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Two studies exploring battery costs for hybrids and plug-ins: LEESS, PHEV20, and PHEV40

For PHEV20 batteries, TIAX found significant overlap in battery costs among five cathode classes, with wider variation within each chemistry based on the electrode design than between chemistries. Source: TIAX. Click to enlarge.

At the Department of Energy’s 2011 Hydrogen and Fuel Cells and Vehicle Technologies Programs combined annual merit review being held this week in Washington, DC, researchers presented results of two ongoing studies exploring the costs of three classes of battery packs: LEESS (Lower-Energy Energy Storage Systems—i.e., for power-assisted hybrids, earlier post) and PHEV20 (plug-in hybrid with 20-mile electric range) (study led by TIAX, LLC); and PHEV40 (plug-in hybrid with 40-mile electric range) (study led by Argonne National Laboratory).

PHEV20. TIAX employed a parametric approach in which it applied its cost model many times with different sets of input parameters, including pack energy requirements; power input/output; battery chemistries and material performance; electrode designs; fade and SOC (state of charge) range; and sufficiently high production volume.

For PHEV20, the program focused on both commercially available and emerging cathode materials aimed for use in a 20-mile PHEV battery pack. Costs were modeled for a 300V PHEV battery pack that could provide 5.5 kWh of usable energy storage, satisfying drive cycle requirements over the 20-mile urban drive cycle. Cells were designed for a range of electrode loadings (1.5–3 mAh/cm2) and fade characteristics (0 and 30%), assuming an 80% operating SOC range.

TIAX considered five classes of cathode materials: NCA (lithium nickel-cobalt-aluminum oxide); NCM (lithium nickel-cobalt-manganese oxide); LMO (lithium manganese spinel); LFP (lithium iron phosphate); and LL-NMC (layered-layered lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide).

They found that there is significant overlap in battery costs among the five cathode classes, with wider variation within each chemistry based on the electrode design than between chemistries. Systems costs ranged from about 250 – 700 $/kWh.

Other findings of the study include:

  • Materials account for 60-70% of the final PHEV battery pack cost, with the cathode active material contributing 15-30%.

  • Cell formation and aging, anode and cathode coating and drying, and winding account for as much as 70% of the total processing costs.

TIAX concluded that the results point to a three-pronged approach in emphasizing specific areas of research with potential for reductions in battery cost:

  • Materials. Materials that support high power, and a wide SOC range; that provide minimal fade, impedance growth and calendar aging; and with higher specific capacity and higher average cell voltage.

  • Cell/electrode. New chemistry, electrolytes, and electrode designs permitting shorter, thicker electrodes. In general, chemistries and designs that enable lower overall electrode area per battery and minimize battery size will reduce cost.

  • Manufacturing. Identification and adoption of advanced processing technologies to significantly increase coater/dryer speed and/or other unit operations significantly, as well as fundamentally different electrode preparation processes. (The last a point further elaborated upon in subsequent technology presentations.)

LEESS. In 2009, USABC outlined requirements for a Lower-Energy Electric Storage System for power-assisted hybrid electric vehicles (PAHEV) that resulted in generally higher power, with significant reductions in system weight, volume and energy. The (LEESS) targets added 2-second discharge and regen pulses, and significantly increased the 10-second regen pulse requirement. The new targets generally involve substantial increases in power to energy ratio for the batteries.

This requirement, in turn, leads to the need for utilization of very thin electrodes with low active material loadings. TIAX took three approaches to defining batteries it could model for this project.

  • Parametric. TIAX modelled several candidate energy window ranges over which power requirements can be met and investigate consequences for selected chemistries and electrode designs.

  • Experimental. TIAX selected candidate alternative chemistries and electrode designs and determined appropriate energy window ranges over which power goals can be met.

  • Benchmark/extrapolation of commercial systems. TIAX selected candidate commercial systems and used their specifications to size them for LEESS applications.

One issue for LEESS, TIAX noted, is the extent to which the battery must be over-sized with respect to energy in order to deliver the required power and life. For the exercise, the company selected two material combinations were selected one representing lower power, higher energy (NCA and hard carbon) and one representing higher power, lower energy (LMO/LTO).

For all cell designs considered, total cell weight ranged between 6 and 25kg and total cell volume ranges between 4 and 14L, thereby generally meeting the LEESS weight and volume targets.

Modelled costs of LEESS systems. Source: TIAX. Click to enlarge.

For cell designs considered, TIAX found that the modeled “high volume” LEESS system costs range between $675 and $1,575.

Unlike for PHEV batteries, the cost of the LEESS batteries are dominated by battery management electronics and cell formation and aging operation, TIAX noted. Battery management electronics components account for 30-60% of materials costs, for example.

TIAX experimental data show that the likely energy window operating range is between 17% and 36%, necessitating substantial over-sizing of LEESS packs.

Modelling battery cost. Source: ANL. Click to enlarge.

PHEV 40. The orientation of the Argonne project was a bit different, in that its objective was to develop an efficient available simulation and design tool to predict:

  • Precise overall (and component) mass and dimensions
  • Cost and performance characteristics
  • Battery pack values from bench-scale results

They developed a fully integrated model to design and predict high volume costs for PHEVs, as well as HEVs & EVs, based on user-defined requirements (pack voltage, power, efficiency, cell chemistry). They also documented the design and cost calculation methodology to support peer-review and free and open distribution of the Li-ion battery design and cost model. The model will be rolled out to the public this summer.

Applying the model to a PHEV40, the team assumed a 17 kWh pack, with 40 kW max power achieved at 80% of open-circuit voltage (OCV) and 70% useable capacity. Pack OCV at 50% state of charge would be 360 ± 15V (80-144 cells in series). Maximum electrode thickness was µm100.

Path forward for Li-based batteries. Source: ANL. Click to enlarge.

The model determined that the cost to an OEM of the pack could range from 222–301 $/kWhtotal for established chemistries and from 183–193 $/kWhtotal for advanced Li-ion chemistries. Given the pack specification, this worked out to a pack cost to OEM ranging from $3,112 to $5,125.

The Argonne team noted that large format cells and large electrode thicknesses reduce the contribution of inactive materials to total cost of PHEV batteries.

The researchers noted that if high-risk research is successful, then a 60% reduction in battery cost and 260% increase in energy density is possible from materials advances by 2025.


(Presentations from the Merit Review will be available online in several weeks.)

  • Brian Barnett, Jane Rempel, Chris McCoy, Sharon Dalton-Castor, Suresh Sriramulu (TIAX) PHEV and LEESS Battery Cost Assessment (ES001)

  • Kevin G. Gallagher, Dennis Dees and Paul Nelson (ANL) PHEV Battery Cost Assessment (ES111)



I thought that if GM offered Volt models with a choice of 40,20 and 10 mile range, it would give customers the opportunity to select a product that fits their situation. At $41,000 before subsidies, the 40 mile range (which they now advertised as 35 mile) is the only choice the customer has.


SJC....Three 6.0 Kwh or four 4.5 Kwh plug-in modules could achieve the ranges you mentioned and would give potential buyers the opportunity to add/purchase modules to best meet their requirements and pocket book.

The ideal could be to start with one module (for a PHEV 5 or 10 miles) and add more modules latter (if required and when price is lower and performance higher).

This approach would be too much in favor of buyers (???) but it would certainly accelerate the introduction of electrified vehicles. Could governments find a way to promote it?


I kind of think it was all locked in by Lutz, the ex Marine said what it would be and that was IT! I also think that they did not want to build lots of them because they were not ready to, so to limit how many you have to build you price it high and let the government subsidize it.


What happened to the people..for the people...?


It is by the corporations and for the corporations..


SJC...absolutely, dead-on correct.


That one was easy, Harvey did the set up :)

Henry Gibson

ZEBRA batteries could give 100 miles in a Volt over ten years ago.

There is no need for exotic batteries for most automobile use, as was proven by CALCARS recently and AC propulsion many years ago


Buyers could (as an option) have the choice of battery technology for their HEVs, PHEVs and BEVs much the same way as for ICE, transmission etc.


One of the reasons for 16 kWh of batteries in the Volt may have been battery life. If you are 50% state of charge on an 8 kWh battery pack and demand 100 kW for hard acceleration, that can take some of the life out of them.

As batteries improve we may see PHEVs the weight of the Volt able to use 8 kWh worth of batteries and still get good life from them. Of course, that begs the question why to you need a vehicle that weighs as much as a Volt in the first place. Interesting how it scales, less batteries mean less weight means longer range per kWh.


Yes SJC...a 4000 lbs PHEV is not the best solution. Technologies (nano-crystalline cellulose etc ) already exist to reduce total weight by 25+% and 50% could be done by 2020. The arrival of highway capable EVs will accelerate the development of light weight, lower drag, vehicles to get more e-range with smaller batteries.


2011 Chevrolet Volt
Curb Weight AT 3781

Just the extra batteries adds a few hundred pounds. Then you have the whole PHEV concept where you carry around engine, transmission, batteries and motors. If there was ever a car that needed a lower weight chassis and body it is the PHEV.


They could have pushed the enveloppe a little more, at least to current 100M 24KWH packs, and tomorrow 200M 50KWH packs, and then dream packs for 500M = 130KWH....
I plan to jump into a Plug In Hybrid with Range Exterder SUV within 2Y assuming one comes out with a >50KWH battery pack, in a full electric tracting base, still with an ER.
Won't jump before than, but trends on the 40M pack are pormissing to get the 200M pack earlier than expected so far...


What happened to the people..for the people...?
That's the government - by the people..for the people - not the people.

The people, in a democracy, are certainly not obligated to provide some product YOU think others should have.
Not even if others claim they actually want it.
Not even if those others actually DO want it.

Otherwise what would keep them from dragging your ash out of bed and making you plant sawgrass for a living.

What really worries me is that there are many seemingly literate people who believe the government should determine what products a company should and should not produce because it knows "what the people want".

I really wish the Volt had a fewer battery and a smaller ICE options and could "schedule" the ICE based on how far or fast or uphill the trip was going to be.

But actually force GM or Nissan to offer smaller battery packs?
Nope. If they don't offer what people want, affordably they go bankrupt (and they should be allowed to).

Go start your own EV factory. Make what you want.
If it doesn't sell - you're outa there.

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