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

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.




Therefore PHEV's is only practical way to go.


I don't understand. Are they following everything that's happening in the technology, or what ? Just a few weeks ago Envia Systems, Inc with backing of the US government announced they made a breakthrough in battery technology that will allow a $20,000 car to have a range of 300 miles, and the battery will be half as heavy as a conventional lithium battery. So, who's telling the truth ?


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.

Although this report sees step-change [sudden, discontinuous change/paradigm shift/quantum leap] improvements in performance of EV batteries as “highly unlikely” there is still room for evolutionary changes. In fact enough evolutionary improvements have come to our attention in the last few years that we can be quite hopefull about BEVs.

Also, the thing to remember about "step changes" is that they always come as a surprize.


The energy density of the Model S 85 kWh battery is about 160 Wh/kg. This is a totally usable vehicle with a 300 mile range, proving that higher energy density is more a nice to have than a necessity.

Even a 600 mile battery will not do you any good if you must cover 800 miles. And even L2 charging can not fill up such a battery overnight for two consecutive days of long distance driving. What we need is fast charging.

Literally every petrol station along the motorway must have a fast charger. No need to check the navigation where a fast charger is available, just pull in and plug in.

Another improvement needed is that the batteries must be capable of fast charging in under 15 minutes (80%).

The next item on the wish list is of course a lower price.


"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)."

This seems to be what they mean by "step change", it is always good to define terms. So, the pack reduces 3 to 1 in price while increasing 50% in capacity. Maybe they are right, but I think good progress will be made by 2020. Maybe a 2 to 1 reduction in price and a 25% increase in capacity, just a guess.


'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),'

If they reckon Nissan is paying $19,200 for the battery pack in the Leaf when the whole car costs around $35k they are nuts.
What is more they are simply ignoring what the car companies say on their costs if it doesn't fit their thesis.

Also ignored is that several companies including Panasonic and Dow Chemical are already producing NMC batteries.

It sounds to me as though the UK commitee on climate change is some bunch of nuts intent on getting everyone out of their cars and onto buses, and have got something fudged up to provide specious backing to their case.

One for the bin.


90% of all trips in North America could be handled by a 100 mile rang EV on a single charge. The rarity of 300 mile trips (let alone 800 mile trips) is such that we don't need to worry about putting a fast charger in every petrol station along the motorway. For those few trips you can rent a car for about $19 a day. Or, if you must use your own car, put a generator on a trailer and recharge on the way;

John Bucknell


No, they're probably right on the money. Keep in mind, the Leaf is still $40k - the taxpayer reduces that to $35k. The rest of the Leaf is Versa, which makes money at it's ~$14k sales price at much higher volumes. The Versa gets to amortize it's development/tooling cost over a much higher volume, which the Leaf gets some benefit from - but not the whole thing.


A car with 100 mile range that could get 40 more miles in 15 minutes and sell for $30,000 without rebates might have a chance. It becomes even more possible if gasoline goes to $5 per gallon and stays there.



Yes, we must have a fast charger in every petrol station along the motorway, for the very same reason as all those petrol stations are there.

People want to refill/recharge when they think it's time and not worry whether the next petrol station has a fast charger. They end up charging way too soon, just to be on the safe side. This reduces the practical range drastically.

And no - people are not going to rent a car for longer trips. I can hear them thinking: "I own a car, why the hell should I rent one?"

The things you are mentioning require planning. Most people just want to hop in and drive. No fuss. If electric driving can't offer that, it won't happen.


Electric cars are not supposed to be for everybody and they're not supposed to duplicate the ICE model. Many people have two cars, many people would rent for trips (e.g. people who live in cities with no car) or rent a truck to haul stuff, and many people (like me) drive less than 40 miles a day and almost never drive more. BEVs are not supposed to be highway cruisers; if you want one of those, buy a conventional car. BEVs will co-exist with ICE cars for the foreseeable future; it's not necessary nor desirable that they duplicate the (flawed) functionality of an ICE car.

I would like to be able to hop in my car in the morning and drive, but because I now drive an ICE car, I have to worry about the remaining range, and if it's low, I have to drive a significant distance out of my way to fill up with gasoline. When I get a BEV, I will be able to hop in and drive, because my battery was charged overnight. Neither will I have to worry about changing my oil or fuel filter or muffler, etc. BEVs are no fuss. If your driving patterns are not a good fit, then don't buy one, but lots of other people will.

Different strokes for different folks.


We worry too much about today's very high cost and low battery performance. It is normal for all new technologies. We seem to forget that a flat LCD TV used to cost %5,000 instead of current $500 and a small laser printer used to cost $1100+ instead of $69 today.

If what they conservatively say about 2020 or 8 short years down the road ... i.e 1/3 the cost for 50% more range.... becomes reality, it would make BEVs almost affordable and almost highway practical with decent highway quick charge stations.

After 2020, progress will not stop, batteries will progressively better and cheaper. By 2030 or a few years before, BEVs will be fully competitive and more with ICEVs.


@John Bucknall:
'Keep in mind, the Leaf is still $40k - the taxpayer reduces that to $35k. The rest of the Leaf is Versa'

None of that is correct. Around $35k is the price before the tax credit.
Just visit the Nissan website.
The Leaf is not built on the Versa platform and is to a far higher specification.


I would rent a car to go on a trip, I have done it before, it puts all those miles on their car, not mine.


JFK said, "..we choose to go to the moon.." and within seven years we were there. An huge multidisciplinary achievement the world still admires.

Now, 15 years after 100 mile range RAV4 EVs, with super computers simulating batteries of every know substance, we're still being told that 2 electrodes and an electrolyte are beyond us and batteries will only have marginal improvements for more decade(s).

Something just doesn't seem to fit.


Hydrogen fuelcell with efficient endless hydrogen production and fast fill-up look more promising.

I found this 56 minutes documentary about hydrogen fuelcells, im not telling fancy stuff.

Atul Kapadia

I disagree with several elements of this pessimistic report but the one glaring factual inaccuracy is that NCM is "next generation cathode" - it's actually a previous generation cathode and is almost a commodity.


IMHO, PHEvs are the way to go.

There are two ways to get a PHEv - a conventional "one car" solution like a Chevy Volt, or a "two car" solution where you have one EV and one ICE. When you buy the EV, you are awarded a certain number of days / weeks per year rental for the ICE (which is an equivalent level car).
The cost of this will be bundled into the car price.
It is like one of those car rental schemes. You could optionally allow your EV to be used by someone else while you have the ICE.
Governments could (if they wanted) pass laws to make it possible to have two cars on one insurance policy at no extra cost.

If you go for a 1 car PHEV, you may want a small battery (say 5KwH) to keep the cost and weight down.
The trick here is for the system to learn your commute and use the battery for the most suitable parts of the run. This is a simple enough machine learning problem once you have GPS.
Don't just run EV till the battery is down to 20%.
If governments want to encourage this, they could subsidize workplace chargers so you can charge at your job, effectively doubling battery capacity. They could do this for the first N (say 100K) people who apply with the registration documents of a suitable car.

Also, as many have said, fast chargers in every petrol station on motorways.

We don't have to go fully electric - there is a lot of fossil fuel to be saved by going partially electric, HEV or PHev.
It is a much better use of batteries to put them into many HEVs or PHEvs, rather than a few BEVs.


2012 Nissan LEAF
MSRP $35,200
Horsepower @RPM 107
Fuel Economy Cty/Hwy 106/92
Combined Fuel Economy 99
EPA Class Mid-Size

Dave R

Interesting, because this report says that battery prices have dropped 14% in the past year to $689/kWh.


Renaulf France have negotiated a 10% discount on car hire for their electric car owners.
If you don't need to have access to a longer range vehicle, you would be pretty upset if you had to pay extra to cover folk who do.

Chad Snyder

Dave R-

But if you read that report carefully the authors suggest the reason for the price reduction is because there were far more supplies than demand.


The things you are mentioning require planning. Most people just want to hop in and drive. No fuss. If electric driving can't offer that, it won't happen.

You talked about a 800 mile trip, at 50 mph that's 16 hours on the road. THAT requires planning.


I don't care what the Committee on Climate Change, Element Energy, Li-ion manufacturer Axeon, Prof. Peter Bruce of EastChem, USABC and many battery companies say, I think affordable batteries are just around the corner.

- and I have been saying this for 10 years.


"Current costs for a pure EV of ~$800/kWh"

Complete BS and the reason this whole report should be ignored and these morons discredited. They can't even report on current FACTS correctly so why listen to anything they say???

From the Wall Street Journal today quoting the CEO of Ford:

"....23kWh....They're around $12,000 to $15,000 [a battery]..."

Ok, so that $12,000-$15,000 per 23kWh => $522-$652 per kWh TODAY for Ford, and they are not anywhere near volume pricing yet. Again, that is TODAY'S price.

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