#1 cleantech news, reviews, & analysis site in the world. Subscribe today. The future is now.

Air Quality

Published on December 21st, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


EV Battery Experts Discuss Battery Costs & More (Interesting Video Discussion)

December 21st, 2014 by  

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!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

Zach is tryin’ to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he’s also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, 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.

  • Thanks, Amory. Honored that you are chiming in.

    Both of these topics do deserve more attention here on CleanTechnica.

    On the sidelines (i.e., email), another reader has recently pushed me to focus more on lightweighting, which I’ve committed to do. It’s not as “hot” as simply writing about BEVs and batteries (which, admittedly, are only hot to a small subset of people as well), and there’s not a lot of “news” about it on the 100+ sites I follow, but it’s an important part of improving efficiency that we need to discuss more.

    Thanks for the extra push and excellent information. I can safely say that a ton of our readers very highly admire your work.

  • Epicurus

    Regardless of what the range is, plug-ins will never catch on without decent ad campaigns. GM should have been touting the bargain price of electricity vis a vis gasoline since the Volt was introduced (“fill up for the equivalent of a dollar a gallon!”).

    Nissan is the only company making any effort to advertise their EV.

    Why? Auto maker profits come from the ICEVs. Profits trump everything including clean air, clean water and the global climate.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Were I running a car company right now and my main job was to make the company money I wouldn’t be spending money advertising EVs.

      Until battery prices come down some more we aren’t going to see large scale EV purchasing. I’d hold back, make a few EVs just to make sure my company had everything figured out, and when battery price drop I’d jump in.

      I’d want to hang on to as many of the 200,000 $7,500 federal subsidies as possible. Then when I introduce my 2017 Wowzer I could move a bunch of them in a hurry at a very attractive price.

      That’s when you advertise. When you’re ready to sell.

      Nissan is going to bet burned (IMHO) because they are using up their subsidies in order to sell lower range, expensive EVs. When the great rush starts they will run out of subsidies sooner and be at an economic disadvantage until other manufacturers use up their allowance.

      Were I Benevolent Dictator I’d grant Nissan an extra 500,000 subsidies as a reward for being a pioneer and doing the heavy lifting.

      • Epicurus

        Can the climate wait two years, Bob?

        • Bob_Wallace

          What does “wait” mean?

          If we wanted to avoid all human caused climate change we’d have to started years ago. In that sense we’ve already waited too long.

          Perhaps “wait” means avoiding catastrophic climate change? Would that take getting largely off fossil fuels by 2050 and stopping all GHG emissions by 2100? If that’s the case then, yes, the climate can wait a couple of years. But we’ll have to work a bit harder in the following 33 years to reach the 2050 target.

  • Bob_Wallace

    “LG Chem technology is definitely set to bring about a 200-mile electric vehicle for under $35,000 by 2017”

    The average US new car price is $31,252. Average MPG of 24.8.

    At $3.50/gallon and 13,000 miles that’s $1,835 for fuel plus oil changes per year.

    Driving an EV would cost $468 in 12 cent/kWh electricity.

    It’s only a couple of years to break-even. And I’d guess about a year from our knowing who is going to market what.

    • Wayne Williamson

      Unfortunately we are starting to see gas prices sub 2 dollars. Unknown how long that will last, and while it does help the majority of people, it does hinder ev adoption.

  • Hans

    All the prices are in $ per kWh capacity. But if one technology can do 500 cycles in the products lifetime, and the other one 5000 cycles this does not say much. Moreover, for any application I would want to know the price per stored kWh. Naming the nr of cycles of each technology would at least enable a rough estimate of these costs

  • Vensonata

    Solution: sell cars at a fixed monthly price which includes fuel and maintenance costs. No upfront cost. I.c.e car $754 month…Ev $674 month, which car will Mr America buy? That takes the math out of the ordinary persons hands. The battery tech advancement is perhaps not very imporatnt at this stage, just like I don’t need a terabyte hard drive even though they are cheap and available, storage at 200 gig is not an issue.

  • Mike333

    You missed one point, the actual target price for solid-state batteries is 100 Dollar per kWh, which means EV’s will eventually be CHEAPER then the ICE solution. Can you imagine the tipping point RUSH when that happens? It will graph like a HOCKEY STICK, Geometric.

    • Epicurus

      In other words, the target battery price is almost 1/4 of what the price is now. When is that likely to happen?

      • Bob_Wallace

        Sooner than you may realize.

        Tesla is now paying Panasonic $180/kWh for their lithium-ion batteries. That is less than the switch-over point from ICEVs to EVs. Now it’s a matter of manufacturing those batteries in large enough numbers to build large numbers of less expensive long range EVs (Tesla 3).

        Tesla has said that when the giga factory is open and running full speed the cost of batteries should drop another 30%. That takes the price under $130/kWh.


        • Bob_Wallace

          That red oval needs to be lowered (probably temporarily) to reflect current fuel prices.

      • Adrian

        Pack vs. cell. I, as a regular consumer can buy large-format batteries at around $400/kWh. CALB via Ali Baba. Manufacturers can do far better.

        According to Tony Seba, battery prices have been dropping 12%/year this decade, and 16%/year each of the last 4 years on a $/kWh basis. At 16%, that drops the price in half every 4 years…

        The gasmobile is dead for most market segments in 8 years, maybe 12-15 for pickups.

    • Joseph Dubeau

      Zach pointed out.
      ” 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”). ”

      $125/kWh is price parity.

      • Epicurus

        Thanks.Two years! That would really be amazing.

        • Mike333

          No, two years for consumer devices, “not long after that for auto” — which could be another 2 years.

  • Michael G

    Interesting though not unlike what we’ve seen recently on this site.

    I would love to see this 200+ EV mile car in 2017 at a price I can (sort of) afford. I would probably buy. The question is will enough others to make it viable.

    For me the big puzzle in all this is the Chevy Volt. Why isn’t it selling? The Prius had a 3-5 month waiting list for years (45 MPG) whle the Volt (effectively 100 MPG) is ready to drive off the lot here in CA. The Volt seems to answer all the EV drawbacks and has an astonishing Consumer Reports rating. The CR ratings are mostly blanks since most of the things that go wrong in cars aren’t there and the user satisfaction is extremely high. After tax rebates it is $24K in CA. So why isn’t it selling in numbers like the Accord or Civic and why isn’t any other Mfgr making something like it (i3 doesn’t have the same overall range).

    It suggests there is something we are all missing – maybe consumers don’t really care about saving gas money, or GHG, or they don’t like having to recharge at night or who knows what?

    We’ll find out soon enough if an average man’s Tesla will sell well enough.

    • Epicurus

      “For me the big puzzle in all this is the Chevy Volt. Why isn’t it selling?”

      Perhaps because GM has burned so many customers for many decades with their horrible products. For example, my first new car was an Olds Aurora. Within a year it was leaking oil on my garage floor. A mechanic told me he could stop the leak if he pulled the engine, tore it apart, and sealed
      certain engine parts with a $1.50 tube of sealant. According to him, GM decided to let the engines leak oil in order to save $1.50 in sealant and the labor cost on the assembly line to apply it. That was the last GM car I ever bought.

      A friend told me the following. “The last GM car I had was a Cutlass Supreme Brougham purchased new in 1978. When the car arrived I had to keep sending it back for fixes. Then a couple or so years down the road, the engine started springing leaks. The guy at the shop said he could fix the leaks, but they would just keep happening, and that a new one would do the same thing in another 2 years. That was my first new car!” And that was the last GM car she ever bought.

      Everyone I know has a GM horror story, and they all stopped buying GM years ago. It’s difficult for a lot of people to believe that GM can make a quality product and that it has shed its corporate culture of cutting every corner possible and cheating its customers with its shoddy products

      Like our comedian president said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice . . . can’t get fooled again!”

      • Dragon

        You might be right about GM’s quality problems, but as long as Volt’s reliability ratings are good (I assume they are), I would guess the bigger factor is that the volt seems a poor compromise. Die hards that want to get off fossil fuel entirely would rather buy a Leaf for less money, have greater range, and not lug around a gas engine. Most people that can afford a $35k car and care about getting off fossil fuel can usually afford two cars, an all electric for daily use and a high MPG gas car for long trips. At 37mpg in gas mode, volt just isn’t too impressive these days. So that leaves only a narrower market segment that want to get off fossil but can barely pull the cash together to lease something like a volt to use both daily and on long trips and don’t want the expense or inconvenience of renting a car for those long trips. But saving $5k to buy a Leaf is enough for a lot of car rentals or bus/train fares or as part of the cost of a second ICE car.

        • Epicurus

          “the volt seems a poor compromise”

          No doubt true for people in CA and others who care about the fate of the planet, but I think it’s a great design to appeal to the American masses because it totally removes their range anxiety. For example, I know a social worker who drives at least 90 miles a day from home to work. A Leaf would be great if her workplace provided a charging station but it doesn’t. Charging stations are few and far between here, and the ones we have charge the equivalent of $4 a gallon for the electricity.

          On the good side, it was reported that of the billion miles driven by all Volts on the road, 85% of those miles have been all electric. I think plug-in hybrids will outsell EVs in the U.S. until there are vast improvements in range and in the availability of fast charging.

          • Bob_Wallace

            There are few companies marketing a PHEV. I think with good reason, they probably can see that with falling battery prices EVs will push PHEVs aside.

          • Epicurus

            I think PHEVs will sell better in the hinterlands than EVs even when EVs have 200 mile ranges, say a Volt or a pick up with a 90 mile electric range, but who knows.

          • Mint

            Yeah, that chart is very inaccurate, IMO.

            Simple logic is this: The difference between a 80-mile battery and 200-mile battery is ~30kWh, so even at $200/kWh, that’s $5000. Adding a 30kW backup generator should cost only ~$2k in volume, so I think a 80-mile PHEV can be priced lower than a 200-mile EV in price. And yet the chart thinks PHEV is only competitive at $300+/kWh.

            But only BMW is offering the REx right now, and with typical BMW option markup.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        You are spreading FUD which has nothing to do with the Volt.

        • Epicurus

          I spend a LOT of time promoting the Volt and other electric cars, but Michael G asked a question, and I gave what I think is a plausible answer.

          A Volt salesman friend (biggest dealership in N.Tx) makes the same point: the “old” GM has nothing to do with the Volt (he owns 3 himself, thinks they are fantastic, and was also burned by GM in years past), but I would like someone to explain how the corporate culture changed, who changed it, and how GM learned to make a quality product. That might help sales.

          I also think it would be a great idea if GM minimized the huge Chevy badge on the front and rear ends of the car, or better, alter it to make it look like a lightening bolt or something not associated with the old GM.

      • Michael G

        I have heard many similar stories and in the EPA we saw a lot of mechanical problems with the test cars they sent so I absolutely understand they have a reputation for making (boring) junk. But they still sell a lot of cars, and very few of their customers are buying Volts.

        • Epicurus

          True. Maybe it’s because GM doesn’t advertise the Volt AT ALL. And the little advertising GM did at the roll out was terrible.

          There’s only one way to sell electric cars in the U.S.: the cost advantage. I would put out ads and commercials which ask consumers if they would like to be able to “fill up” for the equivalent of a dollar a gallon or less (still less than half of what gasoline is right now). I would also advertise that there are no maintenance costs for electric cars except for tires and windshield wipers.

          Most Americans don’t care about climate change, clean air, or the fate of the planet . All they care about is their wallet. We are an ignorant, short-sighted, selfish people, and the advertising needs to reflect that.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Most Americans don’t care about climate change, clean air, or the fate of the planet ”

            That’s not accurate. A recent poll found that 82% of all Americans want something done about climate change. The problem is that many don’t want to spend their money to work on the problem.

            That’s somewhat understandable. Most people are financially stressed, either because their incomes don’t support a comfortable lifestyle or because they are trying live higher than their income. The way we can best attack climate change is by giving people “painless” ways to cut their carbon footprints.

            Swapping coal for wind and solar means that the lights stay on. (And taxpayers save a fortune.) Getting affordable, long distance EVs into drivers hands will mean people can still drive where they want. (And save money.)

          • Epicurus

            “The problem is that many don’t want to spend their money to work on the problem.”

            Okay. Most people want “something done” about climate change, but they don’t want to be out any money doing it. Not sure about that 82% though. In Texas I rarely meet someone who believes in ACC. They think its a socialist plot, or something god wouldn’t let happen (like outgoing Senator Tom Coburn).

            Painless, yes. A strong ad campaign stressing “filling up” for less than a dollar a gallon equivalent will get those plug-ins flying off the car lots.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Should the United States prepare for climate change? And who should pay? A Stanford University survey released Thursday finds that 82% of Americans want the nation to prepare, but most don’t want government to pay.

            Four of five adults, or 82%, say the nation should prepare for damage expected from sea level rise and storms, both of which are exacerbated by global warming, according to the survey of 1,174 Americans taken earlier this month. The most popular of several identified solutions are strengthening building codes for coastal structures (favored by 62%) and preventing new construction near the coast (52%).”


            As for Texas – that’s the state that produced George W and Rick Perry.

            Actually I think a lot of people accept that climate change is happening but have taken a public stance that it isn’t.

            Ask the question indirectly and you’ll get one answer. Ask them straight out if humans are ruining the planet and they’ll shout “No!”.

            It’s like all the people who support leaving young adults on their parents insurance plans, making insurance available for all, making insurance available to those with pre-existing conditions, and eliminating annual/lifetime payout caps but oppose Obamacare.

          • Epicurus

            “82% say the nation should prepare for damage expected from sea level rise and storms”

            A lot of conservatives believe climate change is happening, but they think it is due to natural processes (sunspots or something), not GHGs. I thought you meant 82% of Americans believe in ACC.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Don’t sell that number short.

            There’s a “solid right” of about 28% that will vote the party line, regardless of how bizarre it might be. They’ve vote for Old Scratch were that the party’s candidate.

            If that group has been split in half, some now acknowledging that the climate is changing, that’s good news.

    • Mike333

      I think the problem is the current Volt, not next years, when you option it out is $38,000 – $7,500 tax credit. But that credit is really only for people who fill out the 1040 Long Form, and know they qualify for the credit.

      Anyone filing 1040EZ will they have enough deductions?

    • Brooks Bridges

      FWIW: I looked at a Volt and was impressed. My wife did not like the front seats, rear seat leg room was restricted and rear seat not very comfortable, trunk volume small. I did not qualify for full $7,500 rebate. We ended up with a used 2010 Prius: Very comfortable seats front and rear, more leg room in rear than Volt and my old Passat, very roomy trunk, fold down rear seats giving huge cargo area, quiet, adequate acceleration, 52 mpg or better most of the time. I’d be happy with the car even if gas mileage were more like 32 mpg. It’s just a much more practical car than the Volt. And paid far less. And now, in a few more years, EV’s should be much cheaper, roomier, longer range, etc., and I’ll be able to get one.

      • Epicurus

        Did you look at the Nissan Leaf? If so, how did it compare?

        • Brooks Bridges

          Never looked at the Leaf because long trips a necessity. One big surprise – Prius pulled an aluminum boat trailer with an 18′ kayak/trimaran 1000 miles and averaged 46 mpg. I think w/o trailer would have been 54 mpg. Amazed trailer had so little effect on gas mileage. That’s keeping up with traffic on interstates.

          • Epicurus

            54 mpg pulling a trailer is amazing. Hats off to Toyota.

            “Never looked at the Leaf because long trips a necessity.”

            That’s why I think plug-in hybrids will outsell EVs in most of the country even if the EV range goes up to 200 miles. Americans like to travel, and they don’t want the hassle of renting another car to do it in.

          • Brooks Bridges

            Totally agree plug-in hybrids rule for near future. Unless great advances made in speed and availability of recharging.

            BTW: I got 46 mpg with trailer; pretty sure w/o would have been 54. Still, 46 amazing.

          • Epicurus

            Here in the hinterlands, where Republicans tend to rule, we won’t have the recharging infrastructure that California, Europe and even China will soon have for a very long time.

            That’s something the EV purists don’t realize.

    • Mint

      It’s not a mystery. Here are the problems with the Volt:

      A) It only has 4 seats. You can argue how much we need 5 seats, but when every other car has it, it’s a comparative shortcoming.

      B) The trunk is small. It has half the space of a Prius, and less still compared to the Prius V.

      C) It’s a GM, and GM customers generally are looking for either low cost, a bargain sports car, or a truck/SUV.

      D) It was smeared by the GOP.

      E) It’s barely faster than a Prius.

      F) It’s too expensive given A-E. At $30k+ after tax credit, it needs sub-7s 0-60, 5 seats, and ample room. If it was priced like a LEAF, those compromises could be okay.

    • liberty

      The prius lines really started in 2005 in the gen II, it started in japan in 1997 and the US in 2000. The volt is only 4 years old in the first generation. If gm does a great redesign like toyota did, then I would expect much higher sales with gen II in 2016. I would not expect lines. GM is unlikely to be under capacity like toyota was. The gen I prius sold enough to get to the gen II, it was not a big sucess at the first generation

Back to Top ↑