Apr 15, 2011
While industry watchers may debate how quickly consumers will make the transition to electric vehicles, they generally agree this transition will require big improvements to the batteries that power these cars.
In the near term, reducing the cost of the battery — and with it, the price of the vehicle — will come mostly from better manufacturing techniques and building more batteries. Improving durability and range will largely be the domain of researchers and scientists.
Compared with the nickel-metal hydride battery used in the Toyota Prius, for example, a lithium-ion battery of the same weight and volume would increase energy density two to three times, said Venkat Srinivasan, manager of the Battery for Automotive Transportation Technologies Program, an Energy Department-supported program managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.
Even as new advances move from the lab to the production line in the coming decade, in the near term most cost reductions for the battery pack will come from lowering manufacturing costs, according to Alex A. Molinaroli, president of the Power Solutions group at Johnson Controls, a company building lithium-ion batteries for BMW, Daimler and Ford.
With the battery the costliest component of the car, automakers tend to be tight-lipped about actual prices, considering it competitive information. Even so, Mike Omotoso, an automotive power train forecaster for J. D. Power & Associates, estimated today’s cost at around $750 to $800 per kilowatt-hour. For electric vehicles to achieve parity with gasoline-powered cars, from a cost perspective, most analysts estimate that battery cost must come closer to $200 per kilowatt-hour.
Mary Ann Wright, vice president for global technology and innovation in the Power Solutions group for Johnson Controls, estimates that this parity point is a decade away, but offers two caveats. “You have to consider that the gasoline engine will also become more fuel-efficient during this time,” she said. “This technology is not standing still.” And parity must be considered as the total cost of ownership over the life of the car. “So while the sticker price may always be higher, the electric vehicle will be less expensive to maintain and operate over the life of the car compared to a gasoline-powered car,” she said.
[via The New York Times]