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UK report sees step-change improvements in performance of EV batteries as “highly unlikely” through 2020

17 April 2012

Element
Li-ion technology and cost directions through 2030. Click to enlarge.

Step-change improvements in performance of advanced automotive batteries are “highly unlikely” to occur out through 2020 as there are no “breakthrough” technologies approaching the electronic consumer market—which is where battery chemistry innovations first appear before trickling down to the more demanding automotive market—today, according to a new report commissioned by the UK Committee on Climate Change.

However, next-generation technologies delivering higher specific energy such as nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) and composite cathodes and high-capacity anodes (e.g., silicon) are estimated to be available in a series vehicle around 2020. Higher voltage cathode chemistries are expected to follow, the report concludes.

These developments could take the energy density of lithium-ion cells close to 300 Wh/kg. As the automotive market grows, new cells will be increasingly developed for that market as well as trickling down from the consumer cell market.

The Committee on Climate Change commissioned energy consultancy Element Energy, Li-ion manufacturer Axeon, and Prof. Peter Bruce of EastChem to investigate the future trajectory of batteries cost and performance. The report—Cost and performance of EV batteries—describes the current state of development and cost of batteries, before mapping the future cost and performance of lithium-ion batteries out to 2030. The report also explores the trajectory of battery technology beyond 2030 through the study of lithium-air batteries, currently the most promising post lithium-ion battery.

Following a review of existing battery cost models, the authors developed a bottom-up component-based approach to cost modeling of lithium-ion cells to 2030. The cost model contains cell component and pack component costs, where each is designed to be fit for purpose for a set of vehicles over the period to 2030. Within the cell module there are sub-models related to cell design, material consumption, manufacturing cost, factory throughput and overheads.

The authors identified two main cost drivers: improvement in material properties delivering higher energy densities; and scaling-up in production of large cell formats.

Current costs for a pure EV of ~$800/kWh at pack level translates into a pack cost of $21,000 for a 2012 medium-sized BEV with a range of 150 km (93 miles), the report found. In 2030, under a baseline scenario, this is predicted to drop to $6,400 for a BEV with a range of 250 km (155 miles).

The authors note that batteries for plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are more constrained by power density, as the smaller packs have higher discharge rates during acceleration. It results in a higher cost per kWh for a PHEV compared to pure battery electric vehicle.

While lithium-air batteries (if successfully deployed) eventually could bring cost savings at the cell level, this saving is reduced by the increased cost of packing arising from the lower cell voltage and the requirement for more air management. Cost modeling in the report suggests that in the long term, the deployment of Li-air would not be expected to bring a significant cost reduction on the pack level compared to the advanced lithium-ion batteries expected to be developed by 2030. However the approximate 50% weight saving which may be expected with Li-air would have other benefits such as reduced chassis weight and better performance.

Based on the observed development times for battery technologies and the current challenges lithium-air cells face, practical lithium-air batteries for automotive applications are not expected before 2030, according to the report.

This report predicts future Li-Air performance between 500-1000 Wh/kg (at cell level—a factor 2-3 improvement over expectations for Li-Ion in 2030). This is based on historical data on the ratio between theoretical and practical energy of other chemistries and is in accordance with expert opinion, according to the authors.

The technology roadmap assumes that lithium-ion chemistries will reach their highest practicable energy density through the development of high voltage cathodes. There are significant and fundamental technical challenges to be overcome before these technologies can be deployed, such as the development of an electrolyte stable at a high voltage.

The cost benefits brought by high production volume of battery packs are highly dependent on the uptake of EVs. Looking at the announced new production capacity, there is a significant risk of over-capacity in the next 5 years if consumers do not take to the technology; this could stall further investment.

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BTW, my opposition to fast recharging is not to the fast chargers themselves but to the idea of locating them at petrol stations. Gas stations need to maintain a fast through-put and having EVs sit on-site for even 15 mins each is too much. It would be a better idea to place the recharges at locations you know people want to stop for bit of time: Coffee shops and cafes, roadside lookouts/rest stops, fast food places, etc.

So, they take a $24,000 ICE car, add a $12,000 battery and sell it for $39,000.

Where's the ICE engine, transmission, fuel system, exhaust system, ignition system, .. perhaps $15,000 in costs left in the original ICE $24,000 price? A replacement electric motor/electronics are/should be a fraction of those ICE costs.

@Mahoni

I fully support Chevy Volt kind of paradigm. What's the point wasting money supper batteries in case you could cover 90% of your distance electric and the rest with very high MPG and using sustainable range extender fuel like ethanol or other available stuff at the same time maintaining all advantages of pure ICE. I just oppose over-engineered Chevy Volt's driver-train. It should be based on modular locomotive principles.

I agree about the Volt's engine. A 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with 80HP is too big. Even a traditional car (one getting e.g. 30 miles per gallon) utilizes only 20HP on the average and closer to 10HP while running at a steady 60mph on a level road.

As I noted elsewhere, the Fiat Multi-Air with 2 cylinders is sufficient for the Volt.  It's smaller and lighter, the turbo version has considerably more power, and I would bet that it has superior efficiency due to the VVT.

No one will buy a car that is limited to 70mph in the USA.. its a fact!

Um people if you read the report itself it makes perfect sense.

The cells themselvers are around 400 per kwh.. but the pack they are put into and all its support stuff doubles this cost.

Also remember most of the cost reductions for lith batteries already took place as they went from tiny batteries to common battery sizes... there simply isnt that much more to wring out of the process. Anything that big and complex and requiring of testing and all.. will always be spendy to put into a car.

@ai_vin,

I used to think the same thing about them wanting quick turnover at gas stations. But at least on the interstates, they have turned the entire model around. They try everything they can to get you to stay there and spend money. Adding multiple restaurants, different kinds of stores, etc.

I think they make more *profit* from the other things you buy piddling around than they do from the gasoline.

@wintermane,
Yes, but they're talking about pack level cost in 2020 which are the same as even Ford is offering today at the pack level. And that is with literally no volume and no progress between now and 2020 being taken into account.

The parts you're talking about being so complex really are analogous to other electronics and no matter how complex them seem, the prices on those come way down over time.

The wiring in a battery pack is certainly no more complex than all the circuitry in a modern flat screen, high def television.

160 Wh/kg and $400/kWh by 2020 ?

Tesla are already using Panasonic cells at 237 Wh/kg, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently said he sees his battery price "dropping below $200/kWh soon".

Yes clett.....something is wrong with this study. It seems that they used 2010 technology, performance and cost instead of 2020?

Here is a map that shows the energy required to create the electricity to charge an EV. Depending on where you are in the U.S. the 100 MPGe is more like 50 mpg in real terms.

http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/images/cv/electric-cars-global-warming-emissions-fact-2.jpg

50 MPG isn't bad at all, and what else can you use that lets you run on domestic coal or gas, nuclear, hydro, wind or even solar without conversion losses or doing a thing to the vehicle?

DaveD:  Wiring in the pack proper is about as complicated as stringing beads to make a necklace.  The battery management system will add some to that, but it's not going to be a big deal either.

No one will buy a car that is limited to 70mph in the USA.. its a fact!

And a smaller engined Volt would not be so limited. Remember its wheels are not driven by the IC engine but by the EV motor. Energy from the ICE could keep the car at a steady speed on the highway while the energy in the batteries was used for bursts of higher speed when needed.

I used to think the same thing about them wanting quick turnover at gas stations. But at least on the interstates, they have turned the entire model around. They try everything they can to get you to stay there and spend money. Adding multiple restaurants, different kinds of stores, etc.

I think they make more *profit* from the other things you buy piddling around than they do from the gasoline.

So we agree then? Don't put the chargers at the gas station's pump island but at the restaurant's parking spaces.

And yeah, a station owner will make more money selling you a bottle of pop than a tank of gas.

I do not know how many quick chargers you will get at oil company gasoline stations. They do not make the electricity, they make gasoline. Unless it is very profitable, more so than car washes and junk food, they would not offer it, because it is a substitute for what they make and sell, gasoline.

DaveD made the point I was going to add. Basically the price is $500 per kWh, which is about half of what it was a few years ago. Another drop to $300 per kWh and your already at the 1/3 price or actually a little better. Doubling the capacity is a different story. It is probably already possible, but it's hard to tell. The announcement by Envia of a 400 Wh/L battery suggests it is already possible. However, they don't provide enough specific information in their announcement to truely prove their claim. Also, even if their claim is true it will take some considerable time to qualify the battery with the car companies. As we see with the GM explosion, that can be a somewhat testing process, although we know GM was doing some extreme testing. Anyway, this report is likely being very conservative and as was mentioned by another commenter, the committee probably has a different agenda. I think cost will be at $300 by 2015 or before and capacity will be double by 2015 or 2016. That's three years from now. That's plenty of time. Of course, this assumes the car companies start volume production and consumers buy, which may be the real hurdle. I think if the price is right the consumers will buy, but the car prices are not there yet.

ai_vin

"Gas stations need to maintain a fast through-put and having EVs sit on-site for even 15 mins each is too much."

That is not true. All petrol stations here have a resting area where you can park your car as long as you like. They won't like it when you occupy a pump, but I said nothing about installing a fast charger next to the petrol/diesel pumps. That would be stupid. The fast chargers are located at the resting area. 15 or 30 minute stops are no problem. On the contrary. people hanging around are bound to get either hungry, thirsty or bored. And that means: sales.

"A 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with 80HP is too big. Even a traditional car (one getting e.g. 30 miles per gallon) utilizes only 20HP on the average and closer to 10HP while running at a steady 60mph on a level road"

The Volt must be capable of sustained climbing with an empty battery. I wouldn't want to try and climb a mountain pass in a 1.7 ton vehicle with 20 hp.

"Remember its wheels are not driven by the IC engine but by the EV motor"

The engine is linked to the wheels through a planetary gearset and can drive the wheels directly for increased efficiency.

I see chargers off to the side like vacuums for the car wash, you do not hold up a fuel pump location and you can be there for a while.

I would guess that independent fueling stations might be more willing to put in chargers. It is a revenue source and the contract limitations with the oil companies may not be as restrictive.

@Anne

And that's why I said "to place the recharges at locations you know people want to stop for bit of time: Coffee shops and cafes, roadside lookouts/rest stops, fast food places, etc."

If the "petrol stations" in your country have resting areas then they are rest stops. Let's not disagree about agreeing.

Our Rest Areas/Stops, at about every 30 Km to 50 Km on all major highways, do not have Restaurants nor smelly Gas stations but have clean Restrooms and outside tables. Some have Tourist Information Office. Trucks have separate stop areas/lanes closer to highway and are not allowed to use the areas/lanes reserved for cars.

Food+ and Gas Stops also exist at most major cross roads but are a bit more removed.

Most rest stops I see have vending machines, but that's not much for amenities compared to a C-store.

@ai_vin,

In the eye of 90% of the people (including me), they're petrol stations since they only go there to fill up and hardly ever use the resting area. That's just an extra convenience, just as the sale of food and beverages. So that was the confusion.

Even if a petrol station does not have a resting area, there is always room for a few extra parking spaces with fast chargers. My key point is that for the long term adoption of BEV's you have to be able to trust on a functioning fast charger at every petrol station along the motorway.

You don't want to be driving along "Hmmm, I should be able to make it to the petrol station after the next one, but is it equipped with a fast charger? Better charge up now, you never know". That's the kind of planning that I think will be a showstopper for the majority of the public.

I doubt that a GPS overlay with all the charging stations on it will be long in coming.  Worse comes to worst, ask Siri.

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