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U.S. Sec. Of Energy: Cheaper Batteries Mean More Electric Cars

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Dr. Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy

Dr. Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy

You’re probably well aware that some of our fellow journalists in the mainstream media aren’t big fans of plug-in hybrid and pure electric cars at the moment. 

But U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has reiterated his support of electric cars, predicting that electric cars will command a major market share by 2020 thanks to dropping battery prices. 

Talking with reporters at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, Chu remained confident that the 1 million plug-in vehicle target set by the Obama administration would be met. 

“Whether it is 2015 or 2016 or whenever, I don’t know. I think it’s possible,” said Chu. “It depends on a lot of things.”

According to Chu, the cost of manufacturing an electric car battery pack has dropped from between $1000 and $1200 per kilowatt-hour down to $600 per kilowatt-hour. 

Tesla Motors - Model S lithium-ion battery pack

Tesla Motors - Model S lithium-ion battery pack

Enlarge Photo

“It’s going to come down and everyone knows this,” Chu added. 

As the Automotivenews reports,Chu declined to have his photograph taken with the 2012 Chevrolet Volt while visiting the Chevrolet stand at the Detroit Auto Show, saying that he’d seen the car many times before. 

That’s true, but we can’t help wondering if there’s still a little stigma attached to Chevrolet’s first plug-in hybrid car that makes the U.S. department of Energy nervous about being seen to support it, despite the resolution recent post-crash-test battery fires. 

Regardless of Chu’s behaviour around the Chevrolet Volt, if battery prices do continue to halve every three years or so, a 24 kilowatt-hour replacement battery pack for a car like the 2012 Nissan Leaf could cost as little as $7,200 in a few years. 

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Comments (13)
  1. Tragic that the anti-Volt campaign has been so effective that Steven Chu no longer wants to be associated with this car.

    On the upside: battery prices are already lower than the $600/KWH that Chu estimates if Tesla's pricelist for the Model S is any indication. Tesla charges only $400/KWH extra for those who want the 85KWH pack rather than the 65KWH pack.
     
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  2. How about that. A real Nobel prize winning scientist has figured out what any 7 year old already knew - battery prices, not anything else (save $10 gasoline), will dictate when EVs enter their mass marketing phase.
     
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  3. What the prize-winning scientist doesn't get is something an average Joe like me does: until you make the things go 300+ miles on a charge AND recharge in 30 minutes or less (without exploding from the heat of recharging), the inconvenience isn't worth buying an EV. Even if they can get the price down to that of a Chevy Cruze or Ford Focus, the EV loses because it's still nothing more than a commuter car that you have to park all night.

    So, to the EV manufacturers: you must compete on price, range, AND refuel time. ALL THREE, AND NOTHING LESS.
     
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  4. Gota tell ya'; EVs ain't for everyone; They are good for short runs, less than about 70 miles on flat land. And, until the lobbying stops against charge stations, you must be resourceful.

    Better than setting a required mileage of 300 miles, I like the Tesla approach, fit the battery pack to the mileage needs. Some of use aren't hat salesmen.
     
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  5. Almost time to get your check book out Gerald: Tesla promises 320 mi range and 45min recharge time at $70K. That's a lot more than a Chevy Cruze, but I guess it's much bigger and lot's faster too.
    I doubt you will ever buy an EV, but we'll get there. It will be much slower than we'd all like, but we didn't go from the Motorola Model Brick to the Iphone 4S in 10 years either.
    I am happy to pay a little bit extra. My return on investment will be the joy of driving a quiet, fast, environmentally sound car. I believe that we'll see good, fast charging sub $30k EV's in 5 years that can compete with premium Cruze/Focus models
     
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  6. Ad van der Meer; you better upgrade your calculator. a 300 mile Tesla with QC is a "bit" more than $70K

    my Leaf is not my sole transportation. i must have 2 cars (two commuters traveling in opposite directions both working non- traditional hours)so a Prius is used to go out of town. the Leaf for everything else. in 11 months, 3 weeks of ownership. the Leaf has been parked about 10-12 times to take the Prius. QC near out destination would have kept the Leaf home only 3 times
     
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  7. Gerald, I'm curious whether you value having a vehicle that doesn't pollute the environment. Also, do you value driving a car that uses 100% domestic renewable energy over which we will never fight a war? If so, how much do you value these attributes 1 cent/gallon, 5 cents, 25 cents or a dollar/gallon equivalent? If you don't value those characteristics of an EV, then that says a lot about you as a person. If you do, then add up the cost per gallon you think they are worth and then run your numbers for a true comparison of the EV vs. ICE.
     
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  8. Did you notice that the top of the article said, "You’re probably well aware that some of our fellow journalists in the mainstream media aren’t big fans of plug-in hybrid and pure electric cars at the moment." That sounds anti-environmental to me. EVs are pro-environment, so don't expect these articles to speak highly of EVs or to be very truthful or kind to pro-environmentalists like Dr. Chu.
     
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  9. I'm already doing it 40 miles at a time in my Volt. Yes, 12,000 miles all battery electric in all of 2011, Yes, I did it commuting. In a hi-performance electric car that is very fun to drive. More fun than my BMW gas burner. If I want to drive farther in the Volt in one trip, the generator will come on and drive me at 40 MPG. Pretty sweet deal. But I don't seem to need to drive that far that much. I only used 23 gallons of gas in 2011.
    So for the price the Volt's size battery is a good trade-off.
    The Volt is for people that want a car that can run on your homes cheap electricity instead of gasoline. I love driving my Volt and I love not being a slave to raising gas prices. Go America. Buy American made electricity instead of foreign oil.
     
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  10. This is great news. This should allow a nice $20,000 to $25,000 EV with decent range of 150 to 200 miles before 2015. Tesla plans on building a $25,000-$30,000 Bluestar EV within 3 years. The Tesla Model S price could drop by as much as $10,000 once the packs that Panasonic finally drop in price. I would also like to see low cost solar panals that can be attached to Garage roofs or Carports become availible and that could really reduce our needs for gasoline and spare our electric grids a bit because people would be more self reliant and less likely to overload the grids once EV vehicles become more mainstream.
     
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  11. I think the estimate in the article above; "a 24 kilowatt-hour replacement battery pack for a car like the 2012 Nissan Leaf could cost as little as $7,200 in a few years" is likely conservative. Tesla just introduced its Model S pricing which indicates that their pricing to the consumer for the battery upgrades to be delivered this year is $500 per kWh for the first 20 kWh upgrade and about $400 per kWh for the 25kWh upgrade that extends the range to 300+ miles. That said, Chu was talking about OEM pricing...I suspect that Tesla will be producing Model S battery packs this year at well under the OEM $600 price point that the secretary mentions.
     
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  12. "Whether it is 2015 or 2016 or whenever, I don’t know. I think it’s possible', said Chu. 'It depends on a lot of things."

    This quote is a good illustration of terrible leadership and why we have failed to reduce oil consumption.

    What Chu doesn't say is that meeting the 1 million plug-in vehicle target "whenever" displaces only about 20,000 barrels of oil per day.

    We need to see a plan to displace millions of barrels per day of oil while reducing costs and greenhouse gas emissions. The technology exists to do this right now by running trucks, trains, and buses on lng and taxis and fleet vehicles on cng, for starters. We also need to get people to drive less.

    But it takes leadership.
     
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  13. its amazing to me that batteries are still the focus of EVs. sure they are a concern, but a public charging infrastructure is the key to success. there should be laws put on the books NOW REQURING every employer provide charging for employees. every new shopping center or major store put one in to existing locations if possible and require them for all new construction. the 70 mile range issue would be a non issue if there was always a plug where you are headed. its not rocket science. regular cars never would have survived if there were not gas stations, so how can we expect EVs to survive without charging stations????
     
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