Someday, like our realization that 512kb of RAM isn’t “all we’ll ever need,” we’ll be driving along in our 6,000-mile range, 5-minute quick-charging, 20-lb unobtanium-powered battery-electric vehicles (flying to the moon, for all intents and purposes), and this news story will pop into our brain-mounted neural stems, and we’ll laugh into our tricorders to our Martian pen pals. Our batteries today are woefully underperforming, absurdly hard to manufacture, incredibly expensive as a result, and still a novelty; but that’s the price we pay (figuratively speaking) for progress. Like the Tandy TRS-80, it’s the opening salvo in future technology—and as a new study reveals, we won’t have to wait as long for progress to come around.
Right now, the cost of a lithium-ion battery—from harvesting natural resources, to manufacturing them, shipping to a faraway factory in Hamtramck, then installing them in a shiny new Chevrolet Volt—will cost around $500 to $600 per kilowatt-hour. The Volt’s battery is rated for 16 kilowatt-hours, which means that the Volt’s battery costs somewhere from $8,000 to $9,600 right now.
But by 2020, when it’s easier to make batteries, it’ll cost less than half of that, just $200 per kilowatt-hour. In just five years after that, the price will drop to $160, and at $2,560 for a Volt-sized battery, the idea of a mainstream electric car is a little easier to fathom.
Of course, if 2025 seems as distant as the hoverboards from “Back to the Future,” rest assured that changes will come even sooner than that. In three years, rapid advances in manufacturing processes, equipment, and supply chain management will result in 30 percent of these cost reductions, says the study from consulting firm McKinsey. Battery components will be less expensive by 2020, and suppliers will take advantage of this by boosting manufacturing productivity in cheaper locations. The study cites cathode, anode and electrolyte technology as key to reducing battery costs by 40 percent—all while increasing capacity by double what it is today.
“I think that OEMs or the carmakers or the designers have to figure out what form of energy storage is the most exciting to the person who is buying the car,” said John Newman, a partner with McKinsey. “It could be range, could be acceleration, could be onboard storage. We’ll have to wait for the market to figure it out.”
What does this mean for the rest of us? In a few years, nothing but good things: more capable batteries, cheaper electric vehicles, and less of a toll on the environment. Just like how we can carry 8 gigabytes of data in our pocket and not in a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, this technology (which is still considered “emerging”) will attract a broader array of consumers who don’t see spending twice as much for an electric car to a similarly-sized vehicle as a novelty. And most importantly, carmakers will have to take into consideration future advances in batteries to make the leap.
Source: Automotive News