Today is clearly a video catchup day for me. This last one of the day is a super interesting discussion about electric vehicle (EV) batteries. It includes the CEO of LG Chem (which provides EV batteries to GM for the Chevy Volt and Renault for its electric vehicles, as well as others), Prabhakar Patil; the founder and CEO of Sakti3, Ann Marie Sastry; and Brett Smith from the Center for Automotive Research.
LG Chem is clearly a big player in the battery market already, and Prabhakar Patil provides a lot of useful information in the discussion. Sakti3 supposedly has a breakthrough EV battery technology and has been rumored to perhaps supply GM with batteries for an upcoming version of the Volt or other electric vehicles. It is aiming to get battery costs down to $100/kWh at the cell level (“within 2 years for consumer electronics, and not long after than for electric vehicles”). Ann Marie Sastry really impressed me with the information and very useful context she provided in the discussion. I definitely recommend watching this one.
Below the video are key points or highlights I pulled out of the show, but don’t skip the video!
- The host, John McElroy, notes that it’s rumored that Tesla’s current battery packs cost $240/kWh, while the rest of the industry is no lower than $400/kWh. Prabhakar Patil noted that there are different estimates out there and he of course cannot talk about costs, but he said that LG Chem technology is definitely set to bring about a 200-mile electric vehicle for under $35,000 by 2017 (based on standard assumptions regarding other aspects of the vehicles that the car company OEMs are in charge of).
- The EV political hype may have been too ambitious, the panelists note, but the forecast from a handful of years ago were also blown away in a positive way. Furthermore, the hype may have helped the technology to get there. Ann Marie Sastry notes that we’re at 20–25% of what the federal government was targeting, but we’re generating about 30% more hybrid and electric vehicles “than most experts projected in 2008.”
- $125/kWh is reportedly the target price for an EV’s battery pack in order for it to compete on a pure cost basis with an ICE engine. However, that doesn’t take into account the many benefits of EVs, such as much greater convenience, excellent acceleration from instant torque, increasing the country’s energy independence and security, cutting global warming emissions and air pollution, the great time savings from not having to visit a gas station, price stability (compared to the volatility of oil/gas prices), less maintenance, they drive more smoothly and are quieter (but often with a cool spaceship sound), and I’m sure much more. No one really knows how much more consumers are going to value these things in the next few years, and how quickly they will help electric vehicles to take over the car market.
- Prabhakar Patil makes a very interesting point that people don’t want to pay a higher gasoline tax to fix their roads, but then they may be paying $400–500 more a year to fix their vehicles from damage caused by poor roads. Similarly, 20 lbs of CO2 enter the atmosphere for every gallon of gasoline that is burned, and the economic, health, and socio-psychological costs of that are going to be huge.
- Prabhakar Patil also notes that battery cells “make up maybe 60–70% of the cost of the pack,” and 50% on conventional hybrid electric vehicles. There’s a lot of room to bring down costs on the non-cell (bill of materials) side of things as well, and a lot of work going into that.
- Prabhakar Patil thinks that the energy storage market for electricity consumption will actually be bigger than the battery market for electric vehicles, but that it will just be “slower to get there.”
- Ann Marie Sastry, Prabhakar Patil, and John McElroy also knock on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles briefly and specifically. Basically, it seems that everyone in the industry knows they’re a joke, some people just won’t admit it.
Super interesting discussion and statistics. Be sure to bookmark this one!