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03.11.2014
By John Polkinghorne, on August 7th, 2014It’s been a while since the last post in this series on electric vehicles (here are parts one, two and three), but this post is number four. This post is about the cost of electric vehicles – the main reason they’ve been so slow to take off. As discussed in part two, electric motors use a lot less energy than a traditional car engine.
This gives a cost of $5 per 100 km – certainly much cheaper than a typical petrol car, which uses 10 litres of petrol to travel 100 km, costing around $22.00 at current petrol prices. However, a big chunk of the petrol price is tax, comprising a contribution to the National Land Transport Fund, and a bit to ACC as well. As I’ve written previously, the long-term solution may be to make Road User Charges universal, although there are issues with this as well. Diesel-electric hybrids, on the other hand, have to pay Road User Charges, so they end up paying the full whammy of costs (once the RUC-petrol tax discrepancy gets resolved in the next few years). The graph below compares the lifetime running costs of several kinds of car, under several taxation scenarios. Setting aside environmental concerns, “range anxiety”, and all the rest, consumers will be prepared to pay the higher capital cost of electric cars, if they’re going to save enough money on their running costs. Overall, if you compare these running cost savings to the extra capital cost, it looks like the financial argument for BEVs and PHEVs isn’t quite there yet. There are ways of reducing this issue: for example, customers could lease electric vehicles, or buy the vehicles but only lease the batteries. At current price levels, BEVs have running costs that are only marginally lower than petrol-electric PHEVs, because these hybrids are only taxed on their petrol consumption. Since the costs associated with the road network are primarily dependent on the weight and number of vehicles using the road – and not on the litres of fuel used – the Road User Charges scheme arguably provides a more equitable way of charging for road use. Wouldn’t the annual opex for cars increase as they age due to the need for ongoing repairs etc, rather than decrease as the graph suggests? There’s an argument that EVs might depreciate slower than conventional cars, excluding the battery (which you replace anyway), since there are fewer other parts of the car that are getting run down.
You do realize that even for a mildly color blind person your graphs look all the same color?
As if it needs replacing even once in its lifetime, it totally changes to economics of BEVs versus the others (making it even more uneconomic). Right now BEVs don’t stack up financially because they are too simply expensive due to the costs of the batteries and thta assumes that the battery never needs replacing. Of course, if for instance we had wireless energy transmission in the roadway so that for example BEVs could have small batteries that are semi-continuously charged from from the grid as they drive on the roads, that would change the economics in their favour a lot. Then of course, there are also similar technology for trams and trains (A Battery EMU for instance), which means the EMU can use the normal overhead power where its available and its local supply where its not. Presumably this will all be made irrelevant by the introduction of driverless cars, which will ultimately remove the whole concept of owning a car, and therefore change the economic model.
So if the cost of batteries decreases enough and the tax payer gives a generous donation these cars still dont make sense. Let me fix that for you; as the cost of batteries goes down, which they will as the supply chain ramps up, and the cost of petrol goes up, which it will, as supply and demand are clearly on a knife edge despite the Shale boomlet, then these things will become more viable. There will only be real choice when it becomes viable to be able to choose not to have to drive, at least not all the time and for all journeys. Interestingly China is reducing pollution and reliance on fossil fuels by mandating that 30% of all State Vehicles be alternative fuels by 2016.
I’d love to hear what the actual lifetime of batteries has been in NZ for hybrids like Toyota Prius and Honda Insight. Those have been around long enough to see whether the initial 8 year estimates (that I had heard at their introduction) was pessimistic or optimistic. I think those batteries have generally performed OK, and just as importantly they’ve been fairly cheap to replace when it does come time for that.
Electrical energy from non-rechargeable (primary) batteries is expensive in relative terms and its use is limited to low power applications such as watches, flashlights and portable entertainment devices. In this paper we calculate the cost to produce 1000 watts of power for one hour (1kWh) from different energy storage medias.
Secondary batteries provide far more economical energy than primaries, as Figure 2 reveals. Newer chemistries provide higher energy densities than conventional batteries per size and weight but the cost per kWh is higher. The low costs of nickel-cadmium can only be achieved by applying a full discharge once every 1-2 month as part of a maintenance program to prevent memory. Figure 3 compares the energy cost to generate 1kW of energy from the primary AA alkaline cells, a nickel-cadmium pack, a combustion engine used in a midsize car, fuel cells and the electrical grid.
The fuel cell offers the most effective means of generating electricity but is expensive in terms of cost per kWh.
By submitting this form, you are providing your express consent to receive electronic communications from Battery University. Please keep this discussion focussed by following the guidelines at the bottom of this article. Internalized costs are the costs which can be accurately accounted for in our current systems. This article will cover two battery-based energy storage solutions: standard batteries and flow batteries. Germany currently offers a good example of the type of buy-sell spreads available in a system with substantial intermittent renewable energy penetration.
An important feature distinguishing batteries from other energy storage technologies is that storage capacity (kWh) is generally the economically limiting factor instead of output capacity (kW). In addition to cycle frequency, cycle depth is also an important parameter in battery storage.
Another factor to take into consideration is that depth of discharge is often an important determinant in battery lifetime where shallower cycles can significantly prolong battery life (see above).
Finally, it must be acknowledged that there exists substantial uncertainty regarding the economics of pre-commercial energy storage technologies like batteries.
Even though Li-ion batteries are making all the headlines, most deep-cycle batteries for renewable energy application are still based on mature lead-acid technology.
The breakeven electricity price spread for lead-acid batteries is given below as a function of the average depth of discharge and the capital costs. Given that most suppliers recommend a maximum depth of discharge of around 50%, it is clear from the above figure why deployment of lead-acid batteries for energy storage is very limited. This spread will further increase in the future, but will likely remain too small to drive significant deployment for the foreseeable future in the absence of subsidies which are substantially more lucrative than those currently in place. Flow batteries, Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries (VRB) in particular, are attractive due to their very long lifetimes even under consistently high discharge depths, their good scalability, and their flexibility in managing power and storage capacity separately. The breakeven spread for VRBs is given below as a function of the capital costs and depth of discharge. When considering that VRBs can be discharged to 95% without any significant ill effects on lifetime, the figure above starts to look somewhat more promising. REBUTTAL: If you strongly disagree with an existing DATA comment, please write a short rebuttal.
CORRECTION: If you see a serious error in the numbers presented in the above analysis, please correct me so that I can correct the article.
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Externalities, potential technological breakthroughs and other energy options are off-topic. Schalk CloeteI am a research scientist searching for the objective reality about the longer-term sustainability of industrialized human civilization on planet Earth. In my view, the best way to use batteries for arbitrage is to time the charging of electric car batteries where possible to support the requirements of the grid.
Electric car batteries can even offer short term support to the grid by supplying power at times when market prices are exceptionally high.
Pure arbitrage using either Lead Acid or Lithium Ion technology – where the batteries do not have an additional function for the moment looks too expensive to make a commercial case.


Where penetration of intermittent wind and solar generation is relatively low, off peak periods will coincide with the night time period so night time charging suits the grid very well.
In areas such as Germany, parts of Australia, and Hawaii levels of solar installation are now such that on sunny days, off peak periods can now occur during the day. Most vehicles are driven only for a relatively short period of time each day with the biggest journey being the daily commute to work. Yesterday a reader sent me a copy of a June 17th Tidbit from Lux Research on the European micro hybrid market.
Compared to flooded lead-acid batteries, lithium iron phosphate batteries pack in more energy per physical size and weight.
A battery management system protects its cell by shunting current around it when it is full. The truck’s in-cab battery monitors show battery state-of charge (top), and BMS cell voltage and temperature (bottom).
IntermediateIn 2007, I converted a GMC Sonoma from its original gasoline propulsion to pure electric, using flooded lead-acid (FLA) batteries (see “Born to be Wired” in HP122).
However, the battery weight (approximately 1,800 pounds) brought the vehicle very close to its maximum gross weight of 5,000 pounds. This undoubtedly contributed to a shorter life, but the nail in their coffin occurred when I was unexpectedly called away for several weeks during the summer. I didn’t realize this until I tried to drive my vehicle and heard a “bang” in the battery box, and the vehicle lost power. Because I wanted my next battery pack to give me better service, I started investigating lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, which had dropped in price significantly—from $75,000 for a 31 kWh pack in 2006 to $12,000 in 2010 (since then, prices have remained fairly constant). Switching to LFPs shaved almost 1,000 pounds from the vehicle, more than doubled the vehicle’s range, gained back the vehicle’s original acceleration, and nearly halved its energy use per mile.
My converted electric GMC Sonoma pickup was featured in the article “Born To Be Wired” in HP122. Anniel, Lithium batteries are still 10 times safer than gas and millions safer than lead acid. With cooling on lithium batteries like my FORD Focus EV I think the batteries will last 16-20 years.
Government testing show a 10-20 year life mostly depending on temperature and of course no running them way down or over charging. Today, I’m looking at the costs of these cars – both their running costs, and their capital costs. These cars are much more expensive than conventional cars, unless there are hefty subsidies involved. The latest generation of vehicles use lithium-ion batteries, which are much better at storing energy than the traditional lead-acid batteries you’ll find in your Corolla. Let’s say that the car manufacturers are happy with a battery selling price of USD $500 per kWh, around $570 in NZ dollars.
According to the MBIE, that’s around 77 cents per litre once GST is added on, or $7.70 per 100 km. That’s a real disincentive from buying diesel-electric PHEVs, so we’d expect them to be much less popular here. In the graph here, for a car travelling 12,000 km a year for 25 years (perhaps a bit on the high side), and using an 8% discount rate, you’ll pay nearly $30,000 in running costs for a petrol car, compared with $7,000 for a BEV which is exempt from Road User Charges forever.
This kind of scheme could allow the buyer to avoid the high up-front cost, which could be recouped over time through the running cost savings. Furthermore, even though diesel-electric PHEVs will be more efficient than petrol-electric PHEVs, they are likely to have higher running costs. Pukekohe services – avoiding the need for electrification of that line anytime soon). Maybe Ford are on to something bringing back the XR8 next year, a 5.0 litre supercharged V8. The research I’ve done into EVs is what has led me to conclude that we (and countries around the world) need to put a heck of a lot more effort into public and active transport to reduce transport GHG emissions. Make things in large enough quantities and the prices come down as well – large lithium ion batteries are no exception. While Hybrids exercise batteries differently to electric only vehicles, they must be an indicator. We first look at primary and secondary batteries; then compare the energy cost derived from an internal combustion motor, the fuel cell and finally the electrical grid.
This analysis is based on the estimated purchase price of a commercial battery pack and on the number of discharge-charge cycles it can endure before replacement is necessary.
If omitted, nickel-cadmium is on par with nickel-metal-hydride and lithium-ion in terms of cycle life. Battery University monitors the comments and understands the importance of expressing perspectives and opinions in a shared forum. While we make all efforts to answer your questions accurately, we cannot guarantee results. In particular, all comments comparing energy options like nuclear and renewables are off-topic.
In energy production, these costs typically consist of capital costs, financing costs, operation and maintenance costs, and exploration costs. Three currently mature energy storage technologies – backup thermal power, pumped hydro storage and compressed air energy storage – were covered in a previous article, while synfuels will be covered in the next article. As discussed in the previous article, the most important factors influencing the economics of specialized energy storage technologies are the capital costs and the capacity utilization. This implies that a limited battery storage capacity must be utilized at as high a frequency and discharge depth as possible, while facilities like pumped hydro where storage capacity is not such a limiting factor are free to cycle over longer timespans. As can be seen, significant spreads exist between weeks with high wind output and low wind output as well as between weekdays and weekends.
Since the availability of high frequency spreads will vary significantly from one day to the next depending on fluctuations in renewables output and local electricity demand on weekly and seasonal timescales, the economically viable depth of discharge will also vary significantly. Numbers utilized in this article are guided by data available from the reviews of Duke University, the IEA and DNV. Standard batteries are especially attractive to advocates of distributed renewable energy because they can be deployed on small scale. However, sufficient subsidization could make batteries a viable option for early adopters in countries where household electricity prices are exceedingly high and feed-in tariffs are being reduced to limit deployment. They are generally not suitable for small-scale applications, however, and are therefore targeted more towards grid-scale energy storage. Naturally, the average depth of discharge achieved in practice will be much lower than 95%, but this will still improve the economics of VRBs relative to lead-acid and Li-ion batteries which should not be discharged beyond 50%.
Of particular interest is good data on the capital, BOS and O&M costs of various battery types.
Issues surrounding energy and climate are of central importance in this sustainability picture and I seek to contribute a consistently pragmatic viewpoint to the ongoing debate. Balancing services – energy storage can be used to rapidly respond to voltage or frequency variation or grid instability a service which can have considerable value.
Black start – many traditional generators need some power to manage their ancillary systems during start up. UPS – some users such as hospitals, air traffic control, data centres, banks, etc require or can benefit from UPS services.
Likewise, in Denmark, wind power can generate an off peak period at any time of day or night.
Menahem Anderman presented at this month's Advanced Automotive Battery Conference in Long Beach, California. From January 2004 through January 2007 he was a director of Axion Power International, Inc. After discussing an AABC presentation that predicted that 70% of European automotive OEMs will have converted to micro-HEV systems by 2013, and 90% by 2015, Lux observed that "technical issues provide an enormous opportunity for developers of advanced lead-acid batteries, such as Firefly Energy and Axion Power International, to capitalize on the emerging legislatively-driven micro-HEV market. The type of FLA batteries most commonly used for EV conversions, golf cart batteries, have three 2 V cells and a capacity ranging from about 200 to 260 amp-hours (Ah).
I expected my batteries to have a five-year life, but in the third year, they started to show signs of failure.


I knew that the best practice for FLA batteries is to re-water them monthly if they are being cycled frequently (as they usually are in an EV).
In my original design, a daily timer was set on the battery charger to ensure the batteries were fully charged before I left on my morning commute. Several of the batteries in the middle of the pack (those that got the hottest) had swollen—one had swollen enough to cause an internal short circuit, which ignited the gasses at the top of the battery. A comparable FLA bank was more affordable (about $5,000), but I was convinced that Li-ion batteries would improve vehicle performance (power, acceleration, range, and energy economy) and render a long-term payoff. To see why I experienced such a dramatic improvement, we need to compare the batteries themselves. The LFP reference batteries are high-capacity (180 to 200 Ah), 3.2 volt prismatic batteries. Bluecar in Italy does it and gets 150 miles per charge with a MiEV Mitsubishi sized vehicle. Again, I’ll abbreviate plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to PHEVs, and battery electric vehicles to BEVs – these are the “full” electric vehicles which don’t have an engine for backup. They’re also much more expensive, although the price is falling and will continue to do so. Adding to the uncertainty, early EVs will have been sold below cost, or at least at less-than-economic returns to the manufacturer, as they started to develop the technology.
Since EVs also contribute to road wear and tear (and demand for new investment), and to accidents, they should also be paying something for this. Electricity providers would find this a straightforward extension to their business, and I believe a number of companies in New Zealand would look at running these schemes. Primary batteries contain little toxic substances and are considered environmentally friendly. However, all communication must be done with the use of appropriate language and the avoidance of spam and discrimination.
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Some energy options incur these costs in various stages such as extraction, transportation and refinement. Capacity utilization is an especially important issue in energy storage because of a trade-off between capacity utilization and the spread between the price at which the storage facility can buy and sell electricity.
These spreads are not economically accessible to battery technologies which should be cycled very frequently (at least once per day) to more economically utilize the limited storage capacity.
For example, batteries could be useful in Germany over summer when solar PV creates a reasonably reliable daily cycle, but will be of very limited use in winter when solar PV output is minimal and more unpredictable wind power dominates.
For example, reported Li-ion battery lifetimes range from 1000-10000 cycles and 5-15 years.
Various literature sources were also consulted to confirm that data in these reports is reasonable (Mahlia, Chen and Gonzalez). Balance of system and O&M costs are not often considered, but, just as is the case with solar PV will probably become a very important factor as battery prices fall. That being said, however, VRBs remain several times more expensive than pumped hydro storage analysed in the previous article even under the most optimistic cost assumptions. My formal research focus is on second generation CO2 capture processes because these systems will be ideally suited to the likely future scenario of a much belated scramble for deep and rapid decarbonization of the global energy system. Moving the truck’s 3,200 pounds required a higher voltage than the 96 or 120 volts commonly used for lighter-weight vehicles, so I used 24 batteries for 144 V and an energy capacity (at 100% discharge) of about 37 kilowatt-hours (kWh). Lithium is also considered non toxic by the EPA but do have 2nd life as solar back up and are recycled!
It seems to be generally agreed that battery costs are now less than USD $500 per kWh, although manufacturers would obviously want to make a profit on those costs at some point, and there are taxes and other considerations as well. Therefore, an 8 kWh PHEV battery could cost $5,200, and a 33 kWh BEV battery might be around $21,450 – still not cheap by any measure.
From my earlier posts, a vehicle running on electricity could use around 20 kWh to travel 100 km. We obviously can’t tax them through petrol, and it’d be pretty hard to do it through electricity prices as well, so the logical way to do it is through Road User Charges.
This would more than double the running costs of BEVs, although they’ll still be cheaper than petrol cars. In my thesis, I assumed they average 3 litres of petrol per 100 km, although this will vary substantially. Someone might invent a transformational new battery chemistry (rather than lithium-ion), or we might simply see incremental advances.
Environmental conditions, such as elevated temperatures and incorrect charging, reduce the expected battery life of all battery chemistries.
According to the US Department of Energy, hydrogen is four times as expensive as gasoline and the fuel cell is ten times as expensive to build as a gasoline engine. Please accept our advice as a free public support rather than an engineering or professional service. Profits and taxes are excluded wherever possible in order to isolate the pure cost of production. At higher capacity utilizations, the initial capital investment will be better utilized, but the spread between the buying and selling price will also reduce. In contrast, a pumped hydro facility with a week or more worth of storage capacity can take advantage of these spreads. At one cycle per day, 10000 cycles will take 27 years to complete implying that age-related degradation would probably have rendered the battery unusable long before the cycle lifetime is over.
These costs are taken on the lower edges of the ranges given in the Duke University review. In exchange, Li-ion batteries offer longer lifetimes, lower maintenance requirements and higher round-trip efficiencies. As the electric car market grows, this measure supported by smart charging technology can offer a very substantial battery resource with minimal additional capital expenditure. I was usually good at watering the batteries, but on a few occasions, I postponed it, only to find that enough of the electrolyte had evaporated to expose the top of the lead plates to air. This boiled off a significant portion of the electrolyte and overheated the batteries, causing them to swell. But after testing, I found that all of the remaining batteries had a significant reduction in capacity—the only solution was to replace them all. In comparing, keep in mind that a golf-cart battery has three cells for about 6 V, whereas the LFP prismatics come as single cells (packs of 4 cells for 12 V are also available). Things get a little less straightforward when you consider that the PHEV will cost a little more due to having both an electric motor and an engine, and the BEV will cost a bit less since its electric motor is quite a bit cheaper than the typical engine.
Indeed, EVs would normally be subject to these, but they’ve received an exemption for the time being (to encourage their uptake). Drivers who only do short trips could end up using the electric motor for nearly all their driving. Incentives other than cost may be needed to entice motorists to switch to the environmentally friendly fuel cell. Exposed lead oxidizes, making it harder for the plates to interact with electrolyte and, thus, reduces their capacity.
The comparison table values based on watt-hours (Wh) provide an apples-to-apples comparison because they relate to stored energy. Perhaps that’s a sensible move, but it’s probably not something we’d still want to do in 20 years time when a growing number of cars are electric, and drivers of old cars will need to pick up the slack and pay more tax. The energy cost of the 6-volt camera battery is more than ten times that of an alkaline C cell.
Except where noted, the table characteristics come from manufacturers’ specification sheets. The “marginal” cost you’ll pay for an extra unit of electricity, though, will be a bit lower.



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