By on April 16, 2015

2016 Chevrolet Volt battery

Though the most expensive part of an EV or PHEV is its battery pack, a new study shows those costs are falling at a hefty clip.

According to Green Car Reports, a study by the Stockholm Environment Institute in Stockholm, Sweden found that the cost of a battery pack fell 14 percent per year between 2007 and 2014, coming down from over $1,000 USD per kWh, to around $410/kWh; market-leading EV makers saw their costs decline 8 percent annually to $300/kWh over the same period.

The study’s findings are the result of data from 85 cost estimates found in peer-reviewed academic journals, as well as reports from automakers, analysts and the media. However, the authors note that since battery producers and automakers almost never disclose the actual costs for those cells, the study is incomplete at best.

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26 Comments on “Study: Battery Pack Costs Fell 14 Percent Annually Over Seven Years...”

  • avatar

    Wow, so the 85 kWh battery in Teslas is $34K?!?!?

    Flip side, Prius battery is only like 1kWh, and also is only supposedly like 2 lbs? With it being that small and cheap I’m surprised Toyota hasn’t hybridized its entire lineup. Just add some rear wheel motors and you’re good to go

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      Auto stop/start systems come with a beefed up battery and a super-powerful starter motor. Take it up a notch or two and you could have a system where the starter motor provides forward motion from 0-15 mph (under normal city driving conditions) while the engine starts up smoothly and seamlessly.

      If Ford could put it into the F-150 for $500, it would be a Game Changer (TM).

    • 0 avatar

      @ sportyaccordy

      “Flip side, Prius battery is only like 1kWh, and also is only supposedly like 2 lbs?”

      If it only weighed 2 lbs, why would anyone bother putting a regular lead acid battery in a car?

      You need to have an appreciation of reality, as do the green sites. The newest battery pack weighs 91 lbs, so you’re only off by a factor of 45!

  • avatar

    Battery technology, including cost, seems to be one of those cases of slow, steady improvement, year over year. Like the hour hand on a clock you don’t really see it moving but then you check it after a while and go “Oh, wow, look at that.”

    Electric cars remind me having an SSD in your laptop. As soon as you drive a decent one you realize that it’s the future and everybody will want one as soon as the cost and capability is there. I grew up working on cars, and I love old mechanical things, but the future looks pretty cool too.

    • 0 avatar

      I dont know about full on electric. Hybrids seem to combine the best of both and with hybrid costs dropping so precipitously I definitely see that combo becoming more normal.

      Will be really cool when they start marrying hybrid tech with turbocharging/supercharging.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. People don’t know how good EVs are. There are still problems, and people seem to only pay attention to the ‘big news’ leaps in technology, so they miss the real, relentless progress being made.

      I have no doubt that battery costs will get low enough to remove that barrier to entry. The next huddle is battery weight. Battery size is an issue, too, but that can be worked around through improved packaging.

      • 0 avatar

        Wake me up when a $20,000 EV with a 350 mile range can be recharged in 10 minutes without putting undue wear on the batteries.

        • 0 avatar

          You obviously want to sleep for quite awhile.

        • 0 avatar

          That kind of charging just isn’t likely to happen. There’s real limits on how much power you can push in so short a time.

          Now, battery _swaps_ might be a possibility.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          That mythical car would have a 100 kWh battery, whose cost today would be $41k for the pack alone.

          All EVs run about the same efficiency, so let’s say 3.5 miles/kWh.

          So you’re talking about a 600 kW charger, approximately. That’s over 1200 Amps at 480 V – not delivered easily.

          • 0 avatar

            Mr. Holzman’s point is that EVs are a compromise that are far from ready for the mass market. He’s absolutely right.

          • 0 avatar

            That amount of current is similar to the max capacity of three Navy Shore Power Cables hooked up to a nuclear submarine. Three 400A at 450V 3 phase cables each weighing about 7.5 pounds per foot. I want to see people using the self serve electric station with that hook-up.

  • avatar

    I noticed this when I was Prius-shopping: the batteries really aren’t that expensive, and the whole pack isn’t terribly difficult to rebuild, even for older cars like the Gen1 “Echo” Prius.

    • 0 avatar

      TMC was wise to design a car with the goal of saving considerable amounts of gasoline, while recognizing that gasoline still has many advantages over electricity. The hybrid was a practical choice that exhibits a lot of insight into what can work and what won’t.

      An EV may be more exciting to a niche of people, but the batteries that store their energy have far more inherent flaws, the nature of which cannot be fixed by a manufacturing company. This is a scientific problem that has to be remedied by geeks in lab coats, not an R&D or production problem that an OEM can be expected to address.

      The Prius battery is not that large, which makes it possible to sell the car at a profit even though it isn’t a particularly cheap component. Bigger batteries obviously hold more power, but they are cost prohibitive (and bulky.)

      • 0 avatar

        “The Prius battery is not that large, which makes it possible to sell the car at a profit even though it isn’t a particularly cheap component”

        It’s not so much that it is or is not a cheap component—it’s cheaper than a transmission or engine—it’s that it’s actually quite a simple component: an array of cells with some logic and cooling.

        Any reasonably competent battery supplier can test and/or replace the component cells that will no longer charge and repackage the pack. The bad cells can then be recycled. It’s not surprising that the costs have gone down as recycling efforts, people with experience in rebuilds and cell inventory have increased.

        The costs of battery replacement were always held up as hybrids’ Achilles’ heel. As it turns out, batteries are easy—much easier than an engine head or gears/solenoids in a transmission—and in hybrids they seem to last a very, very long time anyway.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Should be interesting to see what happens to the $/kwh numbers once Tesla gets the Gigafactory going.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Yes and no. Tesla and Audi are the only mfrs to use the 18650 cell in their battery packs, and they don’t use the same supplier.

      So Tesla will see a price drop, but I’m not so sure about the others.

    • 0 avatar

      Sure, but don’t expect significant gains in terms of cost efficiency. Tesla’s big draw (hue hue, EE joke) is that it brings arguably the biggest outsourced component inside it’s own supply chain management, not that it will be appreciably cheaper to produce in house in $/kWh that it is to source externally.

      Tesla does not have magic battery making capabilities that suddenly decrease the cost/unit to produce, they are just getting rid of the hassle of shipping them pre-assembled over from China and the potential for a significant supply disruption.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It’s tough to nail down actual pack costs, and the numbers here don’t tell the whole story.

    I suspect a truer measure of pack cost is Y = A + $410*B kWh, in which A is some unavoidable fixed cost inherent in the battery packaging, and B is the battery cell itself. Every EV mfr has significant effort tied up in packaging their cells, which adds weight, bulk, and cost.

    The same problem occurs when discussing energy density – it always has to be qualified with “as packaged” vs “raw cell”.

    But such measures are too complex to publicize; it’s easier to spew a simple dollar figure.

  • avatar

    The cost drops are due to learning curve effects and economies of scale, but those apply to current technology batteries only, which have well known limitations in weight, recharging speed capabilities, and durability. Battery cost drops are also likely to slow down unless EV/hybrid sales take off substantially, thus current batteries with major limitations may get cheaper much more slowly. Any new battery technologies that have more energy density and longer life are likely to be much more expensive to start, and thus need another series of years to get down the cost curve, and until that happens I don’t see electric cars as more than a niche, even if politicians continue to throw taxpayer money at them.

  • avatar

    At $50 a barrel and OPEC complaining about the US dumping oil upon the global market, I suspect the costs of EV will need to fall considerably in order to make up the costs differences. The EV premium needs to be a whole lot smaller than it is, with gasoline so inexpensive and plentiful.

  • avatar

    At those prices, I’m surprised more mfr’s aren’t replacing their lead/acid 12V batteries with lithium. It’d be a great way to save weight.

    I also suspect we’ll begin to see plug-in hybrids that rely more and more on electric power, with a gas sustainer motor that’s only sufficient to maintain 80 mph on level ground. You start the sustainer right away when you need to do a road trip, and rely on the electricity to make up the difference in acceleration, hills, or higher speeds.

  • avatar

    I wonder how much the effort / technological overhead related to the ever increasing intrusion of Functional Safety will have on the overall cost of battery packs. System complexity (and paperwork) goes through the ceiling when your safety goals are ASIL C and D.

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