Tag Archives: Batteries

Battery prices fell nearly 50% in the last 3 years — and there’s no sign of stopping

Credit: Flickr.

There’s a huge global market demand for high-density battery packs for electric vehicles and energy storage, which in turn has led to dramatic reductions in price. In 2010, the average market price for battery packs was $1,100/kWh. In 2019, this figure hovers at around $156/kWh, marking a whopping 87% reduction in price. Compared to three years ago, when battery prices were around $300/kWh, batteries are now at almost half as cheap.

According to a recent report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), market demand and technological advances might push the price below a $100/kWh milestone by 2023.

The two most important challenges that prevent the wide-scale adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles are infrastructure and cost — both need to be addressed. You might buy an affordable electric car with adequate autonomy, but if consumers aren’t confident there’s a reliable charging infrastructure, they will likely think twice before making a purchase. Likewise, utilities and consumers alike might be interested in investing in solar farms and wind turbines, but if storing that energy overnight to meet the baseload is too expensive, fossil fuel power plants will still have a job.

Luckily, the future seems very optimistic. According to market analysts at BNEF, battery packs have experienced an insane downward curve in terms of price.

These cost reductions can be attributed to growth in electric vehicle sales and the increasing proliferation of high energy density cathodes.

Improved battery pack design and falling manufacturing costs associated with economies of scale will drive prices down even further. New technologies such as silicon or lithium anodes, solid state cells, and new cathode materials will also play a major role in reducing costs in the future.

“Factory costs are falling thanks to improvements in manufacturing equipment and increased energy density at the cathode and cell level. The expansion of existing facilities also offers companies a lower-cost route to expand capacity,” Logan Goldie-Scot, head of energy storage at BNEF, said in a statement.

The new BNEF report, which was presented last week in Shanghai, forecasts a battery market demand of 2TWh in 2024, around which time prices are expected to fall below $100/kWh. This is an important milestone because most experts agree that at this price range, electric vehicles reach price parity with internal combustion engine vehicles.

Of course, this will vary depending on the region and vehicle segment. For instance, Amazon placed an order for 100,000 all-electric vans from Rivian, a Michigan-based auto startup company. This kind of application, however, puts more emphasis on battery life cycle than the price per unit of stored energy.

Bloomberg analysts believe that important cost reductions will continue well into the future. The global lithium-ion battery market size is expected to grow from $20 billion today to $60 billion by 2025. By 2030, it could double to $120 billion, not counting investments in the supply chain. During this time, battery pack prices could fall below $60/kWh.

Calcium-based batteries could be a step closer to reality

Manufacturing calcium-based batteries could be a step closer thanks to a newly synthesized chemical discovered by researchers at the Helmholtz Institute Ulm in Germany, looking for a safer and cheaper alternative than the current lithium-based batteries.

A calcium reservoir. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Until now, researchers working on calcium batteries have lacked a suitable electrolyte, the medium through which electrical charge flows. Batteries with anodes made of calcium — a more abundant substance — might be more sustainable and safer than batteries with lithium anodes.

Researcher Zhirong Zhao-Karger and her colleagues reacted a calcium compound with a fluorine-containing compound to create a new type of calcium salt. The resulting material conducted electricity more effectively than any calcium-based electrolyte yet reported. It also efficiently conducted ions at a higher voltage than other calcium-based electrolytes.

Lithium, now used in most electrochemical storage systems and electronic devices, is relatively expensive because of limited supplies and has technical disadvantages. The lithium-ion batteries have numerous drawbacks: they sometimes catch fire, and they depend on increasingly scarce and toxic substances such as lithium and cobalt.

To create lithium batteries, there is a need for a range of rare earth metals that require heavy mining and manufacturing that emit significant emissions. Furthermore, major components such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt exist in a finite amount that is unlikely to meet the current and future demands for battery units.

Meanwhile, calcium-ion batteries, long tipped as a viable replacement, have at least twice the number of electrons as lithium units, which means higher power density in a thinner, lighter package.

Calcium is about 2,500 times as abundant as lithium in nature, making the calcium-ion energy storage technology a promising candidate for next-generation batteries due to its high performance and low cost. However, calcium-ion batteries have been unsuccessful to attain a satisfactory performance in previous studies.

The search for alternatives to lithium batteries is mostly due to demand for extended-range electric vehicles and batteries for portable gadgets that can give a longer life span, as well as a need to reduce manufacturing costs.

Electric vehicles are set to make up more than half of global passenger car sales by 2040 and completely dominate the bus market, according to this year’s Electric Vehicle Outlook report.

Electrics will take up 57% of the global passenger car sales by 2040, with electric buses dominating their sector, holding 81% of municipal bus sales by the same date. Electric models will also make up 56% of light commercial vehicle sales.

Tesla pack.

Curious what a Tesla battery rack looks like inside? Watch these guys throw one off the roof to find out

Ever wondered how Tesla’s tech can power an actual car for whole trips? What secret their batteries might hide? If so, you’re in luck, as the father and son duo of “What’s Inside” shoot, smash, and slash their way inside the things to show us what’s going on.

Tesla pack.

Image via What’s Inside / YouTube.

Dan and his son Lincoln, the creators behind YouTube channel “What’s Inside“, sadly had to let their family car go, a Model S Tesla. They’re pretty bummed about it but decided to make the most of a bad situation and study the company’s impressive battery tech. In the best way possible: with smashing, slashing — and arrows. Check it out.

 

Wondering if a Tesla battery rack would fare better than muggle batteries (which blow up) when pierced, say by a random piece of jagged metal lying on the road, the duo first shoots their spare Tesla battery rack with a bow and metal-tipped arrow. They were hoping for ‘some kaboom’, but thankfully (sadly?) Tesla makes them pretty safe so it doesn’t really happen. The arrow lodges between the rack’s metal casing and the cooling strip, does structural some damage but nothing really pops.

Not ones to be daunted so easily, they move on to the next logical step — Lincoln takes the rack and throws it off the roof. Twice.

Pressed this hard, the battery rack submits and breaks off into a hundred tinier batteries, which finally gives us a good look at Tesla’s design. The rack is a very neat structure, with stacks of batteries interwoven with cooling strips, all encased in a plastic and metal structure. Every one of them comes with its own integrated computer which ensures the batteries do what they’re supposed to while being extra-duper-safe. Each Model S carries around 16 such racks, for a total of about 7000 individual lithium batteries.

In the end, Dan had to hack away at the batteries with a hatchet so we could actually see what’s inside. Not very surprisingly, it’s battery acid.

And because we care (also because lawsuits are expensive) please don’t try this at home. Dan and Lincoln aren’t professionals, but they had a whole bunch of them on standby to make sure nothing went haywire.

What Gigafactory-1, Tesla's battery plant outside Reno, looks like now. When completed it will cover 15 million square feet which will make it the building with the largest footprint in the world. Credit: Tesla.

Tesla now makes batteries that are 35% cheaper thanks to Gigafactory 1 — breakthrough cost of $125/kWh achieved

What Gigafactory-1, Tesla's battery plant outside Reno, looks like now. When completed it will cover 15 million square feet which will make it the building with the largest footprint in the world. Credit: Tesla.

What Gigafactory-1, Tesla’s battery plant outside Reno, looks like now. When completed it will cover 15 million square feet which will make it the building with the largest footprint in the world. Credit: Tesla.

Tesla Motors has more than half a million pre-orders for its Model 3, a long-range $35,000 vehicle that promises to make electric cars stylishly mainstream. In order to meet this demand, CEO Elon Musk insisted that Gigafactory — a soon-to-be 15 million square feet lithium-ion production facility — is completed two years ahead of schedule. When ready in 2018, the company will produce more battery cells at its plant in its opening year than all of the lithium-ion battery makers combined created in 2013. The reason for such a massive deployment is simple: bring down costs by levering economics of scale. Initially, Tesla said Gigafactory would bring down battery cost by 30%. Now, in the latest company announcement, Tesla says Gigafactory is producing lithium-ion batteries that are 35% cheaper.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Us9AgX7iGA

Tesla never said how much it costs to make the batteries that get fitted inside its EVs but it did once state these cost ‘below $190/Kwh’. Fred Lambert from Electrek says a 35% cost reduction would imply Tesla is now making batteries for ‘less than $124’. This would make the 55 kWh battery pack soon to be deployed on the Model 3 around the $6,875 mark. That’s pretty expensive and clearly the most costly hardware inside a Tesla but way more accessible than before. We’re talking, after all, about moving from an $80,000 car (Model S) to a $35,000 one (Model 3).

This cost-reduction is extremely important. Lambert quotes industry experts who claim that at $100/kWh, an electric vehicle is competitive with gas-powered ones. In the case of off-grid energy storage, however, the same price tag per kilowatt-hour means stored wind and solar become competitive with energy made from fossil fuels.

“If you can get anywhere near this cost target then you change the world,” said Michael Aziz, the Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies at Harvard. “It becomes cost effective to put batteries in so many places.”

To get in the $100/kWh range, Tesla would need to yet again slash its costs by, say, 35% to be safe. That’s totally doable considering Gigafactory-1 is only 14% finished and construction of Gigafactory-2 in Europe could start as early as this year. Imagine what kind of progress could be achieved if other big names like BMW, Volkswagen or, why not, General Electric invested with just as much zeal and confidence as Tesla.

 

 

Rows of Tesla batteries will keep Southern California’s lights on during the night

Southern California has just added another arrow in its quiver of clean energy. The state can feed power into a storage center of Tesla batteries by day to supply its grid when the solar panels go to sleep.

Tesla battery packs awaiting to be unleashed upon California’s power grid.
Image credits Tesla.

If you have too much of something, why not bottle it up for a rainy day? Well that’s what California is planning on doing with their power. The state’s Public Utilities Commission has installed 396 refrigerator-sized stacks of Tesla batteries with impressive haste just off a freeway in South California. Capable of powering 15,000 homes for over four hours, the battery packs will be tasked with sucking up any excess juice from the grid when production is high and feed it back to consumers when needed.

The installation will officially come online on Monday, and showcases how utility companies can use storage mediums in lieu of conventional systems, with round the clock production.

Waste not, want not

California has been an ardent pursuer of clean energy to combat climate change. But in doing so, the state has also turned traditional energy patterns on their head — California has excess energy during the day when its plentiful solar panels are churning out energy. But with most of the state’s nuclear plants either closed down or in the process of being shut down, strict environmental regulation, lack of space for new plants, and a growing distrust in peakers (natural gas plants) after the 2015 leak at the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility, the conventional generation system is struggling to pick up the slack at night.

When the sun sets and people come home from work, production figures plummet at the same time demand rises sharply. True to their clean energy efforts, the state has been exploring ways to use that excess energy rather than limit solar production. Usually considered too costly elsewhere, battery storage offered a solution since its price is comparable to peakers in California.

 

Ironically, these Tesla-made batteries were manufactured, shipped, and installed for the Southern California Edison company. They’re hooked up at the Mira Loma substation in Ontario, roughly 40 miles east of LA. The whole process took three weeks to complete — a very impressive feat.

“I had relatively limited expectations for the battery industry in advance of 2020. I thought that it would not really accelerate and begin to penetrate the electric grid or the transportation world for a while to come,” said Michael J. Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission.

“Once again, technology is clearly moving faster than we can regulate.”

Part of this speed comes down to the fact that California already has several storage projects in the works, some of which involve Tesla. On the other hand hey, it’s Tesla. If anyone knows their way around batteries, it’s got to be them — we come in at a close second, though. The company designed and built all the important parts — the batteries themselves, support systems, and all the equipment — in independent modules inside the battery packs, ready to be shipped wherever they’re needed.

“Our vehicle work lays a lot of the architectural foundation for this,” said JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer. “It’s not as if we’re starting from scratch.”

“Essentially, we can go and pour a slab and install the basic wiring, but each one of our Powerpacks is quite self-contained,” All of the batteries, cooling and safety systems, and other equipment are inside the casings, ready to load onto delivery trucks.

Compared to power plants, batteries are more flexible and don’t require complex infrastructure, such as water or fuel pipes. That also means they don’t need to get environmental permits for said infrastructure, so they can be set up much faster and with less red tape than conventional reactors.

And California’s efforts now will only reduce storage costs for the rest of us, so battery storage stations just like this one might pop up in a town near you pretty soon.