Batteries on a Game Changing Curve

June 19, 2016


Joe Romm at ClimateProgress:

Low-cost, high-performance electric batteries are a game changer for the two key clean energy sectors: power generation and transportation. They enable much greater adoption and penetration of both renewable energy and electric vehicles — not just electric cars but electric buses and electric planes.

Since lithium-ion batteries have only just crossed the key price point for enabling widespread usage in both sectors — $300 per kilowatt-hour — we are really just at the beginning of the battery-driven clean energy revolution.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) projects that over the next 25 years, small-scale battery storage will become a $250 billion market. They “expect total behind-the-meter energy storage to rise dramatically from around 400 MWh in today to nearly 760 GWh in 2040″ — nearly a 2,000-fold increase!

BNEF makes the case we’ve crossed a similar tipping point for electric car batteries in this new chart, above.

BNEF projects that in 2040 over one third of all cars sold will be electric. That’s more than 40 million electric vehicles (EVs), almost a hundred times larger than the 2015 EV market. Battery prices are coming down so fast that within a decade or so, EVs will actually compete with gasoline-powered cars directly on sticker price — while having vastly lower monthly fuel and maintenance costs.

Also, it’s not just cars that are going electric. Buses are, too. Indeed, Ryan Popple, the president and CEO of Proterra, the leading U.S. electric bus company, makes a persuasive case that “Everything that has an urban drive cycle will ultimately be an electric vehicle.”

As for range, Tesla is already selling an EV with a 300-mile range! And we’re already at a point where EVs can add a significant charge in a matter of minutes. And, again, we are just at the beginning of the battery revolution.

“The battery industry today is driven by consumer products like computers and mobile phones,” explained one BNEF analyst. “Electric vehicles will be the driver of battery technology change, and that will drive down costs significantly.”

And as battery costs and performance continue to improve, they will find a growing use in the electricity storage market. Remember, the BNEF chart above is just for lithium-ion batteries for EVs.

BNEF now projects that “Batteries capable of storing power at utility scale will be as widespread in 12 years as rooftop solar panels are now, revolutionizing the way consumers use energy.” Their latest New Energy Outlook (NEO) identifies “Batteries Join the Grid” as one of the eight “massive shifts coming soon to power markets.” They offer up this projection:



And these remarkable projections may actually be conservative because they don’t appear to include the likelihood that “used” or “second-life” EV batteries could be available in quantity with a warranty at a cost below $100/kwh in the coming years.

As I discussed last month, major EV makers — BMW, GM, Nissan, Toyota — are already exploring how much value their EV battery has for use in the electricity storage market after that battery can no longer meet the strict requirements for powering its car.

In fact, we learned last year that the startup FreeWire “is buying repurposed Nissan batteries for $100 per kilowatt-hour.” We also learned Nissan is providing second-life battery packs a 10-year warranty. And these second lifers are all from Nissan’s expensive batteries from the original Leaf.

Imagine what might happen by the mid-2020s, when the far less expensive batteries from the next-gen EVs like the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 start being retired from EVs and repackaged for second use in the far less demanding arena of electricity storage.

Moreover, as cost and performance improve, batteries offer multiple potential revenue streams for those considering adding storage to renewable power systems. As I discussed last month in “Storing The Sun’s Energy Just Got A Whole Lot Cheaper,” well-designed battery system can make money providing grid services like “frequency regulation” and/or by addressing power quality problem and/or by reducing peak mid-day demand charges for customers.

Batteries are an enabling technology for zero-carbon energy to achieve deep penetration in both the transportation and power sector. For that reason, they’ll be a special focus of my ongoing series, “Almost Everything You Know About Climate Change Solutions Is Outdated.”

Finally, the battery miracle is so transformational, it is driving NASA, Airbus, and many other plane manufacturers toward electrification of air travel, as I’ll discuss in my next piece.


12 Responses to “Batteries on a Game Changing Curve”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    “…when the far less expensive batteries from the next-gen EVs like the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 start being retired from EVs and repackaged for second use in the far less demanding arena of electricity storage.”

    Not sure if we can make general statements about how less demanding that arena will be. It is a different type of charging for sure, but there are a lot of differences among the many battery types and designs, and their electronic control types and designs. Some may not react too well to the stresses of home storage.

  2. andrewfez Says:

    On other fronts: GE Sets Guinness World Records™ Title For Most Efficient Power Plant

    …GE also announced that the company has been recognized by Guinness World Records for powering the world’s most efficient combined-cycle power plant based on an achieved efficiency rate of up to 62.22% at the Bouchain plant.

    …in addition to achieving unprecedented levels of efficiency, GE’s HA gas turbine delivers more flexibility than ever before, capable of reaching full power in less than 30 minutes. This helps pave the way for greater use of renewable energy by allowing partners to respond quickly to fluctuations in grid demand, integrate renewables onto the grid and adapt quickly to weather changes. These advances support the recent Paris COP21 agreement, where 195 countries pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, placing more emphasis on cleaner electric power opportunities.

  3. andrewfez Says:

    …and Sol Ark has released a credible semi-portable grid assisted solar unit for around $4k. Such would be a good option for a mid-sized rig that’s backed up by the grid, for those wanting to run lights, a fridge, internet, or other non-large-load items on solar+batteries most of the time, off the power generated by the panels. I’ve seen it also run a high efficiency portable A/C window unit that is rated at 1 ton. You can also buy the EMP hardened version to protect against lightning.

    You plug it in to an a/c wall plug and when the sun isn’t shining it auto-magically starts drawing off the grid to keep your stuff going. You would have to have dedicated circuits for the stuff you want to run is the only tough part about installing one.

  4. […] “BNEF makes the case we’ve crossed a similar tipping point for electric car batteries in this new chart, above.”  Continue reading:  Batteries on a Game Changing Curve | Climate Denial Crock of the Week […]

  5. Heavy Duty Trucks and Public transportation will be the Game changers
    Chinese Electric Bus Charges In 10 Seconds, Fastest In World
    August 5th, 2015 by EV Expert

    Originally published on Gas2.

    The world’s fastest charging electric bus is now operating in the eastern Chinese port city of Ningbo.

    According to local transportation authorities, the public bus — which was manufactured in Ningbo and runs along a 24-stop, 11 kilometre route — takes as little as 10 seconds to charge up and be ready for the next leg of its journey.

    Ningbo’s new electric bus makes use of supercapacitor technology that has already been trialled in nearby Shanghai for almost a decade.

    The bus’s supercapacitors are manufactured from a cutting-edge carbon material that functions in all likely temperatures (from -40 degrees to 60 degrees Celsius).

    The organic super capacitors are also extremely resilient, capable of charging and discharging on over a million occasions, conferring them with a service life of as long as 12 years.

  6. For the trucks. The Long Haul Tractor

    Nikola One is an 18 wheel long haul trucking rig. Powered by an electric turbine engine, its 320 kwh battery pack is capable of propelling the vehicle, without the aid of any additional tanked fuel source, more than 190 miles. Tanked fuel then lengthens the legs of the more efficient electrical turbine giving it an ultimate total systems range of 1,200 miles. By comparison, an ICE-powered standard truck typically boasts a range of just 500 miles. As a result, the combined fuel efficiency of this massive rig is between 10 and 15 miles per gallon. This is 2-3 times the fuel efficiency rating of standard long haul trucks and about the fuel efficiency average of a relatively long-legged 1990s SUV.

    But the superior performance specs don’t end at range, fuel efficiency, and reduced emissions. This vehicle boasts 2,000 horsepower (regular ICE trucks only have 500 horsepower), the ability to travel up hill at 65 miles per hour (ICEs really lag going up hill and can only do 20-40 mph on an incline) and to regenerate electricity from breaking while going downhill (ICEs regenerate nada). The Nikola One can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 30 seconds, or half the time it takes for a comparable ICE to make the mark.

  7. The City workhorse truck such as the Garbage truck

    Though Elon Musk may be the primary shareholder and CEO of Tesla Motors, he didn’t get intimately involved until a few years after its founding. Ian Wright was involved at the very beginning, and he has since gone on to form a new startup called Wrightspeed, which aims to electric America’s most inefficient vehicles, trucks.

    Rather than a traditional small gas engine as a range extender though, Wrightspeed uses a more efficient turbine generator charging the battery packs. Though this system is much more expensive than your typical electric car, the fuel and emission savings are much more dramatic. When used on a typical 3 MPG garbage truck, for example, Wrightspeed claims a 95% reduction of NOx emissions, 78% reduction of particulates, and 58% reduction of CO2, reports Fast Company. As our own Susanna Schick found out, they’re also a lot more fun to drive than your typical dour diesel engine.

    As Ian Wright sees it, electrifying trucks just makes a whole lot more sense than electric cars, not just from an emissions perspective, but a cost perspective. The longest-range Tesla Model S starts at over $80,000, with half of that cost earmarked just for the battery pack. For the average person, that’s way, way too much money to even consider, and at best it’s only removing about 200 gallons of gas annually from being burned. Yet a typical municipal garbage truck goes through thousands of gallons of fuel every year, with costs often exceeding $60,000 just in diesel. Wrightspeed claims they can lower truck operating costs to as little as 7-cents per mile, including regular maintenance, without the limited range of all-electric garbage trucks. That could mean a quick payback and savings for government fleets, which should make taxpayers happy too.

  8. This is so encouraging!! And all the comments on this piece are great too, it’s really good to see actual progress on some of the transportation sectors that I didn’t even know were being addressed. I am definitely curious about air travel, as I thought this was going to be the most difficult nut to crack.

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