Eye on Lithium Ion

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Will Electric Vehicles Drive into the Mainstream?

By 2025, lithium ion batteries should perform well enough, at a cost low enough, to support the commercial success of electric vehicles (EV), according to an EPRI analysis.

Although EVs are increasingly popular, many analysts believe that they will not gain major market share until the cost of lithium ion battery packs drops from today’s $300 per kilowatt-hour to $150 per kilowatt-hour, and energy density grows to 250 watt-hours per kilogram from today’s 140 watt-hours per kilogram. Even with intensive R&D, battery experts debate whether and when these targets can be met.

EPRI’s analysis of battery cost data and advances with electrode materials concludes that the targets could be met in 5 to 10 years. The authors cite high-capacity anodes based on lithium-silicon alloys and point to the potential of manganese-rich layered oxides to increase cathode capacity, while noting that the latter materials are not yet stable enough for mass production.

“R&D on a broad spectrum of materials and technologies has led to several key advances,” said Marcus Alexander, EPRI principal technical leader and one of the study’s authors. “When fully developed and integrated into mass-produced batteries, they can provide the cost and performance needed for mainstream market success.”

The authors note one broad caveat: Significant design and manufacturing innovations are needed to reduce the cost and weight of cooling systems, monitoring circuits, mounting hardware, and other components.