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Tesla Motors uses a total of 6,831 lithium-ion 18650 cells in the 53-kWh, 450-kg battery pack of its all-electric Roadster, along with sophisticated control circuitry to ensure safe operation. Power train electrification encompasses hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and pure electric vehicles (EVs). Consensus in the automotive industry is that lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are the most likely candidate for overcoming this challenge in the next decade (see Figure 1).
Unlike the term nickel metal hydride, which specifies one particular battery chemistry, the term lithium-ion refers to a family of battery chemistries of which there are many varieties (see Figure 2). Each of these Li-ion battery chemistries has strengths and weaknesses with respect to the five categories of goals that must be met in order for large-scale commercialization of electric power trains to be successful: energy, power, lifetime, safety, and cost.
Given the variety of materials used and various sizes and formats of Li-ion battery cells, it is not straightforward to characterize Li-ion production with a single manufacturing process. Li-ion cell production begins with the manufacture of the cathode and anode, with the process being very similar for each (see Lithium-Ion Battery Basics sidebar). For the cathode, the active material is combined with a binder and other additives in a solvent to make a cathode paste which is then deposited onto the current collector, usually aluminum foil, in a coating process.
For the anode, typically a graphite paste is made and deposited onto copper foil in an identical process. Individual cells are then packaged together into modules, which are further integrated with other systems into a complete battery pack (see Figure 5). Though the manufacturing process is virtually the same for Li-ion cells for the consumer electronics industry as it is for automotive applications, quality control typically is much higher in the automotive industry. The United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) has outlined goals in terms of dollars per kilowatt-hour that battery technology must reach to make various electrified vehicles commercially viable.
Cost advantages arise due to the fact that Li-ion batteries scale more readily to high-volume production and can be made with a variety of materials, allowing for cost reductions through material substitution. Ways by which battery costs may be reduced include the use of lower-cost materials, increased packaging efficiencies, process improvements, economies of scale, and increased manufacturing yields.
Research results indicate that the primary cost drivers for Li-ion batteries are cell-level materials and manufacturing yields.
Though most research is aimed at improving Li-ion battery technology at the cell level, it should be noted that, for automotive applications, individual cells typically are connected together in various configurations and packaged with associated control and safety circuitry to form a battery module. Multiple modules are then combined with additional control circuitry, a thermal management system, and power electronics to create the complete battery pack. Costs associated with each level of integration must be considered when doing cost modeling, because it is the cost of the complete battery pack that is relevant to the consumer. Materials dominate the costs for Li-ion batteries at the cell, module, and pack level, accounting for approximately 75 percent of pack-level costs. Additionally, cell-level materials costs account for approximately 85 percent of the pack-level materials cost (see Figure 6).
Unfortunately, manufacturing yield is one of the parameters that is closely guarded by Li-ion battery manufacturers. At the pack level, nearly all of the per-energy cost of materials for a Li-ion battery is attributed to module (and cell) costs, with the remainder attributed to pack enclosure, connections, and the control system (see Figure 7).
Similar to the materials breakdown, the dominant cell-level cost component for manufacturing is the yield adjustment. The cathode active material may be subject to both effects as well: Per-unit cost for cathode materials is highly sensitive to quantity purchased, and traditionally expensive cathode materials such as cobalt- and nickel-based oxides could be replaced with less expensive materials such as iron.
In addition to the manufacturing yield and the cathode active material, other drivers of total battery cost are the lithium salt used in the electrolyte, cell-level R&D, warranty costs, and graphite for the anode. Battery cost reductions may arise through two other mechanisms: economies of scale associated with increased production volume and technological breakthroughs.
As automotive-scale Li-ion battery manufacturing ramps up, unit costs for batteries will likely decrease while manufacturing yields increase. Optimistically, the cathode is assumed to have a 20 percent per year cost decrease, driven largely by breakthroughs in low-cost materials. The automotive Li-ion battery industry is rapidly gaining momentum, with numerous companies entering the sector, each with its own notion of how to achieve cost reductions and cost competitiveness.
Recently passed federal legislation (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) allocated $2 billion for advanced battery manufacturing, while other provisions such as tax credits could accelerate market adoption of electrified vehicles. Both the cathode and the anode comprise intercalation compounds, which allow lithium ions to be inserted and removed during charge and discharge. The electrolyte is typically a lithium salt such as lithium hexafluorophosphate (LiPF6) dissolved in an organic solvent, while the separator may be made of polyethylene or polypropylene. Cylindrical cells are constructed by spirally winding the cathode and anode, kept apart by the separator, into a cylindrical shape and housing the winding in a steel or aluminum can as shown in Figure 3. At the Electric Drive Transportation Association Conference in December 2008, spokespersons for Electrovaya, A123 Systems, EnerDel, and Electro Energy all referred to development of automotive prismatic Li-ion cells. NCA has good energy and power density as well as adequate lifetime, but suffers from cost and safety concerns similar to traditional cobalt oxide. LFP appears to be a much more stable chemistry and has low cost due to its use of iron; however, it suffers from poor energy density, though this is mitigated to some degree by its ability to operate in a large state-of-charge window.
Still, all of these chemistries are currently being developed by leading battery manufacturers and may have applications in the electrified automobile industry. Li-ion batteries are typically charged no greater than 80 to 90 percent of their maximum state-of-charge (SoC), and are not allowed to discharge below some minimum SoC, perhaps 30 percent, because operation at extremely high or low states of charge can dramatically reduce battery life. Li-ion batteries must be considered in the broader context of the problem that they are meant to solve: energy storage. Two leading technologies that could compete with Li-ion batteries are fuel cells and ultracapacitors.
A fuel-cell vehicle (FCV) is an EV in which the energy storage is in the form of hydrogen (typically) rather than a battery.
Ultracapacitors are another energy storage mechanism that could be used in electrified vehicles.
In a PHEV or EV, Li-ion batteries could be used for energy storage to provide adequate range, while ultracapacitors could be used to absorb energy from regenerative braking and provide power during acceleration.
The mission of Sustainable Manufacturer Network is to be the principal resource for advancement of cost-effective environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing. Summary: The cost of battery packs for electric vehicles has fallen more rapidly than projected, with market leading firms in 2014 producing batteries at ~$300 per kilowatt-hour of storage capacity, on par with market projections for 2020. Electric vehicle (EV) battery costs have fallen more rapidly than many projections, according to a new survey of battery costs published in Nature Climate Change. The cost of batteries produced by market leading firms, such as Renault-Nissan and Tesla Motors, however, have fallen further, to an average of $300 per kWh, according to the study.
In the near-term, the researchers believe economies of scale, improvements in cell manufacturing and learning-by-doing in pack integration, rather than advancements in cell chemistry or other R&D breakthroughs, will help manufacturers continue to produce cheaper batteries.
EV battery sales volumes are current doubling annually and car manufacturers are partnering with battery makers to invest in larger production facilities and cut costs.
The study’s authors conclude that economies of scale are likely to drive down battery costs to $200 per kWh in the near future. Bjorn Nykvist is a Research Fellow and Mans Nilsson is Deputy Director and Research Director at the Stockholm Environment Institute. Note: This is article is part of an ongoing series of concise summaries of interesting and important conclusions from new research and peer-reviewed journal articles. Will economies of scale and learning by doing be enough to make batteries cost competitive? What impact does growing demand for stationary batteries for grid connected uses have on costs and prices in the electric vehicle battery sector? Are Carbon Capture and Storage and Biomass Indispensable in the Fight Against Climate Change?
Jesse JenkinsJesse is a researcher, consultant, and writer with ten years of experience in the energy sector and expertise in electric power systems, electricity regulation, energy and climate change policy, and innovation policy.
Suppose, instead, that in a typical month you can expect enough solar energy collected to cover your monthly demand, but there might be a week of cloudy skies.
Scott Edward Anderson is a consultant, blogger, and media commentator who blogs at The Green Skeptic.

Christine Hertzog is a consultant, author, and a professional explainer focused on Smart Grid. Gary Hunt Gary is an Executive-in-Residence at Deloitte Investments with extensive experience in the energy & utility industries. Jesse Jenkins is a graduate student and researcher at MIT with expertise in energy technology, policy, and innovation.
Geoffrey Styles is Managing Director of GSW Strategy Group, LLC and an award-winning blogger.
Linda, I apologize for my lack of precision about the parties responsible for the goal setting and cost analysis functions. Curious that BYD are already producing large-format lithium-iron-phosphate cells for under $300 per kWh, and that Panasonic or LG-Chem 18650 format lithium-ion cells are at the same cost. It doesn't make sense to compare only the products of a small handfull of low-volume and uncompetitive American companies. The thrust of your argument in the main post was however that the technology made cost reductions more or less impossible whether by the Chinese or anyone else. Since you further state that there is no reason to believe that either BYD or LG are selling below cost it therefore seems likely that cost reductions have indeed been achieved in Asia. It therefore seems that your contention on the costs of lithium batteries is better directed to American suppliers rather than the technology itself. David, I said "there is no reason to believe that either company is above selling below cost," which is significantly different from what you quoted back to me. The Asians have a long history of introducing products and selling them at prices that are far below actual production costs in order to build market share.
I was trying to be delicate in my choice of words to avoid offending anyone's sensibilities, but I think the suggestion that BYD or LG-Chem are able to produce Li-ion for something less than $600 to $700 per kWh is absolute hogwash and the phenomenon we are seeing is in fact dumping.
John, I had indeed failed to understand that you were arguing that the Chinese were in fact dumping. Reading the actual body of the report, they clearly indicate where they hope that cost savings can be made, above all in the cathode, so on the basis of the report you quote I find it difficult to reach the conclusion you have, although of course it is not certain that the hoped for reductions will be achieved - the authors of your source seem hopeful though, and 'patently unreasonable' is surely too strong.
Personally I think that zinc batteries may be a better long-term alternative, as Toyota also seem to believe as it is one of their long-term projects. If you'll note, the first comment on this article came from Linda Gaines, an analyst at Argonne.
I'm a firm believer that we will need every technology in our current bag of tricks and a bunch more that haven't been invented yet to break the stranglehold of petroleum. John, I certainly found your exposition on the lack of cost reduction in lithium batteries for the last several years informative, at least for the US.
It seems fair to say that the position in China is unclear, and it is a bit too early to be sure that large reductions are impossible, but past history is not encouraging. No breakthroughs needed there for plug-in hybrids, and you can use normal lead-acid production lines, at reasonable cost. David, when you get off into lead-carbon technologies you are singing my song because that was our principal business focus at Axion. Lithium-ion battery technology is viewed as the most likely battery type to overcome this challenge. While this may not be considered cost-effective for the long term, the availability of the 18650 cells allowed Tesla to be the first to introduce a production all-electric car—which, by the way, goes from 0 to 60 in four seconds—without having to wait for further advancements in battery technology. Such vehicles have received attention recently as a potential solution for reducing the carbon intensity of the transportation sector. However, because the cylindrical type currently is the most common, that is the process described here (see Figure 3)with differences for prismatic cell (see Figure 4) construction noted.
The coated electrode foils are then dried, and the thickness of the deposited material on the foil is made uniform through a process called calendaring.
The wound electrodes and separator are inserted into the canister, electrolyte is added (called “wetting”), ancillary components such as vents and safety devices are attached, and the cell canister is closed by crimping or welding a cover to the container. Thus, additional process controls and the resulting lower yields contribute to the higher cost of automotive Li-ion batteries. Furthermore, this metric allows for the calculation of the total cost of a complete battery pack, because the energy required for various levels of power train electrification is reasonably well-known. The cost for NiMH batteries, on the other hand, is inherently tied to the relatively expensive commodity price of nickel.
Improvements in these areas will be key drivers for reductions in overall battery costs, and may make electrified vehicles cost-competitive with conventional automobiles. The obvious result at the cell level is that the yield adjustment dominates all other contributors to cell-level materials cost. Conversations with individuals close to the industry suggest that yields may be less than 50 percent as of 2008, given the high quality constraints mandated by the automobile industry and the small scale of manufacturing for automotive-type Li-ion cells.
Its impact arises from the multiplicative effect that it has on other materials and manufacturing costs. The second-most significant cost component at the cell level is the cathode active material.
Other manufacturing costs at the cell level are fairly well-distributed among each step of the cell production process.
Electrolytes and anode materials could also experience cost reductions from both effects, though economies of scale will likely be the overriding factor for both.
Research and development costs are currently high, and may remain so until the result of such R&D manifests itself in the production of batteries that are acceptable for automotive applications across the spectrum of goal categories. Finally, warranty costs will decrease once the technology, both from a materials standpoint and manufacturing standpoint, becomes mature, driven primarily by increased production volume.
Manufacturing yields will likely improve through the learning-by-doing process associated with economies of scale, though technological breakthroughs in the manufacturing process may also play a role. The anode, electrolyte, and separator are each assumed to have a 10 percent per year cost decrease. The primary focus of current development efforts by battery manufacturers and automakers is cost reduction.
Various policy and market mechanisms can significantly impact the economic viability of electrified vehicles and influence the rate at which they are adopted.
Anderson’s white paper, “An evaluation of current and future costs for lithium-ion batteries for use in electrified vehicle powertrains.”Anderson holds a master of environmental management degree from Duke University. The cathode in traditional Li-ion cells is a transition metal oxide such as lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2), while the anode is typically composed of carbon in the form of graphite. The electrolyte provides an ionically conductive path through which the lithium ions migrate during charge and discharge, while the separator prevents short-circuiting between the cathode and anode while allowing ions to pass.
Li-ion battery cells come in a variety of forms, but the most common for automotive applications are cylindrical cells and prismatic cells. However, prismatic cells are typically more expensive to manufacture than their cylindrical counterparts. The pouch cell is essentially a prismatic cell without a rigid case, but instead housed in a flexible pouch enclosure.
The traditional active materials used in Li-ion batteries for the consumer electronics market are a cathode of LiCoO2 paired with a graphite anode; however, due to safety concerns, this chemistry is not considered suitable for automotive applications because of its unstable oxidation state, which can lead to violent thermal runaway events. Each of these materials improves on certain characteristics of traditional Li-ion batteries while compromising on others.
Although most effort applied to the problem of vehicle energy storage is currently targeted to Li-ion batteries, other technologies are under development, and breakthroughs in these technologies could have an impact on the success or failure of Li-ion batteries. Unlike a Li-ion battery, an FCV uses up its hydrogen fuel as it produces electricity and must be refueled.
Thus, FCVs often employ a smaller battery pack to recapture energy lost while braking and coasting to further improve FCV efficiency.
Unlike fuel cells and Li-ion batteries, ultracapacitors store energy as electrons by accumulating them electrostatically. In this arrangement, the ultracapacitors would act as a buffer to the battery pack, isolating it from high-current events and increasing battery life. Researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute scoured peer-reviewed journals, consultancy reports, and news items to construct an original data set of EV battery pack cost estimates from 2007 to 2014.

These estimates are on the order of two to four times lower than many recent peer-reviewed papers have suggested and already equal to the average cost projected for 2020 in a variety of papers. Renault-Nissan is working with LG to produce enough batteries for 1.5 million electric vehicles per year by 2016 while Tesla Motors and Panasonic are building a “Gigafactory” in Nevada that will produce 500,000 packs for EVs along with additional batteries for stationary energy storage, for a total of 50 million kWh per year of battery production.
Further cell chemistry improvements may be necessary to hit the $150 per kWh target envisioned by the U.S. It's also important to note that today's batteries are better than the ones that existed in 2000, particularly in terms of cycle life and power.
While others are working in the moment so they can get through the day, you are looking way down the road.
Since miscommunication is always the author's fault, I suppose I should have been more direct with my choice of words.
So even if the new cathode materials like iron-phosphate can shave a couple of additional points, the last 9 years show that the future cost savings are likely to be moderate.
In follow-up correspondence, a couple of her colleagues explained that a new report with current price data can be expected this summer. But right now the technology occupies a position where the politicians and media are extolling its virtues without discussing its faults. Just goes to show you need to cross reference and double check everything you read in the blogosphere. Issues with energy, power, durability, safety, and cost—the most critical—must be met for large-scale commercialization of EVs. The company is working on reducing the cost of electric vehicle technology, CEO Elon Musk says. The fundamental challenge to the commercial success of electrified vehicles is energy storage. The foils are trimmed and cut to the proper size and wound up with the separator material between them. It is generally believed that Li-ion batteries have significant potential to achieve such cost reductions—more so than NiMH batteries. This yield adjustment represents the extra cost from manufactured battery cells that do not meet the quality control requirements mandated by the automotive industry, and is essentially the result of dividing the other cell-level materials cost by the manufacturing yield. Thus, if any substantial cost reduction is to be achieved, it must be accomplished by an increase in manufacturing yields coupled with decreases in the costs of multiple components among the materials, processes, and other costs associated with Li-ion batteries.
Other cell-level cost contributors include the lithium salt used in the electrolyte and graphite used for the anode.
Per-energy manufacturing costs at the module and pack level comprise assembly at each level of integration, though these costs are less significant than the costs attributed to the cell level. All manufacturing costs are assumed to be reduced by 10 percent per year, because of manufacturing economies of scale and better processes through learning-by-doing.
Cuenca, Costs of Lithium-Ion Batteries for Vehicles, Center for Transportation Research, Energy Systems Div., Argonne National Laboratory, 2000. Electricity is produced in the Li-ion battery via an electrochemical reaction that is enabled by the four major components of the battery cell: the positive electrode (the cathode), the negative electrode (the anode), the electrolyte, and the separator.
Historically, the most ubiquitous cell type has been the 18650 cylindrical cell, slightly larger than the AA type battery with which most consumers are familiar. It has the advantage of higher packaging efficiencies and lighter packaging weight than standard prismatic cells, with the potential disadvantage of less structural integrity. Thus, numerous other active materials are being developed for Li-ion batteries, with most of the research focused on the cathode material. LFP batteries have been shown to achieve cycle life characteristics similar to typical Li-ion batteries while operating at wide SoC windows. Therefore, infrastructure must be developed to generate hydrogen, transport it, and deliver it to consumers. Li-ion batteries and fuel cells may therefore be considered complementary, rather than competing, technologies.
Li-ion batteries and ultracapacitors are complementary technologies because of this synergistic relationship. Average battery pack costs have fallen 14 percent per year across the industry, which has seen sales volumes double annually in recent years. Costs for market leaders have declined at an average of 8 percent per year, the study estimates. Department of Energy (DOE) has set a target of $150 per kWh for battery electric vehicles to become broadly competitive and see widespread market adoption. Tesla and Panasonic are targeting a further 30 percent decline in battery pack costs by 2017, which would require a 7 percent annual decline in costs, consistent with a continuation of recent rates for market leading firms. Our optimistic numbers were lower bounds on where we thought prices could go, and did not meet DOE goals.
It does seem, however, that the performance gains over the last nine years fall well short of the performance targets in the original report. While we can speculate about what Li-phosphate cells cost BYD or what Li-polymer cells cost LG Chem, we cannot know because neither company has released that data.
The problem is exacerbated in countries that have aggressive economic development policies and strong government influence over industry. The most dominant contributor to materials cost at the module level is the cost of the cells themselves, followed by the cost of the module enclosure and terminals. MacArthur, Advanced Batteries for Electric Vehicles: An Assessment of Performance, Cost, and Availability. This format typically is considered too small to be of practical use in automotive applications (see lead image).
Hydrogen storage onboard the vehicle is another technical barrier that must be overcome to allow market success of FCVs.
EV battery packs now cost $410 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of storage capacity on average (with a 95 percent confidence interval ranging from $250–670 per kWh). I think it would be wonderful if ANL, the DOE or some other authoritative source could create a follow-on report that shows where we were, what changed and where we are now. Your attempts to enlighten everyone will probably only annoy them and make you more frustrated in the process. There is certainly no reason to believe that either company is above selling below cost in order to build market share. So unless we want to find ourselves at the mercy of Asian industrial policy, we need to rely on our home country manufacturers. So I'll be a bit of a contrarian and at least point out the potential problems for people like you that want to understand them. It is apparent that increased manufacturing yield is a critical factor in reducing battery costs at the cell level. These characteristics make them well-suited for use in conjunction with high-energy Li-ion batteries.
His international practice is limited to corporate securities and small company finance, where he focuses on guiding small growth-oriented companies through the corporate finance process, beginning with seed stage private placements, continuing through growth stage private financing and concluding with a reverse merger or public offering.
Focus on what you know to be true; everyone else will eventually catch up with you, wondering how you knew it all along. Petersen is a 1979 graduate of the Notre Dame Law School and a 1976 graduate of Arizona State University. He was admitted to the Texas Bar Association in 1980 and licensed to practice as a CPA in 1981. From January 2004 through January 2008, he was securities counsel for and a director of Axion Power International, Inc.

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