Podcast: EV battery technology…is solid-state emerging as the next big thing?

Chevy Bolt
Chevy Bolt Chevrolet photo.

Lithium-ion batteries likely to drop 50% in cost, rise 50% in range – Dr. Yi Cui of Stanford University

Back in mid-Nov., General Motors fired a shot across the bow of Tesla that didn’t generate as much excitement as it deserved: in 2021 the all-electric Chevy Bolt will get better batteries that crack the $100 per kilowatt-hour threshold. according to Reuters. The purchase price will come down and range will rise from 238 to 300 miles (438 kms).

In this podcast, I interview Chris Robinson of Lux Research, one of my go-to EV analysts, as we discuss exciting developments in battery technology like the Bolt announcement and how that will affect adoption over the next 10 to 15 years.

The timeline and costs are consistent with my interview earlier this year with Prof. Yi Cui of Stanford, who predicted that Lithium-ion batteries prices would drop 50 per cent over the next decade and energy density (range) would rise by 50 per cent.

Li-ion is already approaching its “theoretical maximums,” according to Prof. Haleh Ardebilli of the University of Houston, and the annual 20 per cent gains will soon begin the decline.

In her interview, Ardebilli talked about a number of new electro-chemistries – e.g. lithium-metal and lithium sulphur – that could emerge in 10 years to replace Li-ion.

But Robinson says in the podcast that solid-state battery technology appears to grabbing the lead in the great battery race.

And lets not forget EV batteries’ emerging role as part of the larger energy storage market, which itself is growing rapidly in response to greater integration of intermittent wind and solar into power utilities’ electricity generation mix.

Lux released a study (Quantifying Growth Opportunities in the $105 Billion Energy Storage Market) back in the summer that surveyed the state of battery storage and the market niches that will be driving adoption.

No surprise, demand from the transportation sector already outpaces consumer electronics – long the biggest user of batteries – 46 GWh in 2017 compared to 27 GWh.

“From electric cars to consumer electronics, we’ve already seen the importance of improved energy storage to enable better performance,” said Robinson, a lead author of the report.

Chris Robinson, LUX Research.

“The emergence of plug-in vehicles from Tesla and its competitors will reshape the energy storage market, while increasing renewable deployments will make stationary storage energy another source of growth.”

The applications that will drive the highest revenues are those using the largest packs: electric buses and passenger EVs, according to Lux.

“Passenger EVs make up the biggest opportunity, worth $32 billion in 2025 – 46 percent of the market for energy storage in transportation,” the company said in its release.

“Electric buses will see a faster rate of adoption compared to EVs, but with fewer total vehicles sold, they remain the second largest opportunity, growing at 22 percent annually to a $9.7 billion opportunity in 2025.”

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