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Just the other day we were asking ourselves if the price of the most expensive component of electric cars, the lithium ion batteries, will ever come down. As if to answer our query Charles Gassenheimer, Chief Executive over at battery maker Ener1, has come back with the answer we hoped to hear. Yes! And we're not talking about a small fraction of a reduction but rather a full 50 percent. Of course this kind of sea change in price will require a huge increase in volume. Gassenheimer says they will need to have volumes in the hundreds of thousands to achieve this price drop but silver-lines that cloud by saying, "But the important point of this here is the demand side of this equation doesn't seem to be the problem." He says demand is "off the charts in Europe and Asia" and expects American demand to keep increasing as well.

Ener1, who already make batteries for plug-in Priuses and have a $70 million supply deal with Th!nk, are pressing to reach this kind of output and are chatting up 24 (!) different auto makers. Of these, two may soon ink development contracts which could, because of the size of these companies, lead to Ener1 actually becoming cash flow positive in 2010. If they can achieve their cost-reduction goals, the pay-back period for all-electric cars may be reached in as little as two years instead of the current 7 or 8 if the price of oil stays around $100 a barrel.

[Source: Reuters]


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  • 15 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have been thinking about another problem regarding lithium ion batteries, and that is that there will not be enough lithium metals to make these cars truly successful. I read some articles and found out that there is a 75 year supply based on 2003 usage of 10 million laptops per year. Add 2 million cars per year using the equivalent of 500 laptops each and the 75 year supply drops down to 10 years. I am an amateur at these types of projections, but someone needs to do a sound analysis. Why invest vast sums and stake the future of GM and other companies on a technology with no payoff?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Ah, the scaremongerers claim another victim ;)

        In short: No.
        In detail: http://www.daughtersoftiresias.org/greenwiki/Peak_lithium
        • 6 Years Ago
        No, I developed my fear all by myself. I do long range planning for a defense company. I look at mathematical models, and that is what I would like to see here. I read the paper and it is helpful, but does not answer the fundamental questions. What is the supply and how fast will we use it? All resources are limited in some way. The paper cites a new source of 25 B lbs of lithium carbonate. That coverts to 12.5 M tons. If one ton yields 10 cars and L-I power car sales grow to 10 M per year, I might have an argument. If it yields 100 batteries or more, then I don't and I'll go think about something else.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I live in canada where it's below the freezing point for 4-5 months a year. I presume the charge will be weaker because of the cold and the charge will stay shorter due to snow on the road and the use of more electricity for the heater and lighting.

      But aside this i had a revelation today while taking my coffee this morning. The revelation is simple and nobody i know of have had it before. The revelation is that manufacturers can begin to commercialize electric car with batteries and fuelcell at the same time. It's not necesarilly hydrogen fuelcell or batteries, it can be the 2 technologies at the same time because all the mechanic underpinnings of the car are the same electric propulsion system
      and the fuelcell or battery provide the electricity, so at the car dealer you can choose your car with a battery or a fuelcell depending of your needs or tastes. The cost for maintaining the 2 different technologies for the manufacturers are not that big because the mains components of the car are the same, electric motors, wirings, regenerative braking controllers, etc.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't buy this. The cost of the materials goes up every year as demand increases.
        • 6 Years Ago
        1) The long term price trend of most resources is *downward*. The best deposits of anything are incredibly rare; the next best are an order of magnitude more common than the best, and the next after that an additional order of magnitude more common, and so forth. Hence, a technology advancement that halves the cost doesn't double what's available for production; it increases it by an order of magnitude. The same goes for price changes. This biased scaling factor leads most resources to have a long-term downward trend (albeit with significant shorter-term fluctuations due to imbalances between supply and demand that take time to correct).

        2) Li-ions that don't use cobalt are nowhere near limited by the price of raw materials.
        • 6 Years Ago
        But material costs are only part of the total cost of any manufactured goods. Improvements in manufacturing proceedures can dramatically reduce labor costs, and improvements in design can reduce the amount of materials or substitute cheaper materials to reduce costs as well.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Tankdog: "I don't buy this. The cost of the materials goes up every year as demand increases".

      Then why does the cost of consumer electronics, everything from computers to televisions to cellphones keep going down while their capability increases?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Great news... expect the development of the electric car to closely mirror that of the computer and electronics in general.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "I live in canada where it's below the freezing point for 4-5 months a year. I presume the charge will be weaker because of the cold and the charge will stay shorter due to snow on the road and the use of more electricity for the heater and lighting."

      Well, as an example, A123 cells are rated for operation at down to -30C and storage at down to -50C. And modern automotive li-ions generally have way more power in them than you could realistically use; most you can discharge completely in 10 minutes or so. So, even if the power output is lower at lower temperatures, it still wouldn't be a practical constraint.

      As for a heater, that's a good question. An ICE turns most of the energy of the gasoline into waste heat, but an electric motor only turns 10-15% or so, and the batteries no more than a couple percent (as little as a fraction of a percent). Even still, though, you're looking at a fair amount of waste heat (a kilowatt or two) that could be used for heating the interior. That's the output of a plug-in space heater.

      Lights are really not a big deal. HID headlights are ~35W each, so 70W. Even the light, hyper-streamlined Aptera will use ~4-5kW for the motor when going at low highway speeds, and over 10kW when going at fast highway speeds. 70W is pretty insignificant by comparison.

      One thing that could be nice for Canada: are you in one of those places where they have outlets for people to plug in block heaters to pre-heat their engines? Could be a convenient charging station ;)

      And yes, while the drivetrain of both fuel cells and BEVs is the same, there are a lot of practical considerations that lead them to have different engineering constraints. Hydrogen tanks are bulky but light, while batteries are heavy; you can't just replace one with the other, for example, and have the vehicle be balanced properly. Fuel cell stacks can be bulky and heavy, so that's a closer match, but you still need somewhere for the tank. There are various constraints for when it comes to crash safety as well. Fuel cell systems have a lot of support infrastructure needed -- pumps, valves, heaters, compressors, etc. So it's more challenging than it may at first appear.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ms.Helen Ren ******************** Qinhuangdao Xinchi Photoelectricity Technology Co.,Ltd 275km South to No.102 National Road, Shenhe Industry Park, Funing County, Qinhuangdao,Hebei,China Tel: 0086-335-6309637 Fax: 0086-335-6309632 Msn: helenxcgd@msn.cn Skype: helenxcgd Yahoo ID: helenxcgd@yahoo.cn http://xcgd.en.alibaba.com/ http://www.xcgdbattery.com ********************** About Us Qinhuangdao Xinchi Photoelectricity Technology Co.,Ltd., was established in 2006, specializing in Research and Development, manufacture of high quality Li-ion battery. We offer wide ranges of batteries, LiFePO4 battery, LiMn2O4 battery, and also Li(NiCoMn)O2 battery, which are widely used in Electric Vehicle, Electric Bicycles, Power tools, Industrial miner's lamp, UPS, other industry and military fields, etc. With Advanced production equipment, professional manufacturing team, proficient production skills, we can produce more than 120000Ah per day. We have high-precision coating machine from Hirano Tecseed Co. Ltd (Japan), full-automatic Slitter Machine from Nishimura Mfg. Co., Ltd. (Japan), and full-automatic Filling Machine from Hibar systems limited (Canada), and many other imported production equipment or domestic high-end auxiliary equipment to ensure our products high quality and consistency. XINCHI products will not only be tested during every step of the whole production process, but also exfactory inspection will be taken, for example over discharge, anti-aging, short circuit, drop, extrusion, prickling, and other safety inspection. Advanced testing equipment and professional quality inspection system are an efficient guarantee to the quality of our products. Therefore, every index of XINCHI products is better than national standard. At the moment, all the batteries of our company has got ISO,CE ,UN38.3,MSDS and ROHS certificates.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Cheap Lithium ion batteries! Great idea! Everyone is talking about electric cars as if they were the second coming of Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta.

      I have a few questions. 1. How long will a set of lithium ion batteries last? (please use a measurement we can all understand-- miles or klicks-- whatever; 2. How much will a new set cost?; 3. What will it cost me to dispose of the old set of batteries?; 4. Are we creating a downstream environmental nightmare with old lithium batteries?; and lastly, 5. Will a set of batteries last as long in Phoenix as in Boston or Key West and Seattle?
        • 6 Years Ago
        1. No simple answer to battery lifespan as there are several variables: the size of the pack (larger packs last longer), charge cycle count (depends on the chemistry of the battery), depth of discharge (deep discharge cycles strain batteriens more than shallow discharge cycles), and type of use (Full EV, NEV, plug-in hybrid).

        One example is the Tesla Roadster that gets 220 miles per charge and 500 charge cycles, equal to 110,000 miles - but at that point it still has 80% capacity. Some owners might have a short commute and might keep going until the capacity had dropped to 70% or 60% or even less, others might be more fussy and replace the battery at 85% or 90%. Another example would be the planned GM Volt, with only 40 miles per charge but 8,000 charge cycles to equal 320,000 miles - but since long distance trips would be mostly run on gasoline, the lifespan could be much more for some customers.

        2. The cost depends on the size, the cell type, and the type of battery chemistry used. The 53 Kwh LiIon Cobalt Oxide battery for the Tesla Roadster costs about $20,000 or about $380 per Kwh. The AltairNano 35 Kwh LiIon Titanate Spinel battery packs ordered by Phoenix Motors costs nearly $75,000 or about $2,100 per Kwh (but they were prototypes, mass produced version would likely be less). The 1.8 Kwh NiMH battery in the Prius costs about $3,000 or about $1,700 per Kwh. As you can see, the prices vary considerably, but if Enerdel is right, the future costs could be much less.

        3. Since the batteries can be recycled and the lithium and other materials retrieved for reuse, disposal would be little or no cost, or the recycler might even pay for old batteries! Furthermore, batteries that didn't have enough capacity for automotive use might still have enough capacity for secondary uses as backup power or "load levelers" for electrical utilities, giving them some resale value.

        4. LiIon batteries don't contain toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium or mercury, and are considered safe for landfill disposal. Moreover, with secondary usage and recycling, they are unlikely to create any serious environmental problems.

        5. Locale shouldn't make much difference, except for length of daily commute and total annual miles driven. Long commutes and lots of annual miles would of course put more wear and tear on any type of automotive powertrain, gas or electric.
        • 6 Years Ago
        1. How long will a set of lithium ion batteries last?

        To all cells, there's an age component and a cycle life component. The cycle life component is dependent on the depth of discharge.

        Conventional li-ion cells, like Tesla uses, are very limited in both age and cycle life. They baby their cells and, by doing so, get some reasonable (but not incredible life out of them) -- 20% loss of capacity in five years. Tesla is one of the few companies using traditional li-ion. The advanced li-ions sacrifice some energy density for extreme stability, nearly eliminating the aging of cells and giving them cycle lifes measured in the thousands or tens of thousands of miles (hundreds of thousands to millions of miles in a typical EV). These are likely to be warrantied for 10 years (GM has already announced a 10 year warranty for the Volt's pack) and last the life of the vehicle.

        2. How much will a new set cost?

        That depends entirely on the cells and the pack size. Traditional li-ion costs $0.30-$0.40/kWh, but would have trouble lowering their prices significantly because the cobalt already makes up 60% of their production costs. The titanates also use cobalts, and in theory can get close to that cost, but are currently around $2.00/kWh. The phosphates and stabilized spinels currently cost $0.50-$1.00/kWh in bulk, but since they don't use cobalt, they have a huge potential for price drops.

        3. What will it cost me to dispose of the old set of batteries?

        Lithium is too cheap to generally warrant recycling of li-ion batteries. Li-ion batteries with a cobalt-based cathode generally have a low but relevant degree of toxicity. Li-ion batteries without a cobalt based cathode are generally just corrosive. So, in short, "not much".

        4. Are we creating a downstream environmental nightmare with old lithium batteries?

        See above; no.

        5. Will a set of batteries last as long in Phoenix as in Boston or Key West and Seattle?

        Probably not (li-ion batteries would rather not be charged in freezing conditions, nor charged or discharged when very hot, and prefer to be stored at low temperatures), but the stable li-ions have such long lifespans, it's not really a big deal.
      • 6 Years Ago
      All this hype but never anything concrete. Brag.....brag, that's all I hear.
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