Batteries are key to clean energy — and they just got much cheaper

Clean energy future might be closer than we previously thought

Eric Holthaus  April 10, 2019 8:00AM (UTC)

This post originally appeared on Grist.

Batteries are critical for our clean energy future. Luckily, their cost has dropped so low, we might be much closer to this future than we previously thought.

In a little less than a year, the cost of lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 35 percent, according to a new Bloomberg New Energy Finance report. Cheaper batteries mean we can store more solar and wind power even when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing. This is a major boost to renewables, helping them compete with fossil fuel-generated power, even without subsidies in some places, according to the report. Massive solar-plus-storage projects are already being built in places like Florida and California to replace natural gas, and many more are on the way.

The new battery prices are “staggering improvements,” according to Elena Giannakopoulou, who leads the energy economics group at Bloomberg NEF. Previous estimates anticipated this breakthrough moment for batteries to arrive in late 2020, not early 2019.

According to the report, the cost of wind and solar generation is also down sharply — by between 10 to 24 percent since just last year, depending on the technology. These numbers are based on real projects under construction in 46 countries around the world.

The lower battery prices have big implications for electric cars, too. There’s a key cost threshold of about $100 per kilowatt hour, the point at which electric vehicles would be cheap enough to quickly supplant gasoline. At this rate, we’ll reach that in less than five years.

Now that cheap batteries are finally here, we’re well on our way to electric modes of transportation and always-on renewable energy — and not a moment too soon.

What’s driving the plunge? Giannakopoulou cites “technology innovation, economies of scale, stiff price competition and manufacturing experience.” Other storage methods, like pumped hydro, still account for the vast majority of energy storage capacity, but lithium-ion batteries are much more flexible and don’t require specific locations or environmental conditions to work. Like everything in the built environment, lithium-ion batteries also require mining and manufacturing. There’s still a chance that some new exotic battery technology will quickly supplant lithium-ion, but its ubiquity and — now — cheapness will be hard to beat.

Electric vehicles will become cheaper to own and operate than gas ones. In places like California, Texas, and Germany, electricity prices have occasionally dropped below zero — a sign that the grid wasn’t yet ready to handle the glut of renewable energy produced there. Now, more of that cheap power will be stored and passed on to consumers. This could be the moment when renewable energy starts to shut down fossil fuel for good.

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Bait & Switch. Get people dependent on batteries for their energy and let's see where the prices go.


That's not the way the free market works.  Of course for those who see conspiracies or discount the pace of innovation, there is always the option of whistling past the graveyard.

That's exactly the way a free market works. Supply and demand. Of course we can always elect a Democrat, then everything will be free. Time will tell.

The evolution to greener energy sources is beyond the reach of politics.  It is market driven.  That is why the evolution of "storage" that is driving down the cost per kWh of renewable energy sources is becoming such a focus of energy media.  If you prefer to respond based on partisan politics, as opposed to market forces, there is a politics group page.  It is the forum for those who wish to discuss politics.

I post something on the Haynesville Shale and other plays we cover whenever there is something worth posting.  If there is insufficient play discussions, then others need to step up and supply content.  There are periods of slow play news especially with the HA/BO as it is largely a mature play.

The non-Haynesville content that I choose to post is relevant, in my opinion, to the management of mineral assets.  And much of it would not make it to the evening news or the local newspaper.  Because I live in my computer and have sharply defined Internet news feeds, I get a lot of news about EVs, battery innovation and solar plus storage.  It is a fact that this is a focus of certain news media because it is of wide national and global interest.  Those that have no interest in those subjects may choose not to read those discussions.

The last days of the Landman.

For some, yes. Landman work in multiple fields, not just O&G.

Electric Car Price Tag Shrinks Along With Battery Cost

Choosing an electric car over its combustion-engine equivalent will soon be just a matter of taste, not a matter of cost.

By  Nathaniel Bullard  April 12, 2019, 11:08 AM CDT

Every year, BloombergNEF’s advanced transport team builds a bottom-up analysis of the cost of purchasing an electric vehicle and compares it to the cost of a combustion-engine vehicle of the same size. The crossover point — when electric vehicles become cheaper than their combustion-engine equivalents — will be a crucial moment for the EV market. All things being equal, upfront price parity makes a buyer’s decision to buy an EV a matter of taste, style or preference — but not, for much longer, a matter of cost.

Every year, that crossover point gets closer. In 2017, a BloombergNEF analysis forecast that the crossover point was in 2026, nine years out. In 2018, the crossover point was in 2024 — six years (or, as I described it then, two lease cycles) out.

The crossover point, per the latest analysis, is now 2022 for large vehicles in the European Union. For that, we can thank the incredible shrinking electric vehicle battery, which isn’t so much shrinking in size as it is shrinking — dramatically — in cost.

Analysts have for several years been using a sort of shorthand for describing an electric vehicle battery: half the car’s total cost. That figure, and that shorthand, has changed in just a few years. For a midsize U.S. car in 2015, the battery made up more than 57 percent of the total cost. This year, it’s 33 percent. By 2025, the battery will be only 20 percent of total vehicle cost.

My colleague Nikolas Soulopoulos, author of the research note, provided further insights. The first is that he expects electric vehicle chassis and body costs to drop slightly, while those same costs will rise modestly for combustion vehicles “as a result of light-weighting and other measures to help comply with emissions targets.”

Second, Soulopoulos expects bigger cost improvements in the electric powertrain, as “large-volume manufacturing is only now beginning for such parts.” By 2030, costs for motors, inverters and power electronics could be 25 to 30 percent lower than they are today.

The incredible shrinking electric vehicle battery doesn’t just mean cheaper electric passenger cars. It also means all sorts of other vehicles that weren’t previously practical to electrify now are — and beyond proof-of-concept scale, too.

One example: Komatsu Ltd. has just announced a small all-electric excavator. The company’s rationale is worth reading:

Equipped with an in-house developed new charger, high-voltage converter and other devices, it offers excavation performance on par with the internal combustion model of the same power output, while achieving zero exhaust gas emissions and a dynamic reduction in noise levels. It is an environment and people-friendly machine. Komatsu expects a wider range of applications for this machine, including construction work near hospitals or schools or in residential areas, where contractors have conventionally paid special attention to exhaust gas and noise during work, as well as inside tunnels or buildings.

There are new electric vehicles at sea as well. Stena Line plans to install batteries in one of its car ferries between Sweden and Denmark, rolling out its battery systems incrementally. The first, a 1 megawatt-hour battery, will power the ship when it is maneuvering in port. The next, a 20 megawatt-hour battery, will provide power for port operations and “about 10 nautical miles” beyond. The final, a 50 megawatt-hour battery, will provide 50 nautical miles’ worth of power. “As both the size and cost of batteries decrease, battery operation becomes a very exciting alternative to traditional fuels for shipping, as emissions to air can be completely eliminated,” says Stena Line’s CEO Niclas Martensson.

Smaller EV batteries will soon be flying, too. Harbour Air Ltd., which operates 42 planes in 12 short routes in British Columbia, is adding an electric plane to its fleet. “The intent is to eventually convert the entire fleet,” says founder and CEO Greg McDougall, who offers a familiar rationale for his optimism: Ranges and capabilities “are changing very rapidly with the development of the battery technology.”

McDougall’s company is seeking approval for his plans ahead of today’s battery economics in anticipation of what’s coming. “We don’t want to be trying to get through the regulatory process after it becomes more economically viable; we want to do it now,” he says.


Here is something to think about.

In 2015 the USA used  about 140.43 billion gals of gasoline.

At 33.41 kw/gal that is 4,610 billion kw.

Total electrical generation in the US in 2018 was about 4,180 billion KW of electricity was generated.

Even if you assume that a gasoline powered car is only 60% efficient and an electrical car is 100% efficient you are going to have to almost double the generating capacity in the US.  Not to mention the cost and time to upgrade the grid to handle the power.

There will also need to be a major upgrade in most homes.  Most homes have a 125KVA service.  Based on actual experience a Tesla will pull over 30kva for 7 hours for a 50% charge.  Two cars will use almost 50% of the available service to the house.

Correction  -- Most newer homes have a 125amp (not kva) service.  Older homes may be as low as 60 amps.

The infrastructure to support the next energy paradigm will be a challenge however electrification of transportation is vastly more straight forward and less expensive than CNG or LNG.  Micro-grids and residential solar plus storage will make up a large percentage of new electric supply.  Utility scale solar and storage is attracting a lot of investment by companies that have decided that the future is easily discernible now.  Retro-fits of residential properties will take time but support from regulatory authorities and governmental entities will be forthcoming when the public decides that they want the inherent benefits.

What Senator Warren actually said was that she would issue "an executive order that would prohibit new leases for fossil fuel drilling offshore and on public lands".  Exploration and production would continue on current leases, on-shore and offshore.  Considering the current glut of fossil fuels compared to demand, I'm unsure any reserves covered in such an order would be needed in the future.  There are a lot existing leases that have not as yet been developed some of which have been held for many years.  This would hardly put a crimp in supply for a couple of decades. 



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