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Graphic shows lithium-ion battery pack and falling battery costs.
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EVs drive toward lower battery costs

By Duncan Mil

November 3, 2021 - The quest to cut electric vehicle costs to fossil fuel-powered car levels has seen battery pack prices fall by 88% over the past decade. The battery pack is the single most expensive part of an EV.

According to data collected by London-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), the volume-weighted average price per kilowatt-hour for a typical lithium-ion battery pack fell to $137 in 2020, down 13 per cent from $157 in 2019. A decade ago, these batteries sold for an astounding $1,191 per kWh.

The most expensive part of a battery pack is the lithium-ion cells, more than 7,000 in a typical EV battery. Their most common form consists of a graphite anode and a lithium metal oxide cathode. A chemical “soup” -- the electrolyte -- sits between the electrodes, allowing the movement of ions when charging and discharging.

An EV battery pack consists of tens to thousands of these cells packaged together in a series of modules to provide the voltage, power and energy required.

Researchers at Tesla, the world’s largest EV maker, have found that lithium-ion NMC532 cells have the potential to last more than 1.6 million kilometres. However, a single NMC532 pack contains around 8kg of lithium, 35kg of nickel, 20kg of manganese and 14kg of cobalt.

Spurred by demand for these elements used in cells, battery-makers are searching for cost-effective manufacturing and recycling of these metals.

The threshold for price parity with gasoline engines is around $100/kWh. BNEF analysts say they expect battery makers to hit $101/kWh in 2023. For the first time, BNEF found some prices reported that batteries for e-buses in China are already selling at $100/kWh.

Tesla pays an estimated average of $115 per kilowatt-hour for batteries, down from $128 last year. At this price, the 80.5kWh battery pack in Tesla’s long-range Model Y would cost the automaker about $9,250.

Sources
PUBLISHED: 04/11/2021; STORY: Graphic News
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