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Published on January 7th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


Are EV Battery Prices Much Lower Than We Think? Under $200/kWh?

January 7th, 2014 by  

A couple of CleanTechnica’s readers/advisors recently gathered together some interesting numbers and insights. To start this piece, I’ll just repost what one of them passed along to me:

I’m finding Chevy Volt replacement batteries online for about $2,300.

$2,300/16 kWh = $144/kWh


On the GM Parts Store site a replacement battery for the 2012 Chevy Volt is listed at $2,305.88. No core (used battery) return required.

That’s 16 kWh. $144.12/kWh. Retail.

From the Volt forum

“When I checked thru a friends Shop about this time last year (to get the ‘good guy’ price), the ‘complete propulsion battery assembly’ for a 2012 (they didn’t Have a price for the 2013 yet at that time) was quoted at $1900. And NO exchange or “core” – they did Not want the old one back, apparently.” [sic]

Here’s another site selling for $2,620.

Volt battery at $2,995. Full retail price.
$2,995 / 16 kWh = $187 / kWh

Discounted retail price.
$2,306 / 16 kWh = $144 / kWh

Dealer’s cash price 30% off MSRP of $2,995
$2,097 / 16 kWh = $131/ kWh

If GM is buying these batteries for even less and making something on them, GM’s cost could be in the $100/kWh range. That would give GM a 30% profit for selling on to dealers. 30% might be high for a pass-through profit.

chevy volt inside

Now, if you don’t obsessively keep up with EV battery prices, let’s step back for some perspective. McKinsey in 2012 projected that EV batteries would get down to about $200/kWh by 2020. A bit more optimistically, Elon Musk in early 2012 projected $200/kWh in the “not too distant future.” Of course, we don’t know exactly what that meant, but it sounds a lot closer than 2020. Based on some investigating in the middle of 2013, some Tesla enthusiasts actually came to the conclusion that Tesla battery packs may be down to about $233/kWh, or even $204/kWh.

Beyond the McKinsey report and Tesla thread, here’s a January 2012 statement from then US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu on EV battery prices that we have over on our “Car Answers” page:

“Overall, the Department of Energy is partnering with industry to reduce the manufacturing cost of advanced batteries. While a typical battery for a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle with a 40-mile electric range cost $12,000 in 2008, we’re on track to demonstrate technology by 2015 that would reduce the cost to $3,600. And last year, we set a goal of demonstrating technology by 2020 that would further reduce the cost to $1,500 – an accomplishment that could help spur the mass-market adoption of electric vehicles.”

I’ve reached out to a couple of other people about these GM battery numbers, since it doesn’t seem like we should be anywhere close to $100/kWh for EV batteries, but neither of my sources have pointed out any glaring mistakes here. I think the best guess so far is simply that GM is dumping batteries. But why would it do so?

I know we have a lot of very informed readers, some of whom are industry insiders. If someone would like to point out an obvious mistake that we are making or something that we are missing, please do so. Any perspective would be appreciated.

I guess the overall questions are: Have we already dropped well below $200 per kWh? Have we already zipped below $3,600 for a Chevy Volt battery pack? Was the DOE way off (or super conservative) with its 2015 projection/goal? Have analysts been way off, projecting much higher EV battery prices than really are out in the real world? Or is GM dumping batteries for some reason? And what would that reason be?

Let us know what you think!

Image: inside a Chevy Volt via Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com 


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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

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