Kia’s Cadenza Sedan Gets A Carbon Footprint Certificate; All Future Kia Models To Follow Suit
Valero Renewables to Purchase Three More Ethanol Plants; Total Capacity 1.1B Gallons Per Year

US National Research Council Report Finds Plug-in Hybrid Costs Likely to Remain High; Fleet Fuel Consumption and Carbon Emissions Benefits Will Be Modest for Decades

NRC projections of number of PHEVs in the US light-duty fleet. Click to enlarge.

Costs of light-duty plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are high—largely due to their lithium-ion batteries—and unlikely to drastically decrease in the near future, according to a new report from the National Research Council (NRC). The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the US National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

The report considers two PHEV configurations: 10-mile all electric range (PHEV-10) and 40-mile all-electric range (PHEV-40). The PHEV-10, similar to the Prius Plug-In (earlier post) has a larger battery pack than an HEV to allow 10 miles of driving powered by electricity only and a gasoline engine that drives the wheels in parallel with the electric motor when power demand is high or the batteries are discharged.

The other vehicle, the PHEV-40, is similar to the Chevrolet Volt (earlier post). It has a 40-mile electric range, a larger electric motor, and a much larger battery than the PHEV-10. In the PHEV-40, the electric motor provides all the propulsion; the gasoline engine drives a generator that powers the motor and keeps the batteries charged above some minimum level.

The cost to the manufacturer of producing the first generation of the PHEV-10 (2010–2012) is expected to be about $6,300 more than that of the equivalent conventional mid-size car (non-hybrid), including $3,300 for the battery pack. Similarly, the PHEV-40 with a $14,000 battery pack would cost about $18,100 more.

The lithium-ion battery technology used to run these vehicles is the key determinant of their cost and range on electric power. Costs will decline with technology improvements and economies of scale, but Li-ion batteries are already being produced in great numbers for consumer devices and are well along their learning curves, according to the NRC report. The steep early drop in cost often experienced with new technologies is not likely. The cost to manufacture these vehicles is expected to decline by about one-third by 2020 but only slowly thereafter.

It is possible that breakthroughs in battery technology will greatly lower the cost. At this point, however, it is not clear what sorts of breakthroughs might become commercially viable. Furthermore, even if they occur within the next decade, they are unlikely to have much impact before 2030, because it takes many years to get large numbers of vehicles incorporating new technology on the road.

—“Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies—Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles”

Penetration rates for the PHEV-10 and the PHEV-40 were compared to a Reference Case that assumes high oil prices and fuel economy standards specified by EISA 2007 (with modest increases after 2020, when those standards level off), as described in the 2008 Hydrogen Report from NRC. The maximum practical scenario is the fastest rate at which the committee concluded that PHEVs could penetrate the market considering various manufacturing and market barriers; it leads to about 40 million PHEVs by 2030 in a fleet of about 300 million vehicles.

However, factors such as high cost, limited availability of places to plug in, and market competition suggest that 13 million is a more realistic number, the report says. Even this more modest estimate assumes that current levels of government support will continue for several decades. Subsidies in the tens to hundreds of billions of dollars over that period will be needed if plug-ins are to achieve rapid penetration of the US automotive market.

Most of the electricity used to power these cars will be supplied from the nation’s power grid. If charged at night when the demand for electricity is lowest, the grid would be able to handle the additional demand for millions of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, the report says. However, if drivers charge their vehicles at times of high demand, such as when they get home from work, the additional load could be difficult to meet unless new capacity is added.

Smart meters, which bill customers based on time of use, may be necessary in order to encourage nighttime charging. In addition, some homes would require electrical system upgrades to charge their vehicle, which could cost more than $1,000.

Gasoline use for PHEV-10s and PHEV-40s introduced at the Maximum Practical rate and the Efficiency Case from the 2008 Hydrogen Report. Click to enlarge.

Relative to hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will have little impact on US oil consumption before 2030, especially if fuel economy for conventional vehicles and hybrids continues to increase past 2020. PHEV-10s save only about 20% of the gasoline an equivalent hybrid vehicle would use, the report says.

If 40 million PHEV-10s are operating in 2030, they would save about 0.2 million barrels of oil per day relative to less expensive hybrids, approximately 2% of current US daily light-duty vehicle oil consumption. More substantial savings could be seen by 2050. PHEV-40s, which consume 55% less gasoline than hybrids, could have a greater impact on oil consumption.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles emit less carbon dioxide than equivalent conventional vehicles, but not less than hybrids after accounting for emissions at generating stations supplying their electrical power, the report says. Beyond 2030, assuming consumer acceptance, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could account for significant reductions in US carbon dioxide emissions, if electricity generation plants fired by fossil fuels were equipped with carbon capture and storage systems or replaced with renewable energy or nuclear-powered plants.

According to the report, a portfolio approach toward reducing US dependence on oil is necessary for long-term success. This should include increasing the fuel efficiency of conventional vehicles and pursuing research, development, and demonstration into alternative strategies, including the use of biofuels, electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

This study was sponsored by the US Department of Energy. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.




It won't take us very long to find out. Toyota is test-marketing small-battery PHEVs. Given the explosion of development activities in all sorts of battery chemistries and packaging, I'm pretty optimistic about the chances of multiple low-cost battery designs coming to market over the next several years. And, yes, lots of people have access to a 120V outlet at home, but given the limited battery range, it really is troublesome if you can't charge up at work (my big pet peeve with my PHEV). And, don't expect many people to actually get the touted 120mpg that Toyota has promoted for the PHEVs--that depends on what percentage of your driving can be electric. I only get 100mpg for the first 30 miles, so long trips are pretty disappointing.

Aureon Kwolek

The US National Research Council Report is also wrong on #2:

“(1) Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles emit less carbon dioxide than equivalent conventional vehicles, (2) but not less than hybrids after accounting for emissions at generating stations supplying their electrical power, the report says.”

Part 1 is correct, but part 2 is false. Since the average person drives 25 miles or less a day, and PHEVs have a range of 25 or more miles, they will be operating most of the time in electric mode. In contrast, Hybrids operate most of the time on fossil fuels. A PHEV running on electric most of the time is more than twice as efficient as a hybrid burning fossil fuels most of the time. The ICE in the hybrid is 20-25% efficient running on gasoline, with energy loss going out the tailpipe in the form of heat. The PHEV operating mostly in electric mode is twice as efficient, even if you use coal to charge the batteries.

#2 above is definitely not true when you charge the PHEV with your own solar roof panels, or when you charge your PHEV off the grid supplied by wind, wave, solar, or nuclear, etc - You will have a zero emission vehicle, that is, until you take an occasional trip and have to fire up the range extender engine. Even that range extender engine could be running on renewable fuel, and you would still have a zero emission PHEV, because it would be recycling CO2 not emitting new CO2.


Like wintermane, I don't understand why so much frustration, I don't think the author are biased against EV and PHEV. I don't think that manufacturing Batteries in china will make them cheaper, the process can be automated so labor is not the issue. The cost is in the control of the process and of course the materials.

Ok look back in the mirror, HEV were introduced in 1997, so 13 years after they are still only 2% of the market, that's what BEV and PHEV will be 13 years from now (at best), no more.


It'd sure be nice if SOMEONE at GCC would correct the post duplication bug that has been here for six months at least! Jack???

I agree with MarkBC, who Stan agrees with. This report is junk for sale by NRC. Pathetic bit of paid spin for FCs.


As I posted on anouther site one thing to remember is they are talking about FLEET costs not just a few car types.

Right now the low hanging fruit will get the plug in.. in short the cars that can get 10 mile range from a very small CHEAP battery chem pack.

But quickly they will have to make more types of cars and those will require alot more durable and powerful and larger packs that cost more per kwh and have more kwh in them.

The same applies to ev 40 only more so. We already know of one erev that with only 40 mile e range required a 35 kwh pack. And even that isnt going to be the biggest ev 40 pack needed to get a fleet of ev 40 cars. Wait till we see plug in ev 40 full sized suvs.

While yes you might get away with cheap batteries in a cheaply set up pack cheaply colled by a crapy low end cheap control system and recharged with a cheap low end recharger... the fleet on average isnt gona do with that crap.


TreeHugger, my objections to this article are based on its omissions, general sloppiness and outright errors.

As for the price of batteries from Chins, there is the distinct possibility that China will leverage its cheap labor and lithium reserves to grab market share for large format li-ion batteries based on price. If transportation is to become increasingly electrified, then being the market gorilla in EV batteries will be advantageous.

What you say about the uptake on HEVs being slow is true and I expect that the uptake on PHEVs will also be slower than perhaps the economics, including government subsidies, would suggest


One other reason plug ins will be slow to grow is people realy are waiting for long range ev no matter if battery or fuel cell they want to forgo a costly hybrid middle jump and just wait for the good stuff.


I think the Volt offered with 10 mile range and 10 mile incremental upgrades would produce an entry level price that more people could afford. You could still go around town on EV and upgrade if you need to, but the starting price would be closer to $30,000 than $40,000.


I talked to a friend who is more in line with most car buyers. She has been told how fast batteries will get cheaper and do more.... And she doesnt know if its true but she wont buy today because it might be true.

They dont want to be the nitwit that bought in too soon.

Roger Pham

The best solution is to make most future cars HEV's first, with the option to upgrade to PHEV later on by using modular battery packs that can be stashed under different seats, if and when gasoline price hikes will make PHEV more cost-effective. It is difficult to imagine that there will be enough raw materials to make hundreds of millions of BEV's for world-wide utilization.

HEV is the most cost-effective way to get maximum petroleum sparing effort for the maxinum number of vehicles, considering Lithium and other metals are of limited supply. Let's not forget that HEV's can run on natural gas, biomethane, and even hydrogen, that would make an HEV just as petroleum-sparing as a BEV.


I find myself agreeing with AK and HarveyD.  The NRC's ridiculous over-estimate of the cost of batteries is proof that this report was a hatchet-job, even without the authorship from a committee with interests in hydrogen fuel cells.

The other assumptions are no good either.  World oil production is sliding, and increasing amounts are being used by the producing nations themselves.  Mexico is headed for zero exports by 2015, to list just one example.  US oil production will be down to perhaps 3.5 mmbbl/d in 2030, and Chindia will be taking an increasing share of international trade.  Net US oil consumption will be under 10 mmbbl/d, because we won't be able to pay for any more than that; we may be limited to barely more than our own production.  Running 260 million petroleum-only vehicles is just not in the cards.



I agree completely, when you put all the relevant converging factors into consideration the outlook is bleak. This is why we need to make major changes, we can not just invade for oil. Massively increasing demand and flat to declining production are upon us and only the ignorant would deny it.


I agree with SP, HarveyD, Mark BC, NP, EP, and others,
This report is lame. Glad to see so many pointing this out. Friend of a friend, Rich, is using Thundersky Li Ion cells for $373/kWh. That would be $6,000 for a 16kWh pack of cells. Don't see how they can get to $18,000 for a 16kWh pack. Sure some current Li Ion systems are that expensive. What the market will bear for new tech. Price will come down with competition to at least $6,000 plus cost of parts for electrical conditioning and control ($7,000 to $8,000?). $18,000 as a working assumption for future pricing is beyond any credibility. (Are Thundersky batteries quality Li Ion batteries? Rich has tested Thundersky batteries and demonstrated 2,700 cycles at 100% DOD with 85% capacity still left. That'll do it!)

Points made on reducing cost margin for ReEVs by offering 20 or 10 mile range options (PHEV-20 or PHEV-10) are nuts on. I'd expect to see this before long from GM, Toyota, and others.

Treehugger, Please change your monicker to IChugger if you can't see that even a short range ReEV is far superior to any HEV. Give it some thought.

A point that has not been made: ReEV and BEVs are simpler than IC vehicles. The part count is way lower. Here is an online WSJ article that mentions this: “Technology Levels Playing Field in Race to Market Electric Car” - January 2009
“Indeed, BYD's all-electric e6, has just two motors (45 parts each), one powering the front axle and the other the rear, and two gearboxes (60 parts each) to go with each of the motors. That means the whole system has 210 primary parts, excluding nuts and bolts. In comparison, BYD's F6, a gasoline-fueled vehicle, has a total of 1,400 powertrain parts: a V6 engine composed of 840 parts and a transmission with 560 parts.”
210 primary motive parts compared to 1,400 is significant. IT MEANS ReEVs AND BEVs WILL BE CHEAPER TO MANUFACTURE IN HIGH VOLUME. The cost of the vehicle will be significantly cheaper and will make up for some increased price of the battery. Since the mpg is also significantly better than for any HEV, the choice will be obvious. Clearly this pricing advantage won't be visible at the start because new tech is always more expensive to begin with the Prius 10 years ago. Sorry, the Prius was great in its time, but that time has come and gone. The HEV is a 10 year old transitional design. Li Ion batteries are now ready for ReEVs. Even $400/kWh or $500/kWh prices will do just fine for short range ReEVs. Duh wintermane! LI ION BATTERY PRICES ARE ALREADY LOW ENOUGH FOR ReEVS TO MAKE SENSE AND THIS CAN ONLY GET BETTER.

One last thing: Mannstein and whomever else that was, please do some research on lithium supplies before claiming there's going to be a shortage. This is a myth. Search on "keith evans lithium". He's a 20 year expert on lithium supply and basically says fears of lithium shortage are not well founded.
Also, check this out: “Battery lithium could come from geothermal waste water” - December 2009
”geothermal waters at the Salton Sea, about 250 kilometres inland and on top of the active San Andreas fault, are just as lithium-rich as the most productive brine lakes in Bolivia and Chile.”
“Simbol is now building its first demonstration plant, projected to produce about 1 tonne of lithium metal a month”
This is not in proven production yet, but they're building it. There's an abundance of lithium.


I know someone who participated in a bulk buy of prismatic cells from Thunder Sky a few years ago.  The cells were touted as new, but many were obviously used and a great many did not meet their specified AH ratings when delivered.  Neither did they meet their cycle-life ratings.  When the buyers demanded replacement or refund under warranty, Thunder Sky told them to go jump in a lake.

Thunder Sky is not a company to be trusted.

Stan Peterson


Lithium is a common element. The Earth's crust contains 6% Lithiuim, which is much more common than things like Aluminum for example.

Did you know that the Worlds's largest mines and reserves for Lithium used to be mines right here in the USA? When they dicovered the Atacama Lithium brines, the mining interests closed-in and moth-balled the US mines, to go and harvest the brines. Everyone recognized that the brines are very rich, but of a limited quantity of that rich source.

Those minng reserves didn't go away, and they will be re-opened when and if as needed. Between known reserves in the USA and China there is more than enough to build a Li-Ion battery for every car on the planet and not-even begin to dent the known reserves. That is wihtout even thinking of tapping the Oceans which have truly enormous reserves that are not counted at all.


Rich is aware of past problems for others and says he has not had any problem with Thundersky yet. Maybe company has learned a business lesson. Maybe I'm wrong about them and Rich will run into trouble. Regardless, their price provides a data point on how low prices will go when manufacturing is scaled up, production processes are mature, and profit margins have been squeezed by competition. There are already other sources of prismatic Li Ion cells/batteries for less than half the price quoted in the report posted above. This is a low enough price for short range ReEVs to be viable and cost effective in the near future. Sounds like you probably agree with this already:
"The NRC's ridiculous over-estimate of the cost of batteries is proof that this report was a hatchet-job, even without the authorship from a committee with interests in hydrogen fuel cells.”
Problem suppliers will be sorted out by market competition. The price will come down to something like $300/kWh to $500/kWh and this is enough for ReEVs to thrive and it is possible new battery nanotechnology will drive the cost down further still. From a theoretical point of view, there is still a great deal of room for improvement in Li Ion chemistries.
Here is a post on the Volt battery:
The battery CEO here quotes Lithium battery cell costs at $350/kWh.
Here is a July 2009 paper on the costs of Lithium batteries:
“The cost of lithium batteries remains high ($500-1000 /kWh) when purchased in relative small quantities, but detailed cost modeling of batteries done at Argonne National Laboratory for the various chemistries indicate that in high production volume (greater than 100,000 packs per year), the costs to the OEMs of all chemistries can be in the range of $250-400/kWh depending on the battery size (kWh energy stored). The lithium titanate chemistry is projected to have the highest cost, but it also will have the longest cycle life.”
Latest naysayer movement seems to be an over-exaggeration of Li Ion battery prices and a claim you cannot predict they will come down in cost. There is some validity to claiming you cannot guarantee technology will continue to reduce prices past currently known low end costs. The other part of this argument is to estimate currently known costs to be over $1,000/kWh, as you see in this report. It’s an argument based on a partial truth. This is what I’m objecting to. Currently known costs already go below $400/kWh for some prismatic Li Ion cells. They will all have to go this low when squeezed by competition. That is a simple reality in a capitalistic economy. The individuals participating in this report, and others who buy this over $1,000/kWh future pricing, must be from Mars. Predicting the future is a tricky business. I can’t guarantee prices will go lower than $350/kWh (for cells) from what I know, but as AK points out it’s possible and even likely.
I own a Prius. Great car! My next car will be an ReEV with Li Ion. Better design. Better mpg. I plan to further reduce my oil use. Out of my way naysayers! …and don’t be spending my tax dollars on this kind of tripe.

The Goracle


"Who killed the electric car? "

GM greed for SUVs.

Some of you people are SOooooo SILLY!!! And ignorant, of course.

GM didn't FORCE SUVs on anybody. People demanded SUVs by showing up and voluntarily purchasing them. Yes, we can be good Stalinists/Socalists/Communists and FORCE people to purchase cars that they don't want by passing laws then using the threat of jail for not following Central Planning. Otherwise, people will purchase what fits them best. For me that's a 50mpg Diesel VW Rabbit pickup (Biodiesel and WVO powered) for 90% of my driving and a BIG, HONKING, four wheel drive Toyota Sequoia for those drives where micro-box cars may be cutting me off too often (splat!).




Um hello people who cant seem to read worth crap...

When they give the numbers they are talking fleet average and battery supplier average.

When you babble uselessly your talking cheapest car and cheapest battery CELL.

So in short your being silly again.


Hey, Goracle, tell me something:  when I was looking for a mid-sized car that got decent mileage in 2004, why didn't any of the Big 3 have anything for me?  Why did I have to buy a Volkswagen to get a diesel?

Maybe they were... trying to push me into buying an SUV I didn't want?  Naaaah....


The big three pushed SUVs since 1990 because they were high profit margin. GM and Ford both pushed them until Explorer and Tahoe took off. The public did not buy them, but they kept pushing them for years.

Oh yeah, the car makers DID push SUVs and eventually enough people went for them and the money rolled in. Explorer was THE money maker until tires blew out and roll overs killed people, but the buying public STILL persisted in believing that they were safer.


Speaking of "safer" big vehicles, I saw a full-size pickup that went over on its side in what appeared to have been a fairly low-speed collision the other day.  Snarled traffic pretty well.


As I remember how suvs came about I know how they first advertised em.

The fact is the car companies didnt invent the suv a bunch of rodeo people did by taking pickup trucks and wweilding them to various vans. The car makers instead made bigger king cab pickups because they thought they were sport utility vehicles..

What the realy always were was the weilding of a wagon or van and a pickup. When they finaly sratted to notice big arse bucks being made by people selling custom built trucks they finaly started advertising thier own suvs.

But ONLY during rodeo week and only where rodeos took place. It took YEARS for them to finaly notice that families were buying them and then they started to plush up the suvs and advertise them to mothers and blamo.

The suv we know now is realy just a giant mutant station wagon.


Hey, E-P, tell me something: when you were looking for a mid-sized car that got decent mileage in 2004, did the Big 3 force you to buy an SUV?

Maybe they were... trying to "push" you into buying an SUV you didn't want?

But you bought the vehicle YOU wanted - what a concept - - it might work - let's call it a



Electric cars , One you need coal plants (american companies) to charge electrical

Henry Ford Companies: Cars cost were low that people could buy one.
Michigan Bell: Phone were free unless you wanted the trimline phone, Phone
bill was alot less.
Detroit Edison: Use to give you free light bulbs, when old one burned out.
(someone complain about monolopy on light bulbs)


Affordable housing cut taxes on housing, Say your house $600. a month,
have of that is taxes, so cut taxes, and people losing houses could keep them.

Congress please read the Bill, on Healthcare , stop spending money you don't
have, Remember China owns most of Africa, are we doing the same to America.


Electric cars , One you need coal plants (american companies) to charge electrical

Henry Ford Companies: Cars cost were low that people could buy one.
Michigan Bell: Phone were free unless you wanted the trimline phone, Phone
bill was alot less.
Detroit Edison: Use to give you free light bulbs, when old one burned out.
(someone complain about monolopy on light bulbs)


Affordable housing cut taxes on housing, Say your house $600. a month,
have of that is taxes, so cut taxes, and people losing houses could keep them.

Congress please read the Bill, on Healthcare , stop spending money you don't
have, Remember China owns most of Africa, are we doing the same to America.

The comments to this entry are closed.