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Electric Cars Are About to Turn the Corner

By Ian Lowe

Will decreasing battery costs finally enable the electric car to take off?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

I used to show my students a quote that acclaimed it as the car of the future: clean, efficient, quiet and non-polluting. All it needed, the proponent said, was an advance in storage beyond the lead-acid battery, and that advance was “just around the corner”. That article was written in1903!

More than 100 years later, the biggest obstacle to the electric car is still the cost and capacity of energy storage, which limits the range of these vehicles. But that corner might finally be in sight.

Writing for The Conversation recently, a University of Melbourne PhD candidate documented the dramatic improvement in the cost of lithium-ion batteries. Valentin Muenzel notes that “the battery in typical mid-range electric car stores around 25 kilowatt-hours of energy”. Until recently, the cost of these battery-packs was typically around US$1000/kWh, making the electric car a luxury item. The weight of lead-acid batteries was also a problem, so much of the car’s energy was wasted moving the batteries around.

Now the Stockholm Environment Institute estimates the average cost of lithium-ion packs is down to $410/kWh, with “market-leading manufacturers such as Nissan and Tesla… seeing prices around US$300 per kWh”. That led Muenzel to the conclusion that “the cost of electric car batteries may be as low as $7500 today and reducing to $5000 by 2020”.


The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.