Will EV Batteries Keep Getting Cheaper?
There is no electric vehicle without the EV battery. These large powerpacks, typically containing a mass of lithium-ion cells, are absolutely essential for the viability of the electric car as a means of transport. In fact, given that all the other technology (efficient electric motors and everything else we have on board vehicles) has been around for years, EV batteries are in fact the deal breaker when it comes to the electric car. The issue is all about power, efficiency, and longevity. In short, it’s all about these batteries working well enough to make electric travel viable.
Unsurprisingly then, it has historically been problems associated with electric car batteries that has slowed down the development of electric vehicles as a whole. The concept has been around for decades, and the first consumer electric vehicles has been around for what seems like many years as well. We are now finally reaching the point when electric vehicles seem poised to finally replace gas-powered travel. More than anything else, it is developments in battery technology that has made that possible.
The Price of EV Batteries
And not only possible, but more affordable too. For some time now EV batteries have been steadily decreasing in price. Naturally, this has been because the costs of production of these batteries have also been steadily decreasing. And this is thanks in no small part to the investment in ever bigger manufacturing plants to produce increasingly more of the li-ion batteries needed to power the vehicles soon to completely take over our roads. However, the rate of that price decrease has been slowing in recent years, and that is down to the several challenges regarding the production of EV batteries, which continue to persist.
While EV batteries are continuing to drop in price – and new projects such as Tesla’s proposed battery manufacturing super-plant seem likely to continue to make EV battery production more efficient – there are challenges on the horizon which do not yet have a solid solution.
One of these challenges involves the sourcing of the lithium necessary for EV batteries. The price of this resource has been increasing, a factor which is almost certainly behind the slowing of the EV battery price drop. Although a relatively abundant mineral, the mining process is energy intensive, not environmentally friendly and, increasingly, monopolized by China.
Although there are proposed solutions, such as new mining techniques and the opening of mines in new locations, until this sourcing problem is definitely solved, perhaps we can’t expect EV batteries to continue to drop in price at the rate they have in recent years. The solution, therefore, may lie in developing new kinds of batteries.
Trends Within the Battery Industry
There is certainly no shortage of research funding to discover a possible alternative to the li-ion battery and to end our dependence on the expensive mineral. However, most of the developments within the consumer battery industry have been focused on making li-ion batteries more efficient – not replacing them.
We might think here of the USB rechargeable AA batteries from the likes of innovative companies like Pale Blue Earth which bring Li-ion technology into the realm of traditional household batteries, or the more efficient smartphone batteries which are featured in the latest iPhones. These developments are revolutionizing battery use, but we still need the lithium.
In the end, it seems likely that we cannot have total confidence that EV batteries will continue to get cheaper in the manner of recent years. In the longer term though, the total takeover of the electric car is inevitable. Something, therefore, will have to be done.