The Committee on Climate Change was developed in 2008 to provide support to the British government’s efforts toward a greener economy. This independent body recently published a report that indicates that current battery technologies show little potential for breakthroughs in the next decade. “Cost and Performance of EV Batteries” indicates that advanced batteries using lithium-air chemistries could boost EV manufacturers between 2020 and 2030. This report drew from data and projections collected by EastChem, Axeon and Element Energy on behalf of the Committee on Climate Change.
Analysts behind the report note that lithium-ion batteries could achieve higher energy density and range by 2020 with advancements not currently on the horizon. This sudden advancement in lithium-ion packs would require a significant breakthrough that seems unlikely according to the report. “Cost and Performance of EV Batteries” notes that lithium-ion batteries could reach higher capacity through development of advanced cathodes. High-capacity cathodes and electrolytes seem unlikely to the report’s authors as they would increase upfront costs while requiring more expensive packaging. The average lithium-ion battery pack in an EV costs $21,000 for a sedan that can travel 93 miles per charge.
“Cost and Performance of EV Batteries” portrays lithium-air technology as a potential savior for EV manufacturers by 2030. This experimental chemistry is unlikely to be commercial until 2030 but offers a 50% weight reduction compared to lithium-ion batteries. A projection by Element Energy estimates that an all-electric sedan using a lithium-air battery could cost $6,400 with a range of 155 miles per charge. The overall energy density of lithium-air chemistry could be more than 300% the density offered by lithium-ion chemistry. Consumers and automakers alike might be interested in the potential for lithium-air but novelty will not help the EV market in the near future.
The projections made in “Cost and Performance of EV Batteries” emerge from the lack of advanced technologies hitting the electronics market. This market niche acts as an important first step for battery chemistries before they are incorporated into vehicle batteries. Cars, trucks and SUVs offer extreme tests for batteries due to high energy demands as well as years of continuous use. Element Energy’s skepticism about lithium-ion batteries could be accurate though this narrow focus does not capture the larger picture. The automotive industry, government agencies and labs are working on methods of reducing energy consumption like lightweight frames and efficient motors that require less from vehicle batteries.