Affordable Electric Cars Are Coming Soon, Study Says

For many of us, purchasing an electric vehicle is still a pie in the sky dream. But that might be changing soon, if a new peer-reviewed study is correct that the cost of electric car batteries is falling much more quickly than we assumed.

Lithium ion batteries make up anywhere between a quarter and half the cost of electric cars today. By systematically reviewing over 80 cost estimates published between 2007 and 2014, researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute found that the cost of Li-battery packs used by leading manufacturers like Tesla and Nissan is falling by roughly 8 % per year. That’s similar to the rate that was seen with the nickel metal hydride battery technology used in hybrids like the Toyota Prius.

What’s more, it means that battery cost is rapidly approaching a threshold that could make the average Joe think seriously about trading in his gas guzzler. According to MIT Technology Review:

The authors of the new study concluded that the battery packs used by market-leading EV manufacturers cost as little as $300 per kilowatt-hour of energy in 2014. That’s lower than the most optimistic published projections for 2015, and even below the average published projection for 2020. The authors found that batteries appear on track to reach $230 per kilowatt-hour by 2018. Depending on the price of gas, the sticker price of an EV is expected to appeal to many more people if its battery costs between $125 and $300 per kilowatt-hour.

Of course, other factors matter when it comes to giving up gasoline, including EV ranges and the expected useful lifespan of the battery. Another recent study gives us hope on these fronts, as well: Analyzing power fade over time, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that even after batteries have lost 20 percent of their originally rated energy storage capacity, they could still meet the daily travel needs for more than 85% of US citizens.

We should take all of this with a healthy dose of skepticism-energy costs projections are often wrong-but still, electric vehicles do seem to be moving mainstream fast. If Elon Musk had it his way, we’d all be getting driven around by autonomous Teslas this summer, but more realistically, ten years out doesn’t sound like too much to hope for. [ MIT Technology Review]

Read the full study at Nature Climate Change.

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