Published on March 17th, 2015 | by Christopher DeMorro


Lighter Batteries May Prove The Tipping Point For Electric Vehicles

March 17th, 2015 by  

For battery electric vehicles to overcome the built-in advantages of vehicles rocking conventional internal combustion engines, many analysts point to battery costs as being the determining factor. But an article written for Seeking Alpha emphasizes that there may be another tipping point in the battery electric vehicles vs. internal combustion engines battle, and that’s the weight of the batteries themselves.


To be sure, the main goal of the Tesla Gigafactory is to bring battery costs down by some 30%, allowing the Tesla Model III the ability to offer a 200-mile driving range for just $35,000. Elon Musk has again and again targeted the BMW 3-Series as the Model III’s main competitor, and with a curb weight of just over 3,400 pounds (1,542 kgs), the Bimmer represents an excellent “goal” weight for the average family sedan. The Tesla Model S, with its 4,600 pound (2,086 kgs) curb weight, is a much heavier car in comparison, with about 1,600 of those pounds dedicated to the battery alone. In order to bring the batteries weight down Tesla must bring the watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg) up, and it will do that with new battery cell technology.

Currently, Tesla uses thousands of individual Panasonic 18650 laptop battery cells in its battery packs, which cost an estimated $250/kwh and offer an estimated energy density of 233 Wh/kg. Once Gigafactory production begins though, Tesla will be upgrading to new 20700 battery cells, which will be physically larger, capable of holding more energy, and thus requiring fewer individual modules. As battery chemistries and energy densities improve, battery electric vehicles could actually end up weighing substantially less than traditional internal combustion engine vehicles.


According to the above chart, once battery pack density hits about 333 Wh/kg, the Tesla Model III could be on par, weight-wise, with the BMW 3-Series. And what about when the batteries grow even more energy-dense? Electric cars could actually undercut the weight of conventional vehicles — though that assumes conventional vehicles don’t utilize their own weight-saving measures (which they almost certainly will).

Obviously there’s a lot that still needs to happen for electric cars to even be on par with their conventional counterparts, but it’s certainly doable as batteries continue to come down in weight and cost. The BMW i3 manages more than 80 miles of driving per charge, but weighs in at just over 2,800 to 3,000 pounds (1,270 to 1,360 kgs) thanks to its expensive-but-lightweight carbon-fibre body. Now imagine if its 20 kWh battery pack was 50% lighter, and suddenly you’ve got an electric vehicle that weighs no more than the 2016 Mazda Miata.

And should Tesla hit its goal of batteries that cost just $100/kWh? It’ll be even cheaper than the Miata too.

Images: Seeking Alpha

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: , , , , , ,

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • georgeou

    I don’t think those energy density numbers of 250+ Wh/kg include the support structure (metal housing) of the battery. The Tesla Model S has a 544 kg battery pack with 85000 watt*hour which is 156 Wh/Kg density. I think what the 20700 batteries will permit is less shielding overhead weight because there are fewer cells.

  • I agree, THE huge stride forward will be lighter EVs due to lightweight materials AND lighter battery packs. If ‘properly formatted’ such an EV may be excellently positioned to do battle in other fields too (zero emission is just one of them).

  • Great article, dead-on. This is exactly how Tesla will achieve Model 3’s 50% cost reduction over the Model S (30% from the battery, 20% from car size reduction and use of steel instead of aluminium). Once EV drive-trains reach cost parity to ICE vehicles the tipping point will be reached and the move will start to snowball.

  • Rafe Husain

    gasoholics burn average of 2 gallons a day which same as 2 packs a day. Then we wonder why kids have asthma

  • A fundamentally new chemistry is at least 10 years away, and that’s according to the CEO of LG Chem.

    This chart is neat and all, but in 10 years things are going to be very different.

  • ehutch

    I am not bothered by mixing pounds and kg, or gallons and liters (but I have lived in the mixed world for decades). I do get cranky when energy and power are used incorrectly (in any units).
    Vehicle weight makes a huge difference (especially in the hilly terrain, where I live). Regenerative braking is only about 70% efficient, if that. Repetitively lugging a heavy car up steep slopes trashes EV mileage (and ICE mileage too). I favor an extended range EV (with a tiny ICE and alternator) over an EV with a huge battery. A 30HP (22kW) ICE is enough to overcome consumption of 17kW required (if driven prudently) to move a 3,000 lb (907kg) vehicle at 65 mph (104km/h). I am happy to arrive home with a fully depleted battery. It is very cold where I live, and battery efficiency drops at low temps. The 75% “wasted” energy of a tiny Wankel engine could be put to very good use (for almost half of the year) keeping frost off the inside of the windshield, and the occupants from shivering. Using resistive heating is a huge load on a battery, and a heat pump is only about 50% better.
    An extended range EV could reduce my use of gas by 75%. I’m not a purist. I will embrace 3/4 of a loaf. If the 200m range of a pure EV is reduced by half in the winter (in order to have a safe comfortable drive), then the 100m net range becomes insufficient for a third of my driving in winter. That is a game stopper. In the summer, a vehicle with 100m EV range would be pure EV for more than 85% of my driving. The perfect is the enemy of the very good. Holding out for “zero emission purity” delays getting most of the way there.
    I don’t want or need 0-60mph acceleration in under 15 seconds, or a top speed over 70mph. As soon a car that seats four adults, with 55mpg extended range (ICE charging an EV drive train battery), 75 miles (or more), of EV range, and more than 3 miles/kWh in EV mode (sorry about the mixed units, our highways are marked with “mile markers” and our electricity is sold in kWh), is priced at $30,000 or less I will buy it (especially if it has front wheel or four wheel drive).
    We already have my wife’s PI-Prius and it does quite well. My old 2003 VW Jetta is up next, but it is hard to beat a car that gets me over 35mpg in the summer, over 30mpg in the winter, that is paid for and runs perfectly, even with almost 200k miles on the odometer. And the VW is fun to drive, sporty and handles well in snow and mud. It does not seat a “barbershop quartet” very comfortably, we might lose weight, but I don’t see that happening.

    • Coley

      “The perfect is the enemy of the very good”
      An excellent point for all who want to see renewables and EVs win the day, I’d rather see gas supporting wind and solar in the next few years than coal and if that’s the compromise we need to transition then let’s compromise.
      Most on here detest the fossil fuel lobby/ generators/mining etc but if letting them get out without having to take a hammering hastens their demise, then pay the buggers off, much cheaper in the medium to long term.

      • Zer0Sum

        So they get to be subsidised for years and actively work against Renewables by flinging their FUD at every level and opportunity, corrupting the political process with intensive subsidised lobbying to corrupt politicians campaign coffers and basically doing their best to halt any positive change and we should pay them off as well so they don’t take a shellacking when the transition kicks in?

        Let’s pay off the criminals so they will get out of the way and not bother us anymore with their stand over tactics, pretend stupidity and apathy for our childrens future. They are just harmless criminals who deserve our understanding and not be punished for their crimes against humanity/nature/society.

        • Coley

          No, I’m taking the pragmatic view that paying compensation to close down a mine/coal FPS is preferable to subsidising it to spew out pollution for the next 30 years,
          And yes it is hard to give these people a penny more, but the cold hard reality is that, these people will fight tooth and nail to keep their dirty little empires going unless there is a profitable option.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I think that’s an idea worth considering. Have held the same idea for a few years. But I see it less necessary now that a few years back. We’re now seeing coal mines closed and coal plants shut down. Coal is beginning to die out.

            What we need to do, I suspect, is to bring more and more wind and solar on line so that coal plants become less profitable, lose more money, and are closed for economic reasons.

            Between wind setting off peak low prices for electricity and solar lowering the peak hour price ceiling coal is getting squeezed. It makes less and less sense to operate the less efficient coal plants and those are the ones releasing the most CO2 and other pollutants per energy produced.

            Many of our coal plants are old and wearing out. The average lifespan of a US coal plant is about 40 years. The owners have almost certainly recouped their investments and made some profits. They are going to be shutting their plants down over the next decade or so regardless. The trick is to not replace those fossil fuel plants with more fossil fuel plants but with renewable energy.

          • Coley

            What you say is very true, but many are trying to squeeze the last drop of profit out of these plants using dubious measures, paid up politicians, lobby groups etc.
            What I’m suggesting is that where possible they are given a measure of encouragement to close up and bugger off.
            The writings on the wall for coal but any measures to hasten its demise should be encouraged, the current disinvestment campaign, for example,is another excellent idea.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I agree with much of what you say, but I don’t see anything like this getting through Congress. Too much of the right wing is in bed with the fossil fuel industry. Even some on the left have to support fossil fuels or risk their offices. While the plant and mine owners might welcome a buyout the people losing their jobs would scream bloody murder.

            Don’t know if you saw this news, but a few days back Florida Power and Light bought a coal plant with the intent of closing it down. They have a long term PPA with the plant and the cost of electricity was higher than what they pay otherwise. It worked out best for them to pay $250 million for the plant and then close it.

          • Coley

            Aye I read it, and it made sense, hate to say it but mebbes the way forward is to offer the workers who lose their jobs a decent redundancy package, the renewables sector to offer better bribes than the FF lobby to politicians and let Mr Peabody go to the wall?

  • LAF

    Bear in mind that the energy density of gasoline is roughly 10,000 Wh per Litre.
    Even with the increase to 333 Wh per Kg (1Kg =1 Litre roughly) that is only 3.33% as energy dense. Electric motors are roughly x2 as efficient though, so only half the energy needed on board for the same range.
    That is still a big mountain to climb though, god help us all if the pace to improve slackens.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Gasoline is a lot more energy dense than today’s batteries but about 80% of that energy will be wasted while only 10% of the energy in batteries will be wasted.

      Matching the range of an ICEV is not important. Remember, with a gasmobile it takes time and effort to go to a filling station. We basically carry around a lot of gas in order to limit the number of times we interrupt our day to stop for a fillup.

      With an EV one just plugs in when they park and has a “full tank” when the leave.

      What is important is to have enough EV range to make long distance drives reasonable. The Leaf doesn’t have enough. The Tesla S has plenty. Now we need more affordable EVs with around 200 mile ranges, which it looks like we will get soon.

    • eveee

      An electric motor is more than 2x as efficient as an ICE. More like 3X and a little bit more. An electric motor is well over 90% efficient. Numbers like 95% are common. An ICE is lucky to get 30% efficiency. More like 26%. Its because they only reach peak efficiency at a narrow load/rpm. Not so electric motors, which have high efficiency everywhere. And ICE have less gears, so less loss there, too.
      Its clear that batteries are less specific energy. Its not as important as it seems. The whole system, battery, motors and all, must be compared. An ICE loses space to a lot of ancillary stuff, starter motors, belts, cooling systems, fans, starting batteries, exhausts, and on. The motor is much bulkier and heavier in an ICE than an electric motor.
      Consider that a Model S has a front and rear trunk. Some EV conversions are less space efficient. But battery density does not seem to be an overbearing problem.
      IMO, its cost, cost, cost. For that, efficiency matters. The Model S gets a range boost from aero Cd=0.23 versus Leaf and i3 about 0.3. Most highway drag (2/3) is aero.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Additionally, the tank space over 200 miles range isn’t necessary to make ICEVs usable. The extra stored gas cuts down on the number of times one refuels during the year and on long trips.

        We could still do what we now do with 200 mile gasoline tanks. It would simply be a bit less convenient.

        EVs, since they can be quickly plugged in when parked eliminate all the ‘regular’ trips to filling stations and add only modest minutes to all day drives.

        • eveee

          I once owned a car with only 250 mile range. Small tank, about 11 usable gallons and only 23 mpg city. And motorcycles typically only go about 150 miles. My criteria is 200 miles, half hour charge. Thats 3 hours at highway speeds and time for pit stop.

          Lets face it. If you want to go farther, … bigger tank… bigger pack. Not exactly high tech.

          Heres what is really interesting about battery performance. A Model S uses less energy than a Prius at 70 mph despite a larger frontal area.

          A model 3 will be smaller frontal area, lighter, and similar aero drag.

          That will require a smaller battery to achieve the same range.

          The Tesla 60kwhr battery provides 215 mile range.

          If the Model 3 has 20% lower frontal area, its drag will reduce by the same amount. The battery requirement should be reduced to about


          Mass and volume does not scale directly. Length will be shorter.The Model 3 should weigh a bit more than the Leaf, having a bigger battery. The Leaf battery and control module weigh 488 pounds. The battery capacity would need to double from 24kwhr to 48kWhr. The Leaf would lose space if it did this with its existing battery, probably eating into the trunk or front of the car. It uses less of the underbody than the Tesla, but the Leaf consumes some under seat area. If the controller is about 50 pounds, the existing Leaf would scale up to 48kWhr with about 910 pounds of battery.

          An 85 kwhr Tesla battery is 1200 pounds.

          Scaling directly to 48kWhr would be 677 pounds. That is not the correct figure, because the casing and other peripherals might not scale that way, but its not far off. So a Leaf body with a 200 mile range NCA battery might weigh about 200 pounds more, or about 3550 pounds, if the body is made of steel.

          Material cost and performance choice will be critical.

          Cost? Well from some educated guesses, about $238/kwhr, that would make a 48wkrh pack cost $11,424.

          A 20% reduction in frontal area, would be about a 28.5% reduction in volume. They might not go that extreme. Volume scales with mass. Based on the 4600 pound vehicle weight, this comes out to 3300 pounds. The scaling probably will be a little less and the vehicle weight looks like about 3600 pounds for the 3.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Cost? Well from some educated guesses, about $238/kwhr, that would make a 48wkrh pack cost $11,424.”

            You think it will cost $58 to $108/kWh to turn Panasonic cells into battery packs?

            Here’s an article you might find interesting. He’s talking about the 20700 cells which are expected to replace the 18650 cells in the ModS.

            “Battery cells that store more energy in a given weight don’t just make the battery lighter. Because a lighter battery allows a smaller motor, tires, brakes, suspension, and structure, the whole car loses more weight than that saved in the battery alone. And, when the whole car gets lighter, the energy required for a given range goes down and a smaller, still lighter battery may be used, and so on. This means that both the cost of the battery cells ($/kWh), and the specific energy (Wh/kg) must be considered to arrive at the lowest overall cost of an electric car.

            What this analysis shows is that the ICE-to-BEV tipping point is very close. For battery specific energy somewhat better than the current NCA-graphite 18650 cells, an optimized Model 3 will weigh less than the comparable ICE BMW. If battery cost is reasonable, and I will get to that in a bit, a lighter BEV will likely cost less to manufacture than a heavier ICE car.


          • eveee

            You think it will cost $58 to $108/kWh to turn Panasonic cells into battery packs?

            No. I am just extrapolating conservatively from remarks made by Straubel that current Tesla packs are about one quarter vehicle costs. Thats as transparent as Tesla ever gets regarding this. 🙂

            I wanted to get some clarity on the design of the Model 3. The numbers reflect its feasibility and the calculations prove it conservatively. The improvements in manufacturing will be the gravy that causes profits.

            I think there will be evolutionary improvements in cell technology and a bit of revolution. Cell chemistries can still change some.

            Cell chemistries have evolved since LiCo.

            Energy per cell and cost are the main drivers, but as you say, weight can be a factor. Its just that weight affects city range weakly. Tire drag is proportional to weight, but nothing affects range worse than aero drag. See the reference below. Unlike ICE, EVs are less sensitive to city mileage and much more sensitive to highway drag because of regeneration.

            I doubt volume is as much a factor for full sized cars, but it starts to be more important for mid and small sized cars because volume goes down non linearly as size is reduced.

            One interesting factor with the Model S is that frontal area is effectively reduced by lowering height. Strangely, the BMW i3 frontal area is about the same as the Model S, 25 square feet. With a higher Cd, the i3 has higher highway losses. Range isn’t just batteries.

            This analysis is the best I have seen for range and drag.


          • Bob_Wallace

            We’ve been told that Tesla is paying Panasonic $180/kWh for the cells they are using now. A 30% cost drop via the GigaFactory should bring the price below $130/kWh.

            Looks to me that the pack is simply a box that holds the cells and allows liquid to circulate around the cells. I can’t see that cost being extremely high.

            I suspect Tesla totally understands the aerodynamics/fronal area issues. It will be interesting to see what the M3 looks like.

          • eveee

            Yes. The pack frame cost BMS, and controller shouldn’t be more than about 20%. As the battery energy density improves, those costs become relatively smaller on a per energy basis. For Tesla, the numbers are probably better than that. ( if you don’t count the titanium shield 🙂

  • Jason hm

    This indicates that Tesla does not view material cost as significant. More battery for less money their broadcasting their business model. It’s kinda a wake up call to competitors that view material costs as an excuse to increase their profit per unit.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Material costs are apparently just under $70/kWh. That allows for large scale battery production for $100/kWh.

      • Wayne Williamson

        thank you…I’ve written and deleted 5 comments on this article and what you said is what I wanted to…cheap batteries are critical…..

        • Bob_Wallace

          Let me stick up one of my favorite graphics once more.

          Cheap batteries can be equaled only by very cheap gasoline. When battery prices reach $100/kWh gasoline would need to sell for well under $2/gallon to keep ICEVs in the game.

          • No no no no. Consumers buy cars based on the sticker price, not the operating cost. Even *if* Tesla hits their $35k target (which seems impossible for a variety of reasons), more than half of new car buyers (and nearly 75% of all consumers in North America) won’t be able to make the payment.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That is not a universal rule. Clearly when fuel prices spike sales in more efficient cars rise.

            Perhaps more than half of all new car drivers won’t be buyers of a Tesla 3 but that still leaves several million who will find it within their budget. Annual US car sales are around 17 million and the average new car price is about $32,000. The T3 is expected to be $27,500 after the federal subsidy.

            Selling a significant number of T3s should help bring the cost of batteries down from the expected $130/kWh to around $100/kWh which should make new EV prices lower than new ICEVs.

            At that point new car buyers can make the decision to purchase EVs based on both operating cost and purchase price.

          • eveee

            Wont be able to make a $200 lease payment? A 30K Leaf has $200 lease payment. Affordable enough for you?

            If you can’t afford a new car, thats different.

            Right now, auto mfrs lower monthly payments with long terms. Nissan Leafs, cost about 30k now, and have affordable monthly payments.

            There is no reason a 30k Tesla would be any different. And the average sticker price of a new car is right up there in that territory.

            When owners finally realize how much cheaper EVs are to own,

            Leaf 25k over 5 years

            Corolla 38k

            you will see a massive shift. The difference is just too great to pass up.

          • A $30k Leaf only costs $199 to lease because it’s heavily subsidized. Are those giant state and federal tax incentives going to exist when electric cars are more popular? (answer: no)

            What’s more, most of the new car owning public doesn’t lease. They buy. The ratio is about 5:1. That’s probably because it’s the cheaper route long term.

            But the majority of people buying cars aren’t buying new cars – they’re buying used cars. That’s a completely different market.

            Here’s the comparison you need to keep in mind:

            1. A new BEV family sedan for $40k vs
            2. A used gas powered family sedan for $20k
            3. A new gas powered family sedan for $30k

            Consumers who are flush with cash will probably go with option #1, as it’s the cheapest option long term (all things being equal). But everyone else is going #2, with a shockingly high percentage going with #3 due to range anxiety, concerns about new BEV technology, etc.

            This isn’t an argument, btw, I’m telling you how it works. I was in automotive retail for nearly a decade. If you think you know how car buying consumers think, spend a few years working at a dealership and get back to me.

            Consumers are NOT logical. They are NOT rational. They buy flashy cars that have low monthly payments. BEVs have a future, but it’s very cloudy until the up-front costs come down.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I agree with most of what you say but remember – the $30k price tag on the Leaf was determined by battery prices when the car was introduced. As battery prices have fallen the MSRP hasn’t been scaled down due, I think, to the federal and state subsidies.

            Nissan may not be able to purchase batteries at the $180/kwh that Tesla is paying but $250/kWh should be within grasp. Guessing that prices might have been $500/kWh in 2010 (possibly higher) that would mean costs are now $6,000+ lower for the 24 kWh battery pack.

            Take away the $7,500 federal subsidy and Nissan may be able to drop the price from $29,010 to $21,500 and still make a profit.

          • Except for all the R&D costs, sure. But according to Nissan, the Leaf has been a money loser (and continues to be as of July 2014), only the losses are getting smaller.

            The day that BEVs are cost comparable (up-front) to old fashioned IC vehicles will be a great day for humanity. But that day is a ways off.

          • Bob_Wallace

            How far off? I read claims about the tipping point at which EVs cost the same as ICEVs to manufacture run from $125/kwh to $235? (I’ve forgotten the actual range.)

            Tesla should be close to $125 in a couple of years. Navigant Research claims that the broader market will get to the $180 range in over the next two years. Going from $180 to $125 is a matter of manufacturing scale and efficiency, not materials cost.


            We don’t know what the features of the M3 will be but assume it’s a pretty nice car. Against what would it be compared? A Lexus? It should have more interior space, a more steady/smooth ride, be quieter and offer better acceleration. Isn’t the rest basically “quality of the seat covers”?

            Isn’t the lowest Lexus entry point about $35k? (I don’t pay a lot of attention to cars.)

            If the M3 is roughly equivalent to the lowest priced Lexus we might be less than two years from up-front cost equality at the lower end of the luxury car market.

          • eveee

            You are all wet about the upfront costs. And I am well aware of how illogical buyers are. You don’t need to be in retail to know that.

            Where do you get your numbers? A Leaf isn’t 40K, its

            $28,800. List. No subsidy.


            Didn’t you just say a new ICE family sedan was 30K? So whats your point?

            And you did not even consider a used EV?
            Used 2011 Nissan Leafs start at around 12K. A late model one is about 21K.

            So the prices are on par with ICE.

            And the cost of ownership over 5 years is just what I said, more than 10K less. Thats a lot of cash.

            If you don’t believe me, go over to Edmunds and plug in the numbers.

            I know car buyers are illogical. But at some point they look at the hole in their wallet and say, gee, can I do better? After a while, some realize they didn’t need to pour thousands in fuel dollars into a vehicle they seldom use un needed power, space, and functionality for.

            But even if they just look at list price…. EVs are there, and real.
            And nobody is thinking todays EVs just replace all ICE, or that the majority of sales will be EVs. Where did you get that idea?

            Nissan just sold its 75,000th EV in the US. Thats a tiny number compared to all cars. With such a small percentage, growth is not limited. In fact, EV sales are doubling every year. Thats astounding growth.

            Any small car manufacturer would envy that kind of market growth.

          • My pricing was based on the car that everyone says is going to break open the BEV market, the vaporware known as the “Tesla Model 3.” That car will probably cost $10k more than I listed (I know, I know, Elon says it will only be $35k, but he said the Model S was gonna be $55k, and we all know that was BS).

            Car buyers are illogical (eg they’re oblivious to operating costs) AND they value convenience. EVs aren’t selling for both of these reasons.

            As for BEVs and their rapid sales growth, I’d argue you’re missing the forest for the tree here. While sales have grown quickly:

            1. They’re supported by massive subisides
            2. They’re still insignificant as a percentage of the market

            99.7% of new car buyers do not buy BEVs. That means the technology isn’t appealing in its current form.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Tesla initially intended to build a 40 kWh Model S which was expected to sell for just under $60k, about $52,500 after the rebate. Only 4% of potential buyers showed an interest so they dropped the low priced model.

            (And, IIRC, Tesla sold those 4% a 60 kwh S at the 40 kWh price.)

            Yes, subsidies have supported early sales. And EV sales have grown faster than hybrid sales grew over the first years.

            Subsidies have been necessary to bring battery consumption volumes high enough to kick in economies of scale. That is now happening. Multiple battery companies are building large scale battery production.

            I don’t think you grasp how new technology replaces old technology. Sales/adoption starts slow and builds. At first new technology is almost always expensive and not well understood.

            Sales rates grow, that creates more manufacturing innovation and efficiencies, which in turn drops price. In the meantime more people “know someone who owns one” and start to understand why they might also want to switch.

            Then things take off.

          • Bob_Wallace

            An article just appeared this morning which states that 42% of all electric vehicles were sold in 2014.

            Here’s the graph and that’s acceleration….


          • eveee

            You still don’t get it. You said price, I answered price. You said used, I answered used. Now you are making up a hypothetical car that doesn’t exist and saying its not good enough. Sheeez.

            I am beginning to think you are right.

  • I don’t get it why man. don’t think of using a battery “trailer” or a “module” (trunk) to extand range!

    • Bob_Wallace

      It’s been thought of several times. More than one person (group) has built a battery trailer. But the idea has never gained traction with car manufacturers.

      Here’s what I suspect. Car manufacturers have a lot of inside information, they have very highly educated battery experts working either in their companies or as consultants. There’s a very good chance that they see into the future 2, 3, 5 years with some degree of accuracy. And they see batteries that will fit in our cars and give us the range we need.

      Remember, anything over 200 solid miles (highway speed with the AC or heater rocking) is unnecessary. Nice, but unnecessary.

      Remember back when Stephen Chu was Secretary of Energy? He made a couple of statements about the future. He said that solar would drop to $1/watt.

      And in 2009 –

      “At a speech this week in Detroit, Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu made some very hopeful predictions about the electric car industry, namely that the cost of electric car batteries would drop by 70 percent by 2015 compared to 2008 prices.

      Secretary Chu said that we were on track to see the cost of a battery for a plug-in hybrid EV with a 40-mile range drop to $3,600 by 2015 compared to $12,000 in 2008. By 2020, he said we would see that cost drop to $1,500, an 87.5 percent drop from 2008 prices.”

      And there was this article published four years ago –

      “The electric vehicle batteries that will make plug-ins competitive with traditional gasoline cars might be closer on the horizon than we think. That’s according to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, who said in a speech yesterday at the United Nations climate talks in Cancun, that dramatic improvements in range, size and affordability are likely just around the corner.

      “Is there any hope of being competitive with an internal combustion car engine? The answer is yes,” Chu said, as reported by Bloomberg . “It’s not like it’s 10 years off. It’s about five years and it could be sooner. Meanwhile the batteries we do have today are soon going to get better by a factor of two.” The Secretary said tomorrow’s batteries will be required to last at least 15 years; be six to seven times more powerful; and three times cheaper.

      Now I recall when Chu made the $1/watt solar prediction I found it extremely hard to accept. Prices were so high at the time that $1/w seemed impossible. Utility scale solar is now being installed in the US for $1.40/watt. Possibly lower. And heading lower.

      Back to battery trailers, we don’t get to peek into the labs and talk to the people who know the most. Car manufacturer scientists do. They are able to look into the future with more accuracy than we are. They are likely seeing what Chu saw.

      • Or, maybe it’s that people who buy $100k luxury cars don’t want to pull an f’ing trailer around wherever they go.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Why would anyone need to pull a f’ing trailer around behind a Tesla S? 250 mile range and superchargers all over the country.

  • Eric Edelen

    Tesla has proved that’s it’s not about size or weight… it’s about cost.

  • Bob_Wallace

    The graphs are source from another site.

    Here in the US we commonly use Wh/kg when talking about batteries and pounds when talking about curb weight of cars.

    The source for this article was, as you can see high up in the article, “But an article written for Seeking Alpha….”.

    • nakedChimp

      get with the rest of the world (7.2 billion) and use metric and cater for the american average joe (320 million ~5%) in brackets 😉

      • Bob_Wallace

        There are numerous things which I could quickly correct as soon as you make me Emperor of the World.

        Next move it yours. Get busy.

  • Stuart51

    ‘Producing larger cells for the same per cell cost’ does not compute.

    The ‘manufacturing cost’s might well be the same, but without breakthroughs in materials & usage, the 30% larger cell will also have 30% more materials – which have to be paid for.

    • Bob_Wallace

      More materials but cost savings in other parts of the process.

      • Stuart51

        Bloody English language!

        • TedKidd

          Reread the article, the math is pretty clearly spelled out.

    • mikgigs

      twice larger dimensions of screen has 4 times more pixels, moreover surface to volume is even higher difference. 10 percent of dimension in cylinder could get 30 percent more volume for more or less same package costs

      • Stuart51

        Yes, if your 30% extra materials come for free.

        • Bob_Wallace


          More materials might or might not mean more cost. Higher purchasing quantities could easily mean lower costs. Try buying a teaspoon of lithium. You won’t get the ton price.

          There could be costs in other places. As mikgigs points out you can scale up the outside package enough to hold 30% more ingredients without increasing the surface area (packaging costs) 30%.

          The 30% increase in materials could be offset by more efficient manufacturing or less energy input.

          Think Costco. If you are willing to buy a big box of Cheerios you get a lot more cereal per dollar than what you get at the normal grocery store in a smaller box. You get the same little round whole oats goodies, same color box, etc. But you’re buying a larger quantity package from a much more efficient, lower cost store.

        • Jason hm

          But if material cost is only 10% of the finished product the added expense can be made up by the increased throughput from each production line.

        • mikgigs

          much easier to convince, go to shop and check the prices of example Coca Cola products for different packages. Surprise, surprise, bigger is cheaper

  • Daimon

    This is a bit off topic, but lighter cars are another step toward EVs replacing enough ICEs that gas stations drop below profitability and start closing. It might be a gradual process but as it happens it becomes less convenient to gas up, which makes EVs more attractive, which reduces the number of ICEs, and a beneficial spiral is launched (or a vicious one if you’re a gas station or oil company owner). Calculating that tipping point is far beyond my skills, but I’m sure it exists and look forward to it. Of course, building out the charging network is the counterpart.

  • wattleberry

    If there is such a gain from a small increase in battery size why not make them even bigger? What is the limiting factor? Heat?

    • nakedChimp

      upstream supply chain?
      dimensional changes (volume during charge/discharge) vs housing (pressure)?

    • Ivor O’Connor

      JB gave a talk recently, on youtube, and mentions the trade-offs in size.

    • Everything in engineering is balancing compromises. If you put in bigger batteries the weight increases but most importantly so does the time to charge them. Yes, you might get more range *if* the car is engineered to be efficient and light-weight but in the end realistic driving habits have to be taken into account. Tesla’s opinion is that their cars must have a minimum of 200 miles of *usable* driving range to make them attractive to buyers who want to do long-distance travel. If an EV costs $40K and only does 80 miles on a charge that’s not going to sway people. Yes, they could make a 500 mile range EV but that’s not efficient as it would take too long to charge, cost too much and weigh too much. 200-300 miles is about right. Also, let’s not forget that Tesla is the only player who is building a super high-speed charging network, that’s free-for-life, to make long-distance travel possible and as convenient as an ICE car. That’s the magic bullet that puts them ahead of everyone else. Once Model 3 arrives it will make tsunami-like waves in car the industry.

  • Bob_Wallace

    ” that assumes conventional vehicles don’t utilize their own weight-saving measures (which they almost certainly will).”

    EVs will be able to use the weight-savings measures of ICEVs. But as battery capacities grow the weight of batteries decrease which is a specific EV advantage.

    • Kyle Field

      Also, I see no reason why ICEVs would all of the sudden start worry about efficiency. Any change ICEVs can/will make will pale in comparison to the EV revolution already underway…

  • onesecond

    Dear Christopher de Morro, please just use kg throughout and only add pounds or whatever in brackets after that for the convenience of the American audience or whatever. Please do not mix pounds and kg, it just unnecessarily complicates reading. Thank you.

    • Bob_Wallace

      This is a US site. Adding kg in brackets for foreigners would be helpful, I suppose.

      • Wika Rocha

        yes, a us site, but, what the guy said was, don’t mix them up, it has wh/kg and then pounds, on the graph there, so if he wants to use pounds because us is the only country that still uses those, then use wh/pound and pounds, and we are all happy …

      • Kyle Field

        I personally would prefer if “we” leaned forward into the metric system. It’s a bit absurd that we are still in the standard system imho but hey, I’m flexible. 😀

        • Martin

          Interestingly even in the US scientists do use the metric system.
          I grew up with metric, then learned imperial and find conversion in metric so much simpler.

      • nakedChimp

        I’m just so glad the Chinese use the metric system..

    • Philip W

      Not only for weight, but also for miles/kilometres and most importantly currencies. I’ve seen a lot of articles where only some currency is used of which absolutely nobody knows the conversion factor to USD/EUR. This sucks big time.
      Zach already promised it would get better this year, but I haven’t seen much of that yet.

      • Chris DeMorro

        Understand that some conversions are much easier than others, and most of us writers are just plain ol’ awful at math…and the only thing worse than no conversion, is a wrong conversion.

        • Philip W

          That’s a very very bad excuse.

          Here you go:

          You don’t need to do a single calculation on your own. It literally takes seconds. The ONLY reason is your laziness!

          • Chris DeMorro

            I’m sorry, are you paying for this content?


            Then quit crying. I already made the conversions.

          • Philip W

            As I already wrote under Tinas’ article a few hours ago I like cleantechnica otherwise I wouldn’t be here.
            But if you want to be #1 clean-tech focused website in the world you need to produce content that represents that.
            And I’m just not seeing that right now. Sorry if you take my honesty personally, but I’m just stating how it is. You may not be used to that, but appreciate the feedback and make it better next time. Your a professional writer after all.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Chris, I’m not going to get heavily on your case because I know you folks don’t make a lot of money for the articles you write. You need to write quickly in order to put beans in the pot.

            But, based on the complaints I frequently read, it seems like you (the all-inclusive “you”) need a “poster” by your monitor that reminds each of you to check to see if you used “energy” and “electricity” appropriately. As well “kW” and “kWh”.

            And handy conversion charts.

            You could set up a conversion spreadsheet that did the math for you.

    • Chris DeMorro

      Dear onesecond, maybe if you spelled my last name right I will 😛

      • onesecond

        Okay, Christopher “Chris” DeMorro let’s make that a deal. I know you can do it. ;P

        • Chris DeMorro

          DEAL! Done 😉

  • Martin

    I myself can not wait to see EVs on all roads all the time.
    But then there are more EV’s than ICE on the road, at that point we (mankind) can celebrate! :))

    • Kyle Field

      One of the games I play when I drive is to count how many EVs I see on any given trip. I’m in california so this is more fun for me than for most other areas of the world. I have counted 5 on a trip around town (maybe 5 miles) including teslas, leafs, volts… it’s encouraging how many more I see now vs just a year or two ago but also depressing how little people care about them other than the financials. Nobody seems to care about climate change, saving the planet, emissions…until it becomes mandated i guess.

      • mustery

        Its even more fun here in Oslo 😀

Back to Top ↑