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Ramez Naam has an analysis of how cheap electric cars can get
Electric Vehicles, like virtually all other manufactured goods, are likely to have a learning curve, meaning that greater production will mean reduced price. Batteries, a large fraction of the cost of EVs, appear to have a learning rate of around 21%, meaning that every doubling of scale will reduce costs by 21%.
What about whole vehicles? The Ford Model T had a learning rate of around 16%. Let’s use that for the entire vehicle, including the battery. That gives us a conservative estimate of the cost improvement rate.
Last year, EVs grew at around 60% annually, to around 1 million total EVs ever sold. Sources in China tell me they expect several hundred thousand EVs to be sold there in 2016 alone. Growth could easily be 60% again in 2016. Even so, growth will eventually slow. Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects 30% long term growth. Let’s use that for now, to be conservative.
Those assumptions lead to a world where, by roughly 2030, EVs with a 200 mile range are cheaper than the cheapest car sold in the US in 2015.
On Cost-Per-Mile, EVs Win Even More
Electric vehicles, today, have lower total costs per mile than equivalent gasoline-powered vehicles, due to lower energy costs of electricity and the lower maintenance costs. At 30% growth rate, EVs will have roughly half the up-front cost of gasoline-powered vehicles in roughly 10-12 years, around 2027 or 2028. At that point, the total cost per-mile-driven of EVs will also be roughly half the cost of gasoline powered vehicles.
In 2014, Nextbigfuture had discussed the possibility of a battery singularity. The Battery singularity would be the electric car singularity as Ramez is also discussing. Batteries (and electric engines) that replace gasoline (and combustion engines) but at lower lifetime costs have the potential to completely replace combustion engines. I believe the costs will be brought down and the factory construction and scaling of the supply chain will take until about 2025. We could get to 10 million electric cars per year by about 2020 and then to 100 million by 2025.
This would likely mean that Tesla with its large lead in electric cars would likely be selling as many cars as Toyota now and possibly 2 to 3 times as many. This would be 10 to 30 million cars. Tesla would be worth $300 billion to $2 trillion depending upon the price earnings multiple.
Other Analysis of Battery and Electric Car Improvement and future costs
Jefferies analyst Dan Dolev predicts that Tesla battery costs could fall by 50%+ through the use of new battery chemistry and large scale production via the Gigafactory. Most industry observers have predicted that general acceptance of electric cars won’t happen until the $100 per kWh barrier broken.
Dolev estimates Tesla’s current Model S battery cost to be $250 per kWh and thinks the company can drive costs down to $88 per kWh primarily through battery chemistry changes and economies of scale. A few days ago Telsa claims that the cost of their battery packs is down to $190 per kwh.
Tesla’s use of an efficient nickel cobalt aluminum cathode (i.e. the positive electrode), use of a silicon synthetic graphene anode (i.e. the negative electrode) that has 2-6 times the lithium ion storage capacity of today’s standard graphite anode, and a possible use of water-based anode solvent, are key advantages.
Our analysis details a potential path to a 30% cell-level cost reduction to ~$88/kWh by using a more efficient lithium-rich nickel cobalt manganese cathode (vs. NCA), doubling the percentage of silicon in the synthetic graphene anode, replacing the liquid electrolyte with an ionic gel electrolyte which eliminates the need for a separator, and using a water-based electrode solvent for the cathode.
At $88 per kWh, a 60 kWh battery for the forthcoming Tesla Model 3 would cost $5,280. That’s only a third of what the same battery would cost today and makes the prospect of an affordable electric car with at least 200 miles of range far more credible.
Is Dolev too optimistic? No one at Tesla Motors is promising anything close to his projection.
Materials Today - Li-ion battery materials: present and future [June 2015]
The Li-ion battery has clear fundamental advantages and decades of research which have developed it into the high energy density, high cycle life, high efficiency battery that it is today. Yet research continues on new electrode materials to push the boundaries of cost, energy density, power density, cycle life, and safety. Various promising anode and cathode materials exist, but many suffer from limited electrical conductivity, slow Li transport, dissolution or other unfavorable interactions with electrolyte, low thermal stability, high volume expansion, and mechanical brittleness. Various methods have been pursued to overcome these challenges.
There is a chart depicting average electrode potential against experimentally accessible (for anodes and intercalation cathodes) or theoretical (for conversion cathodes) capacity.
This allows the reader to evaluate various anode and cathode combinations and their theoretical cell voltage, capacity, and energy density. The chart can also be used to identify suitable electrolytes, additives, and current collectors for the electrode materials of choice.
The acronyms for the intercalation materials are:
LCO for “lithium cobalt oxide”,
LMO for “lithium manganese oxide”,
NCM for “nickel cobalt manganese oxide”,
NCA for “nickel cobalt aluminum oxide”,
LCP for “lithium cobalt phosphate”,
LFP for “lithium iron phosphate”,
LFSF for “lithium iron fluorosulfate”, and
LTS for “lithium titanium sulfide”.
Approximate range of average discharge potentials and specific capacity of some of the most common (a) intercalation-type cathodes (experimental), (b) conversion-type cathodes (theoretical), (c) conversion type anodes (experimental), and (d) an overview of the average discharge potentials and specific capacities for all types of electrodes.
New types of Lithium ion approaches are delaying any shift to Lithium sulfur and other types of batteries