• Sep 20th 2010 at 7:53PM
  • 30
Here's an idea to reduce the costs of lithium ion batteries: split it four ways. That was one proposal given by
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries senior executive vice president, Ichiro Fukue, at the 2010 Driving Sustainability conference in Reykjavík, Iceland this weekend. Here's how it might work.

When someone buys a new electric vehicle (EV), she would pay the battery manufacturer just 25 percent of the battery cost. After a few years, when the car is sold, the second buyer would pay the battery manufacturer the second 25 percent. Finally, when the EV is ready for the scrapyard, the power utility would buy the battery, paying the last 50 percent to the manufacturer. How this would all work in the real world was questioned by conference attendees, but it does give us a fresh new way to think about car ownership, doesn't it?

Most of Fukue's presentation, though, was about the lithium-ion battery market, which he said could reach $25 billion U.S. by 2020, and buses. The market will reach that high level even if (or maybe because of?) the price for li-ion batteries drops to $300-$400 per kWh in a few years, something Fukue predicted would happen. (More after the jump.)

Mitsubishi has been testing li-ion batteries in its i-MiEV, of course, but the company has a new electric vehicle project in the works: transit buses with swappable batteries. Fukue said trials of the EV bus will begin in Kyoto, Japan in February 2011, with mass production scheduled for 2013. The buses have two packs, one in the roof that is always there and one in the bottom of the back that can be swapped out. Here are the specs:
  • The replaceable battery is a 60 kWh pack.
  • The bus has a 30-kilometer range.
  • The bus will reduce CO2 emissions by 50 tons per year, compared to a standard diesel bus.
  • The bus can hold 65 people.
  • The electric motor has 160 kW max power.
Starting five months from now, the bus will travel from Kyoto station to the popular tourist destinations of Ginkaku-ji and Heian-jingu and the conference center. Another bus is potentially planned for Toyko, where a planned showcase renewable energy building will store energy in the batteries while they're in the ground. The buses will pick up passengers in the bus terminal in the lobby (thanks, quiet and emission-free EVs!) and the buses will get a fresh set of packs as they leave the building. "We like to change the image of the bus," Fukue said. "Buses are very clean and beautiful."

Oh, and how's this for another unusual energy storage idea? When there is excess energy produced at night, the totally green building will have a system that freezes water and then uses the ice to help cool the building the next day as part of the air conditioning system. Pretty, um, cool, right?

[Image: np&djjewell – C.C. License 2.0]

Our travel and lodging for this coverage were provided by the event organizers.

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hm.. how would you prevent the owner from never selling the car and running their batteries till they're bone dead?

      Also.. first buyer gets the full range of the battery.. second owner gets reduced range.. that doesn't work,

      I like the idea of the power company getting involved though. Here's an idea:

      1. You buy the car and the power company subsidizes 25%-33% of the cost of the battery.
      2. Some kind of monitoring device is installed on the battery that the power company can come by and scan to see what the battery life is at.. sort of like how they come to check your meter.
      3. When battery capacity drops to say.. 25%-33%, power company takes the battery and you go buy a new one.

      This would reduce the cost of buying a new EV significantly. IE, take ~$7500 off the sticker price of the Nissan Leaf. Add government incentives and the car is easily in the $20k range.

      This only works if batteries have proven themselves to be reliable. Even a meager 15% off would help, though.
      • 5 Years Ago
      There is already a name for a program where a car company still maintains ownership over a battery pack in your car.

      It's called a Lease. The terms of this lease just happen to be that the 2nd payment is due only upon sale of the vehicle the leased battery is in. And the vehicle can only be sold to future buyer who will accept lease terms where the final lease payments would be paid upon the vehicle being scrapped. The last owner may even end up in the position where they might have to PAY to have their own car scrapped if the open market value of their battery isn't enough to cover the final 50% payment!

      The clouded title that would be needed to enforce this would devalue the vehicle's resale value much more compared to other EV's than the actual cost of the battery. In the end, the first buyer would end up paying the entire amount of the battery pack, and then some. It would just come out of their pocket in the form of reduced resale value instead of being paid upfront.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Too convoluted & complex.

      And yeah, the battery probably won't be worth the 50% at the end of its auto life, so that amount is too much.

      He gets points for thinking about the problem though. And so does Better Place and the people thinking about battery leases. The up-front cost of batteries really is one of the biggest problems that needs to be addressed.

      With interest rates so low these days, someone really should be able to think up some sort of solution to borrow a ton of money, buy the batteries, and then collect payments from EV battery users at the rate they would be paying for gasoline if they had bought a gas car instead. But none of the models seem to feel right.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Here's Renault's plan:
        'Renault expects the lease for the batteries to start from about £70 a month for low-mileage users. An overnight battery charge is likely to cost between £1.60 and £2.50, depending on your domestic power tariff. A fully charged battery should be good for 100 miles of range in the Fluence, Zoe and Kangoo; more on exclusively urban routes. The Twizy will have a 60-mile range, but will also cost less to charge.
        However, the battery lease is likely to be more costly for those doing higher mileages, or who want greater flexibilty of ownership. More intensive charging and discharging of Renault’s lithium ion batteries shortens their life, and so users who do more than about 15,000 miles a year will have to pay more. Those who want a ‘pay-as-you-go’ contract that would allow them to sell the car on at any given point will also pay more than those willing to sign up for a fixed term.

        And how will Renault know if you pretended to sell your car to avoid the battery lease costs, transfer ownership to someone else, but continue to use it? “The cars will come with GPRS transponders that tell us when they’re being used,” our source confirmed. “We’ll also be able to disable them if the relevant lease bill isn’t being paid.”
        Renault claims that one of its battery packs should be capable of providing 80 per cent of its original range at eight years old, and after 125,000 miles.

        At that point, it expects EV owners to simply sign a new deal on a brand new battery pack, and nip along to their local dealer to have it fitted. Old ones could still have five years of useful life if recycled by Renault.

        The company does expect regular high-voltage ‘fast’ charges to reduce the operational life of its batteries, however: “not by 50 per cent,” our man explained, “but possibly by 25 or 30.”


        To say I am not entirely happy about Renault tracking and recording every move you ever make in your car is putting it mildly.
        The upside is that at European petrol prices anyone who drives more than around 5,000 miles/year should be in the black on this.
        Here in the UK they are planning to put petrol prices up by another £0.30 litre, to £1.45, and in that case the break-even point would be even lower.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Watch your insurance premiums go up, because somebody has to pay if the battery is damaged in an accident, or if your car is stolen and never retrieved.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Well, it's not the dumbest idea I've ever heard, but it definitely earns a spot in the top three.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So, Mitsubishi doesn't thin the battery prices will fall ?!

      In 10 years when it is time to sell the battery to the utility for 50%, most likely the utility can get larger new battery for that 50%.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Battery prices are going to fall a little bit but not as much as the optimists believe. So much of the cost of the battery is simply for the materials alone. Mass manufacturing isn't really going to squeeze out that cost.

        Battery prices will drop a little further but not too much. They are going to become practical more through the fact that the price of oil goes up.

        And remember, the price of oil is going to push up the price of batteries too since oil affect EVERYTHING. The battery materials are mined using oil, battery materials are shipped using oil, plastics in batteries are made of oil, finished batteries are shipped using oil, etc.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It depends on the chemistry. Battery grade lithium carbonate costs about $50/kg, and Nissan uses 3kg of lithium for it's 24kwh pack, which is 18% of the weight of the lithium carbonate.
        It works out to around 0.75kg lithium carbonate/kwh
        The cobalt used in laptops is expensive, but the new Nickel Manganese Cobalt batteries such as Panasonic use in their very high specific energy battteries use only around 10% as much by weight.
        The other materials in iron phosphate batteries are dirt cheap.
        Lithium beneficiating is highly energy intensive, and there are some possibilities of improving the process, and mined lithium has different qualities to lithium from brine.
        The bottom line is that there is a lot of headroom to improve batteries without running into an absolute cost of materials limit.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I like the idea of somehow having the power companies pay in advance but I don't think the second owner should pay the same amount as the first, since they will have a degraded battery by then.

      Like Nixon says, it does seem kind of convoluted. A leasing scheme should already do something very similar without the resale value issue.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Putting a value on a battery provided you have the right equipment should not be that difficult.
        If it is depleted to the lowest SOC level then recharged the remaining ability to accept a charge would be clear.
        So it would seem to me that the easiest way would be some sort of certification of the battery, and you pay by the remaining capacity.
      • 5 Years Ago
      as Middleway correctly pointed out the owner might never sell the car.
      here's a much better idea, make the car light and aerodynamic so it needs much less battery and then stop massively overcharging for those batteries..
      at 250$/kWh which it more or less is now, say 5kWh in a lean PHEV, that's 1250$, hardly worth spreading out on 4 buyers...

      and in the near future it will go well below 200 so it's entirely a non issue. the only issue is that the automakers are not getting into EV making..
      beating around the bush you might say
        • 5 Years Ago
        Middleway, let's just say that I have just a bit more insight into what various brands of batteries cost. Baodeng Fengfan (aka Valence), DLG (aka K2), LG Chem, Sieden not to mention the homebuilders' favorite Thundersky or derived products such as CALB. as well as Headway which is a brand that I brought to the attention of the western world. All of them vastly cheaper than 650$/kWh. I have been quoted 239$/kWh on laptop cells from one of the biggest manufacturers in the world.

        but the one fact that I think you will most appreciate is that Martin Eberhard said 255$/kWh now : ) I trust you know who that is.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Everyone seems to be keen on discussing battery issues and their prices. I'm not keen on batteries at all. The battery chemistry is a severe limitation on function and cycle life; problems arising due to high or low temperatures. An USC is free from all such problems and has virtually no limitations on energy or power density. I can envisage real USCs on the basis of Graphene and am sure that a final EV solution will be based on just that.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Spec, whenever you feel like disagreeing with me, it should give you pause :)

        see above plus the Aptera is far from hyper efficient. given its extreme shape and material use it is actually very unimpressive. you can see the data at the xprize. you will notice the Wave II was 50% better and that's a far from an ideal design in itself, vis a vis the huge vacuum scoop under it.
        the heavy primitive Volt is rated 60km (40miles) on 8kWh. a well engineered 4 seater will easily do 80km (50 miles) on 5kWh or 60km with life margin on the battery. although to be fair, if you use laptop cells which are relatively slow discharge you probably want at least 10kWh to get better performance as well as twice the range and longer battery life. 5000$ for the cells in an electric car able to do 160km before needing recharge or the range extender kicks in. say 7500 for the pack with profit which is then covered by the US tax rebate. many would be willing to pay the remaining 9999$ for such a PHEV, yes?
        • 5 Years Ago
        dan, but the voltage you're looking for affects how many cells you're buying. So if you're buying X amount of kWh, it's important to know how many volts you're buying.

        I can get 1.1kWh for $140. But that's at 36 volts :p
        • 5 Years Ago
        Middleway, nah you are really getting that wrong. we wouldn't be talking about $/kWh as a key metric if it was suddenly depending on pack voltage.
        • 5 Years Ago
        usbseawolf, there was an article here not long ago where Martin Eberhard indicated that the batteries he advocates used cost 255$/kWh. the same cells used in a Tesla Roadster, which is sort of an automotive application, wouldn't you say
        • 5 Years Ago
        Automotive grade battery cost a lot more. 250$/kWh battery would probably last 500 cycles. Would you want a Nissan Leaf if you need to change the $6k battery pack every 50k miles?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I looked it up on wikipedia, and yeah, i am getting it wrong. You win!

        What confused me is that the eBike world measures things in mAh & Volts, since the voltage level for ebikes varies from 12v to 100v+. I must admit, i am a newbie to building anything electric and still have a lot to learn.

        Nonetheless, i have a really hard time believing that you can find a KwH that cheap.. I have not found people doing conversions for anywhere near your battery prices either. Usually people are dropping $5000-$15000 for a pack on a regular car conversion.
        • 5 Years Ago
        yeah, automotive long-life Li-Ions are not anywhere close to $250/KWH. Yes, you can get Chinese Li-Ions for around $350/KWH but I doubt they are very reliable and that does not include battery management system.

        And 5KWH is enough to get a golf car to go 30 miles. Even the hyper-efficient Aptera needs like around 17KWH to go 100 miles or so.
        • 5 Years Ago
        $239/kwh at what voltage?

        Because $239/kwh @ 3.7v is pretty ludicrously overpriced, $239/kwh @ 200v would mean that somebody stole a few crates and needs to get rid of them right now because the feds have a battering ram aimed at the door, lol.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Let's do some math.

        I just paid $160 ( shipping included ) For a 10Ah @ 36v worth of batteries a few weeks ago. These were the cheapest lithium polymer available; I'm talking real Chinese stuff; shipped straight from a factory.

        Let's say we need 144 volts to drive a car of about 1750lbs. That kind of voltage will get you eh.. 60, 70 mph in a car like that. So that's good enough.

        So take my $160 and multiply it by 4, that's $640.
        Now we want to talk in watts instead of amps, so 114 x 10 = 1.1140 kWh

        So with the cheapest Chinese batteries i know of ( and believe me, i HAVE shopped around ), you end up paying $640/kWh before you even add in BMS, the labor involved in wiring it up, protective casing, ETC.

        You're telling me that batteries should cost $250/wHr?

        I want what you're smoking.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Tesla roadster has 3 years / 36k miles warranty on the battery pack. This is nowhere near 8 years / 100k miles warranty of the Leaf and the Volt. Prius HV battery has 10 years / 150k miles warranty.

        You may want to multiply $255/kWh with 3 or 4 to get equivalent of the current matured mainstream automotive grade NiMH battery for the full hybrid.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Middleway, nah doesn't work that way. I think you got ahead of yourself there.
        the cheapest by capacity is laptop style cells at typically 3.7V and 2.4Ah. that's 8.9Wh in one cell or 113 such cells have a combined capacity of 1kWh which you would get for around 250$. you can then combine them in whatever voltage you need from all in series to all in parallel or any mix in between.

        the Tesla pack has 6831 cells which I guess are arranged as parallel blocks of 69 cells and 99 such blocks in series for a combined voltage of around 366V depending on state of charge.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Geronimo, batteries are ready now
        • 5 Years Ago
        Middleway, don't think of it as a contest. all who accept the truth win.

        the typical homebuild uses thundersky or equivalent batteries. those are lithium iron phosphate cells (the 3.2V lithium chemistry type like A123) and those used to go for 344$/kWh as a shared purchase directly from china. now they are a bit more expensive.
        the cheapest is laptop style cells and I haven't heard of any homebuilder using those although it is actually an interesting thing to do for a marathon car. I've suggested it to Jack Rickard of EVTV as a demonstration of what amazing range is possible. I am certain that a 1000+km range is possible with todays batts and that would be pretty cool.
        keep in mind that when we are talking 250$/kWh we're talking bulk purchase directly from the factories as freight and that is of course the price that is relevant to the automakers.
        retails stores can easily mark it up by factor 2+, especially for RC applications. automakers don't buy a bunch of RC batteries in a hobby store and make 100000 cars out of it.. : )
        they of course buy bulk, some like Nissan take it a step further and make their own factory because they know it can be done much cheaper still.
        Nissan might well already be making batteries at 100$/kWh, investment aside.

        As I pointed out earlier a lean PHEV can do fine with as little as 5kWh and at 100$/kWh battery cost doesn't seem so bad anymore does it...
        once the slow wits get their rears in gear EVs will rule totally. and it can be done today.
        an electric motor is not that expensive to make and power electronics is comfortably cheap. the prices we see today is an expression of hesitation, not what it will be.

        Verily I say onto you, that a 20k$ car could be made to seat 4 comfortably, beat a Bugatti Veyron on the drag strip and still use 5 times less energy than a Prius. Today. Including a range extender.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It run better on diesel.

      • 5 Years Ago
      The part about the utilities paying part of the cost makes sense since their will be a market for batteries that partially drained. I think this would work easier for corporate clients than customers, unless its an opt-in program.
      • 5 Years Ago
      To the best of my knowledge, the battery in EVs manages to power houses for upwards of 3 days or so. Also, for a majority of motorists, their driving time is claimed to stand at around 1 hour.
      By storing power from cheaper off-peak periods, the battery in EVs is able to power a house during expensive peak periods, even better, sell excess power back to the grid simultaneously, even after its automotive life.
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X