Analysis Reveals Plunge in Lithium-Ion Battery Costs – Further Steep Declines Possible

Li-ion Battery Prices


The value of Li-ion battery applied sciences has had a 97% worth decline since 1991. Credit score: MIT Information. Graph picture courtesy of the researchers

Evaluation quantifies a dramatic worth drop that parallels related enhancements in photo voltaic and wind power, and exhibits additional steep declines might be doable.

The price of the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used for telephones, laptops, and vehicles has fallen dramatically during the last three many years, and has been a significant driver of the speedy development of these applied sciences. However making an attempt to quantify that price decline has produced ambiguous and conflicting outcomes which have hampered makes an attempt to challenge the know-how’s future or devise helpful insurance policies and analysis priorities.

Now, MIT researchers have carried out an exhaustive evaluation of the research which have seemed on the decline within the costs these batteries, that are the dominant rechargeable know-how in as we speak’s world. The brand new examine seems again over three many years, together with analyzing the unique underlying datasets and paperwork at any time when doable, to reach at a transparent image of the know-how’s trajectory.

The researchers discovered that the price of these batteries has dropped by 97 % since they have been first commercially launched in 1991. This charge of enchancment is far sooner than many analysts had claimed and is akin to that of photo voltaic photovoltaic panels, which some had thought-about to be an distinctive case. The brand new findings are reported as we speak within the journal Vitality and Environmental Science, in a paper by MIT postdoc Micah Ziegler and Affiliate Professor Jessika Trancik.

Whereas it’s clear that there have been dramatic price declines in some clean-energy applied sciences comparable to photo voltaic and wind, Trancik says, after they began to look into the decline in costs for lithium-ion batteries, “we noticed that there was substantial disagreement as to how rapidly the prices of those applied sciences had come down.” Comparable disagreements confirmed up in tracing different vital facets of battery growth, such because the ever-improving power density (power saved inside a given quantity) and particular power (power saved inside a given mass).

“These developments are so consequential for getting us to the place we’re proper now, and in addition for serious about what may occur sooner or later,” says Trancik, who’s an affiliate professor in MIT’s Institute for Knowledge, Techniques and Society. Whereas it was frequent information that the decline in battery prices was an enabler of the latest development in gross sales of electrical autos, for instance, it was unclear simply how nice that decline had been. By way of this detailed evaluation, she says, “we have been in a position to verify that sure, lithium-ion battery applied sciences have improved when it comes to their prices, at charges which are akin to photo voltaic power know-how, and particularly photovoltaic modules, which are sometimes held up as form of the gold normal in clear power innovation.”

It might appear odd that there was such nice uncertainty and disagreement about how a lot lithium-ion battery prices had declined, and what elements accounted for it, however the truth is a lot of the knowledge is within the type of intently held company knowledge that’s tough for researchers to entry. Most lithium-ion batteries aren’t offered on to customers — you’ll be able to’t run all the way down to your typical nook drugstore to choose up a alternative battery on your iPhone, your PC, or your electrical automotive. As a substitute, producers purchase lithium-ion batteries and construct them into electronics and vehicles. Giant firms like Apple or Tesla purchase batteries by the thousands and thousands, or manufacture them themselves, for costs which are negotiated or internally accounted for however by no means publicly disclosed.

Along with serving to to spice up the continued electrification of transportation, additional declines in lithium-ion battery prices may probably additionally enhance the batteries’ utilization in stationary functions as a approach of compensating for the intermittent provide of unpolluted power sources comparable to photo voltaic and wind. Each functions may play a big function in serving to to curb the world’s emissions of climate-altering greenhouse gases. “I can’t overstate the significance of those developments in clear power innovation for getting us to the place we’re proper now, the place it begins to seem like we may see speedy electrification of autos and we’re seeing the speedy development of renewable power applied sciences,” Trancik says. “After all, there’s a lot extra to do to deal with local weather change, however this has actually been a recreation changer.”

The brand new findings aren’t only a matter of retracing the historical past of battery growth, however of serving to to information the longer term, Ziegler factors out. Combing the entire revealed literature as regards to the fee reductions in lithium-ion cells, he discovered “very totally different measures of the historic enchancment. And throughout quite a lot of totally different papers, researchers have been utilizing these developments to make recommendations about learn how to additional cut back prices of lithium-ion applied sciences or after they may meet price targets.” However as a result of the underlying knowledge various a lot, “the suggestions that the researchers have been making might be fairly totally different.” Some research recommended that lithium-ion batteries wouldn’t fall in price rapidly sufficient for sure functions, whereas others have been far more optimistic. Such variations in knowledge can in the end have an actual impression on the setting of analysis priorities and authorities incentives.

The researchers dug into the unique sources of the revealed knowledge, in some instances discovering that sure major knowledge had been utilized in a number of research that have been later cited as separate sources, or that the unique knowledge sources had been misplaced alongside the best way. And whereas most research have targeted solely on the fee, Ziegler says it turned clear that such a one-dimensional evaluation may underestimate how rapidly lithium-ion applied sciences improved; along with price, weight and quantity are additionally key elements for each autos and transportable electronics. So, the group added a second observe to the examine, analyzing the enhancements in these parameters as effectively.

“Lithium-ion batteries weren’t adopted as a result of they have been the least costly know-how on the time,” Ziegler says. “There have been cheaper battery applied sciences accessible. Lithium-ion know-how was adopted as a result of it permits you to put transportable electronics into your hand, as a result of it permits you to make energy instruments that last more and have extra energy, and it permits us to construct vehicles” that may present enough driving vary. “It felt like simply {dollars} per kilowatt-hour was solely telling a part of the story,” he says.

That broader evaluation helps to outline what could also be doable sooner or later, he provides: “We’re saying that lithium-ion applied sciences may enhance extra rapidly for sure functions than could be projected by simply one measure of efficiency. By a number of measures, you get primarily a clearer image of the advance charge, and this means that they may perhaps enhance extra quickly for functions the place the restrictions on mass and quantity are relaxed.”

Trancik provides the brand new examine can play an vital function in energy-related policymaking. “Printed knowledge developments on the few clear applied sciences which have seen main price reductions over time, wind, photo voltaic, and now lithium-ion batteries, are typically referenced again and again, and never solely in educational papers however in coverage paperwork and trade experiences,” she says. “Many vital local weather coverage conclusions are based mostly on these few developments. Because of this, you will need to get them proper. There’s an actual have to deal with the information with care, and to boost our recreation total in coping with know-how knowledge and monitoring these developments.”

“Battery prices decide worth parity of electrical autos with inside combustion engine autos,” says Venkat Viswanathan, an affiliate professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon College, who was not related to this work. “Thus, projecting battery price declines might be one of the crucial essential challenges in making certain an correct understanding of adoption of electrical autos.”

Viswanathan provides that “the discovering that price declines could happen sooner than beforehand thought will allow broader adoption, growing volumes, and resulting in additional price declines. … The datasets curated, analyzed and launched with this paper may have an enduring impression on the neighborhood.”

Reference: “Re-examining charges of lithium-ion battery know-how enchancment and price decline” by Micah S. Ziegler and Jessika E. Trancik, 23 March 2021, Vitality and Environmental Science.
DOI: 10.1039/D0EE02681F

The work was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Basis.

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