EV Battery Demand Will Soar in 2017

Bigger vehicle batteries mean more cell production.
By: 
December 26, 2016

With more automakers aiming to market cheaper, longer-range plug-in cars, demand for lithium-ion automotive batteries is expected rise sharply in 2017.

The key to the market growth, experts say, is the use of battery packs that are in some cases two to three times bigger than those employed in electric cars just five years ago. “When you look at some of the models coming out -- like the BMW i3, the Volkswagen e-Golf, and the Chevy Bolt -- you can easily see that pack sizes are getting larger, Christopher Robinson, an energy storage analyst at Lux Research Inc., told Design News . “And 2017 is the year that a lot of those models are releasing the bigger packs.”

Chevy, Bolt
Big EV batteries, such as those in the all-electric Chevy Bolt, will drive greater lithium-ion cell production in 2017. (Source: General Motors)

By incorporating bigger batteries, the new vehicles will offer greater all-electric ranges. The Chevy Bolt, for example, will feature a battery of approximately 60 kWh, which is expected to produce a range of 238 miles. Similarly, the Tesla Model 3 is expected to use a battery of more than 50 kWh to produce a range of about 215 miles when it hits the streets late in 2017. And Volkswagen recently announced that its new e-Golf will feature a 35.8-kWh battery, resulting in a range of about 120 miles. Other big battery improvements are expected from Nissan’s all-electric Leaf and the BMW’s i3.

The new batteries represent a huge capacity increase over the batteries of just a few years ago. The much-hyped 2011 Nissan Leaf, for example, offered a 24-kWh battery and an EPA range rating of just 73 miles.

For battery makers, all of this translates to a bigger market with greater manufacturing production. And some of it has already begun. Lux Research estimates that worldwide EV battery production hit 5.6 GWh in the third quarter of 2016 alone. Moreover, annual production could approach 20 GWh in 2017, the firm said. By comparison, industry-wide production of EV batteries was just 8 GWh as recently as 2013.

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“It’s happening for two reasons,” Robinson told us. “First, established OEMs are producing plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. Second, all of those vehicles are using bigger pack sizes.”

Larger production numbers are, in turn, yielding economies of scale and lower costs, Robinson said. In 2015, GM executive vice president Mark Reuss presented a slide at an investors’ conference showing that EV battery cell costs would drop to $145/kWh by 2017, and to $100/kWh by 2021. Similarly, Tesla executives have publicly stated that the cost of their packs (cells, cooling systems, and electronics) is about $190/kWh.

Those numbers are a far cry from those of a decade ago. At that time, The National Academy of Engineering

Comments

"Demand for our product will soar!!" That is exactly what the CEO of a company is obligated to announce, usually with a bit of fanfare. Of course it is true that all EVs use battery packs, and that greater capacity often requires larger and more expensive battery packs. And indeed the major companies are setting up to produce EVs. But still, the challenge unsolved is getting a lot of folks to purchase those vehicles. That has been the major obstacle so far.

"But still, the challenge unsolved is getting a lot of folks to purchase those vehicles." I think part of the problem is my new laptop battery is expected to last a year to 18 months, 300 charges. There is a disconnect between buying a battery powered car and our experience with batteries. Also, I expect I would have to see how Kelly Blue Book handles resale. Why are there not solar panels on the roof is another question. Would that kill the battery?

The original Prius had an optional solar panel roof. It put out 50 watts at high noon on a clear sunny day. If the sun was directly overhead of the car 8 hours a day, that would add 400 watt-hours of power to the battery. On a new Chevrolet Bolt, that would be equivalent to a 0.6% charge. Since we don't actually have the sun directly overhead 8 hours a day, it won't even be that. It's not worth adding to the cost of the car to put a panel on that won't add a single mile to its battery range.

At present prices both gasoline and electricity costs about $0.04 a mile for energy efficient cars. A battery-powered car which has to stop to recharge is a tough sell compared to a hybrid powered car which costs less and can go all day brief stops for gasoline. If gasoline prices rise a lot then the plug in hybrid with a modest battery will win out. The battery powered car which has to stop for recharging is likely to stay a luxury nitch item.

"At present prices both gasoline and electricity costs about $0.04 a mile for energy efficient cars" Not in California. Reg is 2.75/gallon and premium is 3.00/gallon. Electricity ( PGE in northern California) costs 4 cents/mile in my Ford Focus EV. To match this, one would have to get nearly 70 mpg of regular or 75 mpg for premium. No cars in the US get those numbers as real world mpg. Also the cost of gasoline is highly volatile and potentially violent. In 2012, gas was 4.75/gal.

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