might decrease over time:  as convenient charging points appear at typical places where you'd park, you can top up the existing battery and need even less capacity for the remaining legs of the day's driving.  I suppose this all depends on how people react to the addition of infrastructure.

destructure said at August 8, 2013 9:48 AM:

as well as the hedging against future trends.

Peak oil?

If you have an outright fuel shortage, you are stranded much sooner than others.

I've never been stranded.

People stuck in the great Southeastern gas shortage of 2008 would not agree with you.

Should I base my opinion on a 2 week spike in gas prices? "Future trends"? Or what exists right now and in the foreseeable future? I'll base it on the most likely scenario during the time I'm likely to own it.

Fuel cost is no longer a factor for most of my in-town trips; I am much freer.

Batteries are good for ~10,000 cycles. Do the math.

They're assuming the Leaf battery costs $720/kWh? Try $400 and dropping. By the time my Fusion needs a new traction battery, I expect the replacement pack to be lithium-sulfur or have silicon-based anodes and extend the electric range by at least 50%.

The $720/kwh figure was from a 2010 WSJ article on the Nissan Leaf. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) reports $689/kwh in 2012 (Q1). Part of the recent cost drops is due to manufacturing supply chain cost reductions, but the main part of the drop is simply due to increased supply relative to demand. In other words, the price is dropping because demand isn't keeping up with production. That's not sustainable. Either demand will increase to drive battery prices back up or they'll lower production capacity which will drive prices back up.

The U.S. Department of Energy has set cost targets for its sponsored battery research of US$300 per kilowatt hour in 2015 and US$125 per kilowatt hour by 2022. Sounds like a plan -- a 5 year plan. Stalin would be proud. However, current projections estimate battery costs to only reach $150/kWh by 2030. Battery professor Poul Norby states that lithium batteries will need to double their energy density and bring down the price from $500 (2010) to $100 per kWh capacity in order to make an impact on petrol cars.

Nothing would make me happier than to have cleaner, less inexpensive transportation. I'd buy one myself. But, like I said in my very first comment, They won't have a practical EV for 20 years."

Randall Parker said at August 10, 2013 11:58 AM:

E-P,

So you've turned a conventional Fusion hybrid into a PHEV? Or did you get a Fusion Energi PHEV?

Battery upgrade: I expect the battery prices will come down and power densities will go up. So upgrades to improve range seem like they'll be practical. The after market will probably produce batteries with the right form factors for the higher volume sales vehicles.

Another way to protect yourself from gasoline price spikes: Live close to work. My walk to work takes about 20 minutes. Though I drive more often to save time.

Total cost of ownership: I think one thing missing from this is time cost. For someone whose time is highly valuable consider:

- going to gas stations takes time.
- PHEVs and HEVs break down less often (as in you can't move) because they have some redundancy in power sources.
- HEVs, PHEVs, and EVs go further between brake jobs due to regenerative braking.

If one has a higher income or higher net worth then the risk of $10 per gallon gasoline is not a major factor. Ditto if you are a low mileage driver. A tripling of the cost of gasoline would be no big deal to me even though I drive an old inefficient car.

As for buying an old cheap gas hog: If you buy one and gasoline prices skyrocket you can always buy something else. I've saved thousands of dollars per year by not buying something new that depreciates in value by thousands of dollars per year. Even $20 per gallon gasoline won't cost me much compared to what I've saved.

destructure,

As for when EVs will be practical: It depends on your use cases. Someone who drivers 50 miles to work each day and whose employer supplies electric recharge outlets can avoid 2+ gallons per day of gasoline consumption (assuming the alternative is one of the most fuel efficient gasoline cars) by driving a Nissan Leaf. Result: at least 400 gallons of cost saved per year. Granted, that's a perfect sweet spot for EVs that few fit and I feel sorry for the person stuck driving 100 miles per day.

The Leaf, Volt, and other PHEVs/EVs have had their costs cut by over $4000 each. More price cuts are on the horizon.

For the highly affluent the Tesla sedan is very slick transportation. Consumer Reports gave it a 99 out of 100 rating. Near perfect luxury car. I've watched them weave thru traffic. Great acceleration and handling. I see a lot of them where I live.

Randall Parker said at August 10, 2013 11:59 AM:

Time value of money: It is also worth noting that a diesel will break down less often. Greater reliability is a feature.

Engineer-Poet said at August 11, 2013 11:10 AM:

The amazing convenience of just plugging in when you hit the garage is something about PHEVs that you really need to experience to understand.  I haven't bought gas for my car (yes, it's an Energi) since June.  It's something I don't miss; I only hit C-stores for things I want, not what the car needs.

The average age of US LDVs is over 11 years and on an upward trend; obviously, they continue to be worth more to repair than to replace.  This suggests that the average PHEV is likely to see at least 1 battery refurbishment or replacement during its lifespan, especially since the lighter toll placed on components like the engine and brakes will give them greater lifespans as well.  A battery replacement is likely to give the car better EV performance than it had when new.  My portable phones came with 550 mAh batteries, but when they wore out I replaced them with 700 and 750 mAh batteries.  The hand units are literally better than new now.  EVs will be the same.

Daniel Fletcher said at August 14, 2013 12:45 PM:

Electrical car batteries reduced by half in price in 5 years... hmm..assuming the numbers are right, which i am still doubtful of, this is extremely good news for electrical car lovers.

ABC said at August 15, 2013 8:54 PM:

@ Engineer-Poet

Ford has been caught exaggerating the mileage for its hybrid by 20%:

http://www.businessinsider.com/ford-lowers-mpg-claims-for-c-max-hybrid-2013-8

Engineer-Poet said at August 16, 2013 10:21 AM:

My measurements agree with what my car reports to within about 1%.

ABC said at August 16, 2013 3:00 PM:

Check your measurements.

Have any third-parties checked your measurements?

Nick G said at August 16, 2013 3:46 PM:

ABC,

You're referring to the hybrid, and E-P is talking about the extended range EV. Also, you're thinking of the EPA sticker, and he's talking about the day to day readouts.

ABC said at August 16, 2013 4:16 PM:

Nick G,

He seems to be taking his own measurements though. That's subject to bias.

Engineer-Poet said at August 16, 2013 4:41 PM:

I'm taking what the odometer and the gas pump report to me, and comparing it against the car's computer readings.

It's close enough for government work.  Anything better than 3% error is plenty good to draw broad comparisons.

Heh, Captcha:  "3dxagw"

Steven Larson said at November 11, 2013 4:53 AM:

Hopefully they will get even cheaper in time, despite their significant price reduction i think they are still overpriced.

Mike the Mechanic said at March 9, 2015 12:31 AM:

In the last five years or so the prices of batteries have become more affordable.

Jeffrey said at July 6, 2015 7:03 AM:

Is price the only operative factor? No... Charge time is MUCH bigger. How many drivers would switch to electric if we just had a viable way to charge the bloody things?

That's why I think fast-charge tech is the real kicker here, even if it's more expensive. Aluminum graphite for example: http://www.extremetech.com/electronics/202778-an-aluminum-graphite-battery-that-could-charge-your-smartphone-in-60-seconds

You put this stuff in a car, and you've just put electrics on the map again.

Jerry T. said at April 12, 2017 12:03 PM:

Depending on the state that you live in, you may also qualify for tax rebates for electric cars, making them even more affordable.

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