Battery Pack Prices Plunge!!! Down to $200/kWh

Guest post by David Middleton

So-called renewable energy sources face many economic and thermodynamic hurdles; all of which are routinely ignored by the government officials who spend our tax dollars.  One of the biggest hurdles is storage.  The only way wind and solar could ever reliably provide base-load  is through the deployment of economically sustainable storage systems.  Battery packs are one of the favored “solutions.”  Li-ion battery prices have “plunged”since 2010 from $1,000/kWh to just over $200/kWh.  Bloomberg New Energy Finance is ecstatic about this.



Words fail me.   Well, maybe not totally fail me.  We currently pay about 10¢ per kWh for electricity.  Our electric utility can afford to sell us electricity for 10¢/kWh largely due to the fact that natural gas-fired power plants generate electricity for about 6¢/kWh.  The Energy Information Agency forecasts that solar PV power plants entering service in 2022 will be able to generate electricity for 8.5¢/kWh.  This would make solar PV competitive with natural gas… Right?  Nooooo.  Natural gas combined cycle has an average capacity factor of 87%.  Solar PV’s average capacity factor is 25%.  So, you would have to deploy at least 3 MW of solar PV to offset 1 MW of natural gas.  Then you would have to deploy a storage system to deliver electricity when “the Sun don’t shine.”  At $200/kWh, solar PV with storage would run about $58/kWh to fully offset natural gas at $0.06/kWh…


Solar PV with storage: $57.56/kWh Natural Gas CC: $0.058/kWh   Source: EIA Levelized Cost and Levelized Avoided Cost of New Generation Resources in the Annual Energy Outlook 2016

Of course, the battery pack is rechargeable.  However, even if the battery back survived 1,500 discharge cycles at full capacity, the lifetime storage cost would still be $0.13/kWh… A total cost of about $0.22/kWh.  Since heat degrades Li-ion battery life, they aren’t likely to maintain full capacity very long in places where solar PV works best (deserts), particularly with the newly discovered Photovoltaic Heat Island (PVHI) effect.

BNEF’s celebration of $200/kWh battery packs was so ridiculous, that the editors of Real Clear Energy lampooned it.



It’s All About the Battery


By Editors

October 12, 2016

The general public (defined as those who don’t read energy news because they think electricity lives somewhere inside their apartment wall) doesn’t know it yet, and probably never will, but batteries are one hot (no pun intended, Samsung) topic.

It should be no secret by now (even to the notoriously sluggish general public) that Samsung has been forced to completely kill its entire Galaxy 7 cell phone line because the built-in lithium-ion batteries kept exploding.


The wind and solar energy industries, for example, are essentially in a kind of holding mode until a battery is developed that can store their energy to be used in the fallow periods when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.  Until then they kind of limp along letting natural gas fill in for them at night, during storms and when they’re just feeling to weak to get to work.

The electric car industry is also waiting for better batteries. The problem with range (the number of miles one can drive without recharging) has hinged on the fact that EV car batteries are very heavy to begin with and putting in an even bigger battery to get greater range sort of defeats the environment-saving purpose.

None of this seems to phase Bloomberg’s notoriously aggressively environmentalist New Energy Finance think tank. (BNEF generates studies and articles which then get top billing in Bloomberg’s news publications.) BNEF is in a Hosana! Hosana! mood today because they’ve noticed that lithium-ion costs are going down.


Cheap li-ion batteries will spawn more electric cars which will spawn more self-driving cars which will be paired with more Uber type softwares which will take us to….the green ideal, the self-driving taxi.

Taxis, geddit?  Emphatically not individually-owned cars.  The family car is just so inefficient and wasteful and space-hogging and just plain selfish.

Don’t worry: A self-driving taxi will never deposit you in a shipping container instead of at your home.

Real Clear Energy


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Dave, not too sure what this number should be ?
“run about &58/kWh to fully offset natural gas at $0.06/kWh…”


Seems like he’s getting confused with the difference between energy production in kWh and “installed capacity” in MW ( a power term ). Whatever it was supposed to mean, actually explaining what he was doing to get there would help see where he went wrong.
I don’t see any sense in a figure like $58/kWh

” they aren’t likely to maintain full capacity very long in places where solar PV works best (deserts)”

Fine, so who was suggesting we should pile up batteries in the sun out in the desert. I think the usual term for that kind of thing is : straw man.

The Energy Information Agency forecasts that solar PV power plants entering service in 2022 will be able to generate electricity for 8.5¢/kWh. This would make solar PV competitive with natural gas… Right? Nooooo. Natural gas combined cycle has an average capacity factor of 87%. Solar PV’s average capacity factor is 25%.

Well if they have said the production cost will be 8.5 ¢/kWh, that is what it will be, capacity factor is part of that calculation, unless you want to read their report and point out where they “forgotten” to take this into account.
So is that how you get to ” a figure like $58/kWh” ??
This kind of partisan bashing, is getting as tiring that warmists BS about “dirty” coal.

This is a blog.
That means people post wrong things.
The readers do the peer review. all good right? let the readers sort out the truth.. many eyes wins
good job on your review
But notice this……
With journals it is rare to find retractions.
with blogs, posts are never ever retracted. even IF readers go to all the effort to do the peer review.
that’s odd.
That means the incurious will simply read posts, not the comments,
they will spread the bad information, via twitter, FB.. and in some cases Drudge
the marketplace of ideas is thus corrupted by the intellectual equivalent of a bad rolex knockoff.
long ago I though blogs had an opportunity to revolutionize science publication.
hmm. that was silly of me
[“…with blogs, posts are never ever retracted.” Really? I suggest you do your homework before shooting your mouth off Mosher – Anthony]

Mark T

Legitimate blogs allow posters like Mosher to continually beclown themselves just so everyone can see it for themselves.

Blog posts can and should be retracted or Updated/Corrected. The author has to be convinced that they are wrong. I agree that many blogs don’t do this, but many people refuse to admit when they are in error.
As far as batteries in the desert, the solution is clear. Just keep them inside with A/C? 🙂

Is someone suggesting that adding more solar or wind capacity can make up for the low capacity factor? Unless I’m missing something, the low capacity factor for solar and wind is due to the fact that when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun not shining they aren’t generating electricity. So simply installing more capacity doesn’t fix this. You just have more capacity down at the same time and that has to be filled by something else.

Hi Greg, and hi Steven Mosher –
I enjoy reading your comments, a fact which is particularly relevant to Steven. You see, Steven, this is a blog, and while the articles are mostly very interesting, the ultimate value is in the comments. If a blog article doesn’t stand up to scrutiny – and it does happen even on WUWT – then you can be sure that commenters will be there to point out the flaws. So, one of the major differences between a blog and a journal is the existence of comments. If a journal article is flawed – and it does happen even with peer-review – then the only sensible course is withdrawal. But if a blog article is flawed then the best course may be to leave it up, because otherwise the value in the comments is lost. And by the way, what distinguishes a good blog like WUWT from a crap blog like John Cook’s is that you can comment here.
Now, about the cost of renewable energy: Greg, you challenged David Middleton on his costings, in particular his “$58/kWh”. You claim that the real figure is approaching “8.5c/kWh”. Wow, that’s an impressive difference. But David’s figure explicitly incorporated the 8.5c, and the extra cost was for storage. So unless I have badly misunderstood, his figure is really about storage, your EIA figure is not, so your criticism is misdirected. Which is a shame, because if you had addressed the storage cost directly, you could quite easily have shown that David’s figure was, on all the known data (battery life, etc), far too high. Maybe you could put up some better figures?
If you were to do that, we could all get a better picture of the cost-competitiveness (or non-cost-competitiveness) of renewables. Mind you, I think we all know roughly what it looks like, because of electricity costs in Germany and Denmark. The experiment that I would really like to see, in order to settle the argument, is for all energy mandates, subsidies and penalties to be removed, so that we can see all the energy sources compete on a level playing field. The remarkable feature of such an experiment is that it would have a negative net cost – all electricity users would have access to the lowest-cost power, and for most users that would deliver a cost reduction.
So, Greg and Steven, my final request is: please will you support the experiment. If you are in fact right, this would be a wonderful way to prove it.

Thanks Mike, Well said.

Reg Nelson

Steven Mosher October 19, 2016 at 9:53 am
With journals it is rare to find retractions.
LOL! The BEST study you worked on was published in a pay-for-play, start up, Indian website which is under criminal investigation. They cashed Mueller’s check, what makes you think they would ever be interested in a retraction.
Visit to see how corrupt and unethical the soft (non) sciences really are


Charles. I believe they are talking about adding wind in different places. Not just more towers in the same place.
The hope is that the wind is always blowing, somewhere.
Of course this ignores the trouble with transmitting electricity long distances.

Mario Lento

Mosher’s right. They are treating $200/kWh as a rate and it’s not. You pay $200 for the kWh of storage. And then it can store and release 200kWh if energy many times.

george e. smith

Well that “plunge” would be better described as a “launch” into orbit.
I can walk into a retail store right now (except, I’m at work) and get 1.3 KWh for about $100 plus California’s punitive sales tax (9% where the battery is sold).
So nyet on the plunge.

T Michael Lutas

You can get *Lithium Ion* batteries for $100 dollars? Please supply store name and part numbers so I can order that.


Just paid $1600 for a 100W LiFePO4 battery for a camper. I did check prices.


Down considerably from the Tesla thing, which was even more ridiculous. Titans still come out on top, i think.


Why doesn’t wind (in the chart) carry a storage burden, like solar?

Paul Westhaver

Demand is down, supply is up… therefore the suppliers are shedding inventory.


+1 for supply
+1 for demand


May be a typo:
“At $200/kWh, solar PV with storage would run about &58/kWh ”
A ‘$’ instead of the ampersand.


A few questions are in order.
1) What is the variance in cost estimates for combined cycle gas plants vs. utility scale solar. This matters when citing industry averages in a napkin math exercise like this.
2) Why not compare peak demand period value vs. baseload instead of the all or nothing approach?
3) Do utilities ignore fuel price risk when performing 25 and 50 year projections?
4) Does anyone else recognize the risk of using cost averages for immature industries like renewables?


2) Peak values are difficult to predict and have only a small impact on the overall price paid for energy. Further, peak prices are suppressed by the use of quick-ramp, simple cycle combustion turbines.
3) Anyone relying on a 25 to 50 year fuel price risk assessment is an idiot. Go back to 1991 or 1966 and look at the risk assessments for the price of natural gas and coal. Utilities use those assessments to fill in the blanks because the regulators want to see them.
4) What else will you use? Something dreamed up in someone’s head to support or deny the use of renewables? Please refer to answer 3).


Grid scale storage works particularly well for frequency response – handling the extra load and keeping frequency on track – when solar or wind is (predictably) ramping up and down… it also responds better than spinning reserve in grid outages like the SA one.
UK’s National Grid just tendered for 200MW of storage for frequency response in its first substantial investment in this.
(UK storage is at 3.2 GW, 450Mw building, plus this 200MW). That’s a good start on this -shows it is off and running)
However you would be wrong to suggest that storage is the only solution to wind or solar being unavailable…
(Even leaving aside that wind peaks in winter, solar in summer somewhere like UK, so they complement each other). UK uses demand management and DTU – which pays companies a premium to move electricity use to when there’s an excess of renewables on the grid -e.g. mid day summer UK weekends.
don’t forget pumped storage also – UK has some and will expand it a few GW.
There are substantial storage plans for SA – which would certainly have helped avert grid shut down and/or helped with black start…

Kevin Kilty

“Grid scale storage works particularly well for frequency response”
Yes. That would be the inertia of the large synchronous machines. Or pumped water; or other mechanical storage. In SA the wind farm owners got to opt out of supplying a share of these “frequency response assets” in order to make wind appear cheaper than it actually is.

Griff I am so glad that you are able to demand that the wind blows when the sun isn’t shining, nice trick. Pump Storage is just a battery, you have to put energy in to get energy out.


Sorry, but I though that is what batteries do (this post is about Li-ion batteries).
Like, store energy from a time of plenty to be used when (in this case) wind and/or solar no longer provide.
Obviously the more storage then the longer that interval can be serviced.
And no one is saying that any energy system should rely only on wind and solar.
In my view nuclear need to be in there as well.


Toneb, if you include nuclear, them there is no need for solar or wind !!

Harry Passfield

ToneB: No matter how big your storage you have to use power to charge it up – power that cannot be used other than at a later time. So your excess generation has to be as much as current use in order to give a similar time period of discharge.


Earlier this month the cost of purchasing wind power in South Australa was zero.


some people NEED to do certain, albeit harmful, things to feel good about themselves; even if the feel good is just for a short while..
Too much smoke.
Too much drink.
That thing where they choke themselves unconscious.
Sex with people they don’t know,
Rationalizing present reality to reflect ones’ accepted & mistaken beliefs (AKA Griffing)
Paying for indulgences (even if with other peoples resources).
etc, etc…


Haven’t the UK government just announced funding for the building of “Nice Clean” Diesel generators to fire up when the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine so that we don’t have blackouts during the coming winters

Stephen Richards

Just about everything Griff writes in his comment is utter nonsense. He cannot see the stupidity of his totally illogical thinking .
My first thought was WHAT?

Leo Smith

how much are you paid to shill griff?


If you are using all of this storage just for frequency control, you are leaving money on the table in its ability to store energy. Flywheels are considered jut as capable in frequency ancillary services.
You have also wandered into one of my pet peeves. 200 MW in terms of energy storage is meaningless. Will it deliver that 200 MW for 10 minutes, 1 hour or 1 day? Energy storage needs to be discussed in terms of , shall I say it, ENERGY, not power. Megawatt-HOURs not megawatts. That 200 MW may be a good frequency response device but we have many options for that service, the big kahuna is the storage of hours to days worth of energy to keep a grid relying on renewables from descending into third world performance.

Chris Hanley

“There are substantial storage plans for SA – which would certainly have helped avert grid shut down and/or helped with black start…”.
I assume “SA” refers to South Australia where windmills caused the complete shutdown of the electricity system for days in some locations, a disaster that is now heading to the courts and “storage” refers to pumped hydro.
Don’t be ridiculous, Australia is notoriously flat and S A is the flattest state which hardly rises 600m above sea level in the hot dry north:


Pumped storage?? But in other news havent we recently been told that reservoirs are nasty co2 releasers also?


“Grid scale storage works particularly well for frequency response”

If batteries followed the same sort of price/performance curve as semiconductor devices have, that would be something to celebrate. As the Samsung Galaxy 7 demonstrates, current products still suck.


Semiconductors are unique. Most everything else is cost of materials driven.


I was wondering what a building that stored grid scale level of batteries would look like.
First off, you couldn’t keep them all in one room. If you did that, a single fire would take out the entire facility. So you will have to keep small groups in separate rooms that are rated to contain any battery fire that starts inside them.

Stephen Richards

The fire safety and cooling systems would make the IBM big blue facility look like a heating room


Any chance all that extra fire safety equipment would add to the installed cost of this “backup” system?

george e. smith

The biggest cost reduction for semi-conductors comes from reducing the minimum geometry sizes of the devices. The amount of increase in the size of say a typical semiconductor “chip” is a very small fraction of the Moore’s Law scaling. Circuit design innovations account for a part of the advance, but sheer size reduction accounts for most of the orders of magnitude reduction.
When I last worked on actual silicon chip design, I was working with a one micron process, and had the task of moving those designs to a 800 nm process. But these were analog designs; not digital, and for many analog designs size matters, in that if you reduce the size you may get worse performance (1/f noise for example). So while I was working at 1.0 microns, others doing digital were working with a 500 nm process and that was NOT state of the art. Analog designs often end up needing sizeable capacitors (linear) as well as accurate resistors. Digital designs tend to not use any of those, and capacitor linearity is of little interest.
But leading edge digital designs today are at around 14 nm minimum feature size. so 50 to 70 times smaller than what I last designed with.
None of that size reduction is of much interest to say solar cell devices, where sheer acreage is what you need.


Cheap is good, But:

*This week only*
Buy Three Battery Packs,
Get a Fire Extinguisher *FREE*


The fire extinguisher is “free” because it won’t do a thing against battery fires.

D. J. Hawkins

True, but irrelevant to the irony.


But it will put out the things your battery fire ignites.


With they work against gas and petrol explosions?


gas and petrol don’t spontaneously combust.

Johann Wundersamer

Once I had to extinguish the fire on a burning forklifts battery. The rubber isolation around a copper cable connection dropped molten unto the plastic lid of a battery grid cell melting it through.
After that with the platform lifter I brought the forklifter outside the hall parking it on the street inside the firms boundary. That was Saturday.
Monday the boss asked why is that thing parked in the rain over the weekend.
When I showed him near that thing, with a dose of the battery acid smell in the nose he went ‘OK, better outside the hall’.
EVERY kind of battery is prone to burn when such capacities are transmitted.

When you compare a battery cost to electrical generation costs it is apples and oranges. Batteries are energy storage, not energy generation. You can use a rechargeable battery hundreds (if not thousands) of times, but each time you must also spend the energy generation costs to charge the battery.
Tesla may have a short term cost reduction due to their efficiencies, but they are planning to consume battery raw materials at an enormous rate. For instance, lithium hydroxide has increased by a factor of three since 2013.

Kevin Kilty

” You can use a rechargeable battery hundreds (if not thousands) of times, but each time you must also spend the energy generation costs to charge the battery.”
Hundred, yes. Thousands, not without reduced capacity. But in any event the batteries have a finite life, and this is a cost that should be capitalized. This raises the true cost of renewables. It is not apples to oranges–both systems have capitalized costs.

Most batteries get 500-1000 cycles (and the final cycle is 80% of the initial). This will degrade faster in hotter climates, but some additives are fixing that. If I’m not mistaken, Tesla has been reporting 2,000 cycles per battery.


“When you add that to the $0.09 2022 LCOE of PV, you still get a Euro-sized wholesale rate of $0.20/kWh.”
$.020 divided by the efficiency of the charge/discharge cycle, which is something substantially less than 1.


Tesla has been reporting 2,000 cycles per battery.

I’m sure they have. It’s called marketing.

Tesla is marketing, but they also have some of the best battery design talent out there. They have been reporting very high capacities and cycle life. 2000 cycles is not unbelievable and Tesla is probably achieving it.

george e. smith

These days, “capitalized costs” are referred to as “subsidies.”
The gummint forces you to capitalize some costs, and won’t let you expense those costs when they are incurred; and then they turn around and say they are “subsidizing” your business.
Two faced lying scoundrels is what they are.

george e. smith

I can get 600 miles per charge in my Subaru Impreza, and after 2000 charges, my battery is as good as when it was brand new.
Elon Musk has a lot of catching up to do.

Johann Wundersamer

Lorca, when tested sure you get 2000 cycles. In the real world that 2000 never are FULL capacity cycles – you load when you can, not when battery is sucked out.


George Smith:
(the WUWT won’t let me post a reply to that message):
you have gotten 2000 recharges out of your subaru batteries?
5 and a half years??!!


Don’t forget the Elon Musk had to drop the high capacity battery pack in its tesla because it was a fire hazard. The Greens were applauding this battery as the savior of solar and wind.


But I don’t think he’s given up on his massive battery-pack PowerWall. Just wait until the first one of those goes up in smoke!


And takes a house or two with it.


As far as I can see, they just tried to create a market that did not already exist. The sad fact is that lead-acid (eg car) batteries are much better for this, and much, much cheaper. If you do not care about space and weight, as you tend not to in a house, they seem an obvious choice instead of a massive fire-starter on your wall!


And it is right down the rabbit hole we go.
It has been shown over and over that wind and solar barely go net positive on the energy balance. That is to say that wind farms and solar arrays produce little more energy than what was used to fabricate/construct them.
Add in the energy costs associated with batteries, along with charge/discharge inefficiencies, and you are firmly in energy net negative territory.
Note to Griff:
That is energy net negative on an industrial grid scale.
Have a nice day powering an industrial society with an electric grid which consumes more energy resources than it produces.


That is not the case: both wind and solar rapidly produce more electricity than used through their whole lifecycle.
and also save more CO2 than through their life cycle too.


What, no references to articles that don’t support your point?

Stephen Richards

Terminology Griff. Whole life costing includes manufacture, running costs, maintenance, dismantling and destruction.

richard verney

Germany has been unable to reduce its CO2 emissions these past 10 years despite it going hell for leather on wind and solar.
The German experience is the best evidence that so called renewables do not result in the meaningful reduction of CO2. they fail on their primary objective.
They simply put up energy costs and result in a less stable grid.

Kevin Kilty



That’s 10 Peta-plusses. Might be too difficult for Bloomberg.

John Harmsworth

I may have missed this along the thread but there are additional losses in transmission and transformers (both ways, to and from storage).


When I read the Bloomberg story I checked the prices of lithium ion batteries for my golf cart, and wow the SMARTBATTERY 36V 100AH was $4,499.99 now sells for $3,899.97.


Lord Above.
At first I thought Jim was missing a /sarc tag. So I looked, sure enough ~$4,000 Li+ golf cart batteries. About $600 – $800 for conventional deep draw “specialty” golf cart batteries.
At Wall Mart, 36V 100AH batteries (3 of 12V) will cost you maybe $100 each, or $300 total, tops. Perhaps a bit more for deep draw cycle units.
And this is the technology which is going to take over the world? Frightening!


But think of how much more acceleration you can get out of your golf cart when you replace your current batteries with the lighter Li+ batteries.

Traditional golf cart batteries are lead acid. For a lot of good reasons, that technology has been well established. At least they are sealed lead acid batteries now. The cost of that Golf Cart battery will drop as the demand increase.


Money is how we keep score.


Three 12v 100ah deep cycle lead acid battery designed for golf carts about $500 using amazon prices.
I doubt the LiOH battery has 8 times the life span given equal number of charge/dischage cycles.


lorcanbonda sez: ” The cost of that Golf Cart battery will drop as the demand increase.”
Um, the first time I used a golf cart on a course was in the 1970s.
They are ubiquitous.
When do you think this cost drop will happen?

Sean O'Connor

“forecasts that solar PV power plants entering service in 2022 will be able to generate electricity for 8.5¢/kWh. This would make solar PV competitive with natural gas… Right? Nooooo. Natural gas combined cycle has an average capacity factor of 87%. Solar PV’s average capacity factor is 25%. So, you would have to deploy at least 3 MW of solar PV to offset 1 MW of natural gas.”
Surely if it’s costing 8.5¢/kWh to generate electricity it’s irrelevant what the capacity factor is as far as whether it’s a competitive price? (I know it’d be generated much more intermittently)

Kevin Kilty

I think some of the problem here is a unrealistic assumption of utility factor. I see this all the time with the economics of wind farms; people assume 30-40% of plate rating and the reality is 17%.


Wind farms averaging 50+% capacity. Good to see them working under a good and proper load. Going forward, it well be interesting to see how the equipment holds up long term. We will see if the turbines last anything like their advertised life span.
Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I just Google abandoned wind farms, US, cheers me up every time.

Patrick B

@David Middleton – can you provide a cite? It seems to me ERCOT is only willing to grant around 13% capacity factor to non-coastal wind in Texas during peak demand – which is when it matters most.

Reg Nelson

David Middleton October 19, 2016 at 9:03 am
In Texas, wind farms routinely average 50%, occasionally exceeding 80%.
50-80% of what?
What a completely meaningless statement.

Janice Moore

Re: Mr. O’Connor (not (as far as I can tell) disagreeing with you, just to amplify.)
1. Note also the text following your quote: Then you would have to deploy a storage system …..
“Deploy a storage system” equates to saying, “invent something that doesn’t exist on this scale and for which there is no known, realistic, economical, solution even on the horizon.”
Sure. Someday. For now, funding solar (and wind) pipe dreams is a huge WASTE of the taxpayers’ hard earned money, a parasitical tumor, sucking (via high energy costs due to rate surcharges to create an artificial market for solar energy) the life out of the economy, leaving it anemic, i.e., killing jobs.
I wonder, for the billions spent stuffing cash into the pockets of the enviroprofiteers over the past decade ….. how many veterans could have received adequate, timely, medical/mental health care….. I wonder how many would be able to face the day instead of curling up and staying in bed…… how many ….. would still be alive.


— LOL. “Wildly speculates” would be more accurate.

David Smith

+10 (particularly about the veterans)


Janice – you are a log time poster, so I probably have nothing novel to tell you.
But if the politicians conjoint with the industrialists can convince us of “better living through science” and make billions while delivering NO social benefit, AND getting us to pledge allegiance to the idea or the party, then they make their money either way.

Janice Moore

(from Real Clear (they are against truly cost effective) Energy quote):

… just plain selfish.

That is a religious concept.
Sorry, Cult of AGW, I am NEVER joining your coven; no matter HOW loudly or whiningly you try to proselytize me.

Janice Moore

GREAT exposé (once again), Mr. Middleton!


Considering how flammable lithium batteries can be and how lower cost often means lower quality, batteries may go the way of airbags and most of the other things in society—as in cheap and dangerous.


It all depends on the rate of failure and the size of probable losses. Insurance company actuaries are usually very, very good at figuring these things out, and then recommending appropriate underwriting costs (or recommending against underwriting altogether).
Insurance companies, not Federal regulations, are why elevators became quite safe.

D. J. Hawkins

ANSI 17.1, enforced at the state level, is why elevators are safe.


And who wrote ANSI 17.1? Hint, it wasn’t the government.

D. J. Hawkins

Hint – It wasn’t the insurance industry either. ANSI was founded as a private organization by five engineering societies in 1916. It’s remit is to foster the development of consensus standards over a broad range of activities. It’s first standard was on pipe threads in 1917.
The insurance companies got into the act via the National Fire Protection Association, looking to minimize fire losses. The parent organization was the result of a series of meetings from 1895 to 1896 involving a number of underwriters.


Membership on standards writing committees is open to anyone with expertise in that area.

D. J. Hawkins

That’s not quite true. Until 1904, only insurance underwriters could be members of NFPA. In any event, you have to at least be a member of the organization that has responsible charge of the standard and usually nominated by someone on the appropriate committee to fill a vacancy.


I did some work for a major tool manufacturer based in the US. We were using a pack made with Canadian Li cells. They were awesome. Then we got the couple of batches made with cells from china. I Actually caught my desk on fire. The cells were like little fire bombs. I tossed a burning pack into the back yard of the plant, and it burned the dirt. The company disqualified the China suppliers.


Is there a secret government subsidy to be had in there? If this a true tech advance I would love to have more than a few minutes to close programs before it quits in a power outage.

Makes for a very interesting read thanks for sharing!

The good news is that this article overstates the battery prices : GM several weeks ago revealed that the batteries for its electric will cost $150 per kWhr, and almost at the same time, Tesla claimed $190. The difference was that Tesla’s figures included the cost of the battery pack, which includes a cooling system
( a metal container, coolant, a fan and a radiator and a pump, etc) . GM was just talking cell cost.
The major impact of these falling battery prices (Tesla claims its battery gigafactory can reduce costs by a third, or did awhile back. Uncertain if that still holds) is clearly the automotive business. Electric cars are intrinsically simpler, cheaper (except, in the past the battery part) and more reliable, with practically no maintenance for the drivetrain. I would take an electric car over a complicated, gazillion parts vehicle that is gas powered in an instant. Of course, our braindead Federal govt has done nothing to establish charging
standards, etc An 85 kWhr battery pack (which is the norm for the Tesla Model S) would cost $16,000, WAAAAYYYYY down from the original $40,000. A small compact car , under 2700 pounds, would likely have a driving range roughly 400 miles. Recharging such a battery pack to 80% nowadays takes, I believe 20 to 30 minutes. Henry Ford believed in electric cars so much that he pursuaded his friend Thomas Edison to attempt to invent a practical battery. Ford’s wife always drove an electric car.
But batteries won’t have such a major effect on grid power, although homeowners with solar roofs might go for them. The problem is that batteries can’t make power, they can only store power, and where is that power coming from? They are good at shifting power output from solar at day to nighttime, but
a weeks of cloudy weather would leave the solar system and its batteries high and dry. And when the sun comes back, how are all those batteries going to get recharged, while at the same time the solar produced power is needed on the grid? As you can see, these considerations mean that batteries cannot prevent
renewables from the need to be backed up by reliable power generators, which means a duplication of capacity – those back up plants cost a lot to keep up and ready to go – about the only thing that is saved
by not asking them for power is fuel, and fuel is often only a small percentage of the operational cost of running a backup power plant. . And with Moltex (along with other molten salt nuclear plant developers) promising power at a levelized cost of less than 2 cents per kWhr, simple economics will doom all other power generation technoliges. And molten salt reactors can operate as peak power producers as well as baseload producers.


Why do you believe that it is the responsibility of your neighbors to “establish charging”?


Molten salt nuclear power is an old technology. Way back in 1952 I had an opportunity to work as an engineer on just such a project.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

Henry Ford believed in electric cars so much that he pursuaded his friend Thomas Edison to attempt to invent a practical battery. Ford’s wife always drove an electric car.

Electric cars were deemed suitable for ladies because they didn’t require crank-starting. Ladies of a certain station could afford to hire drivers who would take care of this chore and also maintain their cars. Crank-starting one of these old cars was both strenuous and dangerous, and with the move to larger and higher compression engines was becoming increasingly difficult even for healthy young men.
The electric starter which came along around 1912 and became common by 1920 changed all that and removed any compelling reason to accept the limitations of pure electric cars.


I drove my 2016 GT350 down to Aiken today to have lunch with relatives and shop some in Columbia. Had a little range anxiety, so I popped into a Shell station and got 7 gallons. Took maybe 3 minutes.

Bruce Ploetz

According to the greens we should put Lithium Ion batteries in our utilities, homes and cars.
I have designed these batteries into several products. There is nothing that beats them on energy density and quick-charge ability, but I put temperature sensors, battery monitoring chips and smart chargers in them to keep them as safe as possible.
However it is still possible for a lithium ion cell that is not even connected to anything to self-destruct. The main danger is when they go below a certain temperature and then you try to charge them. Another danger is contamination in manufacture or damage by bending the cell after manufacture. These cells are not ready to used for utility scale backup by a long way.

I would bet (with little effort) you could find a picture of a gasoline powered car which looks like that. Gasoline is not exactly the safest material around.


Lorc: Many years ago when I worked in Bellevue, WA a colleague and I used to take a several-blocks walk at noon. As we were passing a music store, we saw a VW bus leaking gasoline on the pavement, and IT WAS AFIRE! We dashed into the store and alerted the owner who quickly moved his car and extinguished the flames. Don’t know how/when he fixed the leak. JB Weld, anyone?

Janice Moore

The key re: lithium ion battery storage is not explosions of gas-powered vehicles versus lithium ion
(and remember, the LI battery has a serious disposal issue, too, where the gas in your fuel tank does not):
it is:
Energy Density — Electricity (here, talking Solar, only a tiny % of THAT production (and that goes for Wind, too), then you add on the density factor and — wo! Re: EROI, VERY STUPID INVESTMENT of tax/rate payers’ money)

… It doesn’t mean electric cars are out of the picture, … but {it is currently} a basic research problem {which must be solved} before it can become a technology one.

(Source: )

Janice, this entire question has arisen because people don’t care for the disposal of fossil fuel waste (carbon dioxide.)
JimB — there was a rash of videos a few years ago from people who set fires to their cars while pumping fuel (especially in the summer desert). Basically, the static electricity between the car and the pump is enough to ignite the fuel.
[url][/url] Gas station fire, static electricity
[url][/url] Gas Station Fire Compilation

More than you ever wanted to know about utility scale energy storage … with numbers.

dan no longer in CA

Wow. Excellent report on the different kinds of energy storage. I notice that lead-acid batteries are a factor of 3 lower cost than lithium-ion, and pumped hydroelectric or compressed air storage are a factor of 10 lower. It makes one wonder why those are not in the headlines. Thanks for sharing.


“At $200/kWh, solar PV with storage would run about $58/kWh to fully offset natural gas at $0.06/kWh…”
The $58/kWh figure requires each battery to be fully charged once, then discharged, and tossed in a landfill. You acknowledge at the end of your post that this would not be the case, so I’m not sure why you even presented it as a potential outcome.

Lowell Wickman

In this discussion of the cost of using these batteries for the grid, the cost of the inverters has been left out. This would raise the cost per KW to $500 – $1200 for just the AC inverter. Being very optimistic the cost for 1 hour of backup on the grid would be $700/KWH.

Paul Penrose

Generally, grid storage is only needed for PV Solar and Wind power. They need inverters anyway, so I would assume that the battery stacks would reuse these inverters when feeding back to the grid. So other than some switching equipment, there would be no additional cost.


1) That would only be true if the battery stacks are co-located with the solar panels.
2) Solar panels have voltage levels in the 4K to 5K volt range. This has to be stepped down and current limited before you can use it to charge batteries.
3) Unless you step up the voltage coming out of the batteries back to that 4K to 5K range, you can’t use the same inverter.

Robert Westfall

For anyone thinking that improvements in battery technology will renewable energy consider another energy storage system. This system like batteries contains both a oxidizer and fuel in close proximity. Both have high energy density. And the higher the density the more effective.
This other technology is called explosives.
I studied battery technology in engineering school in the 70s. One of the batteries we looked at was the molten sodium/sulfur battery for electric cars. Plenty of energy, but the system was extremely dangerous in an accident. Any power storage source that contains the energy density of 10 gallons of gasoline and includes an intermingled oxidizer will be too dangerous to use.

Battery technology has come a long way since the 1970s. There is a reason why nobody is discussing molten sodium/sulfur outside of the defense department.
That being said — for lithium ion batteries, the flammability comes from the electrolytes, not the electrodes.

Robert Westfall

The point is as the energy density increases so does the danger. At some point if the battery shorts out it will explode instead of catching fire. There is no way around the limits, and we are very close to them with the lithium ion batteries.

Curious George

I don’t disagree, but .. In 2010, Presidio, Texas built the world’s largest sodium–sulfur battery, which can provide 4 MW of power for up to eight hours when the city’s lone line to the Texas power grid goes down. Apparently, at a high cost . I could not find any data from its 6 years of operation.

Robert Westfall, that is incorrect. The danger does not increase proportionately with the energy density. Silicon anodes could replace graphite anodes in the near future with up to ten times the energy density and no additional danger.
The danger in lithium ion batteries is from the electrolyte. You can reduce the capacity of a lithium ion battery by a small amount while eliminating the highly flammable electrolytes.
Again — compare this to gasoline which is also a very dangerous material. There are ways to design an engine and gas tank to reduce that danger considerably. That doesn’t change the fact that gasoline is incredibly flammable.

Janice Moore

lorcanbonda: … There are ways to design an engine and gas tank to reduce that danger considerably.

The point is as the energy density increases so does the danger. At some point if the battery shorts out it will explode instead of catching fire. There is no way around the limits, and we are very close to them with the lithium ion batteries.

Robert Westfall here:
Also, re: a myth out there, only in the movies do gas powered vehicles nearly always explode on impact. In real life, they rarely do.

Janice Moore writes: “Also, re: a myth out there, only in the movies do gas powered vehicles nearly always explode on impact. In real life, they rarely do.” — in the movies, and in Ford Pintos.
But, I think you are agreeing with me. Gasoline is a very dangerous substance, but there are ways to design cars to minimize this danger — for instance, a rubber coated gas tank was a big help.
Curious George — yes, there are all sorts of government projects out there. There is no shortage of people with novel ideas to sell to government employees. IIRC, the solar plant in the west uses molten sodium sulfur to store the energy through the night. Government funding makes a lot of things possible that would otherwise not be practical.

Curious George

Solar plants in the West that I know of use molten salt thermal storage for overnight operation – bird frying plants (“concentrated solar”) that use molten salts even for their daily operation – and they have to heat molten salts with natural gas when demand exceeds their storage capacity. Please link to a solar plant using batteries.

Curious George — I was referring to the same plant. I did not claim it was a battery (but you’re right — my fingers inadvertently typed “sodium sulfur” instead of “sodium”.)

Patrick MJD

“lorcanbonda October 19, 2016 at 1:43 pm”
Petrol isn’t that dangerous until air/petrol ratio is right, too much of either not much happens. Petrol tanks in cars are designed and placed very well and have to pass rigorous testing. It’s why we have millions of cars on the road in daily use carrying anything upwards of 45 litres of fuel. Rubber coatings won’t do much and really only work on the inside of the tank. Now, foam membranes inside the tank, like a sponge, are a better way of keeping the petrol in the tank under severe damage circumstances.


Recently I have been seeing the word “phase” used instead of “faze”. Is this a newly approved spelling?


IIRC..”phase” has always been used when talking about anything electronic..
“Faze” = “He was not fazed by that insult”…

Rhoda R

I’m old enough to cringe every time someone uses ‘phase’ when they mean ‘faze’.


Set your phasor to stun.

For an extremely complete and detailed discussion of energy storage please see Berrie Lawson’s article titled: “Grid Scale Energy nStorage.” There is no more detailed treatment on the subject in one convenient location than this article:

Tom O

Perhaps one of the most overlooked “factors” about lithium ion batteries is the simple fact that lithium is not exactly as plentiful as, say, copper. The cost of batteries may be coming down, but the quantity of affordably recovered lithium will be going down, thus the price will be going up. It is totally anal to try to base an economy on a very finite quantity of an element. I suppose if we kill off 75% of the world’s population as the green movement seems to want to do, the quantity available will be come less limiting, but failing that, it is stupid to look in this direction for a solution to energy needs.
Granted, the same situation is present in using carbon fuels, but at least the window is wider and the opportunity to create effective alternatives is longer. What I have yet to figure out is why we waste so much time and energy on researching “stopgap solutions” instead of actually looking creatively for sustainable solutions to the future energy crisis. Killing off people just doesn’t strike me as the best policy to prolong the period of civilization as we know it. I know that, most likely, if this last – killing off people as a solution – is the way we will be going, I most likely will be in the fired at line, not the firing line, as I am getting older and may want to enter into retirement, thus being seen as a burden by those that are still working.


Yes, look at the known lithium supply, where it’s located, and what lithium extraction looks like.
Lithium extraction is not clean or green. Online photos of lithium extraction are available.

Looks has very little to do with the environmental harm. Lithium Salts are pumped out of the ground and stored in above ground pools for several weeks to concentrate through evaporation. There are only a handful of these sites worldwide and they are reasonably safe. (For instance, they are much safer than the hundreds of lead acid battery production plants — most of which are Superfund sites in the United States.)


And how much lithium supply does the U.S. have? Will lithium use make the U.S. more energy independent or more dependent on foreign lithium supplies?


I am amazed that anyone calling themselves green can defend the solar and wind plants that are destroying natural habitats all across this country. They pave paradise and put up a parking lot and howl how nature has been saved. What a crock.

John F. Hultquist

“Big Yellow Taxi” is a song written, composed, and originally recorded by Joni Mitchell in 1970
“They paved paradise to put up a parking lot” and “Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now” – and sentimental sound. The line “They took all the trees, and put ’em in a tree museum / And charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em” refers to Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu, which is a living museum of tropical plants, some rare and endangered.[4]

Just out of interest, how many batteries would you need to store enough electricity through the rest of the year, to last a household through the winter. (In the UK, solar produces two fifths of bugger all then)
Let’s assume the average household uses 2000 KWh during winter.


I am not surprised that solar does not work too well in the UK given the relative absence of sunshine
The sunniest town in the UK is Bognor Regis on the south west coast which receives about 1800 hours of sunshine pa but the further north you go that number drops away
Compare that with Australian capital cities ( mostly on the coast where it is cloudier than inland)
Melbourne 2200 Adelaide & Sydney 2500 Perth and Brisbane 3000 sunshine hours pa
I don’t know whether the angle of the sun as determined by latitude as well as sunshine hours affects the quantum of solar energy hitting the panels, but if it does then the higher latitudes in the UK around 52 degrees +north vs 37 to 30 degrees or so south for those Australian cities would also act against the relative effectiveness of solar energy in the UK

BTW – David makes the point:
Our electric utility can afford to sell us electricity for 10¢/kWh largely due to the fact that natural gas-fired power plants generate electricity for about 6¢/kWh
The difference of course is various grid, admin costs, taxes etc. In the UK it would also included subsidies for wind mills, solar etc etc
You could only avoid these costs if you were prepared to cut yourself off from the grid completely. Even then, the costs would still be there, and would simply have to be borne by other consumers. (In particular, poorer ones who might not be able to afford solar panels, or own homes big enough to fit them on. )
This would hardly be progressive!

Patrick B

Do the estimates for costs of solar and wind include the cost of associated transmission lines and associated transmission losses?
Texas spent $7 billion on power lines to bring power from the wind sites to the cities. Other types of power can be located much closer to the cities.

Caligula Jones

Is it too much to ask all the progressive/green/liberal/whatevertheyarethisweek who want us to basically go back to the caves put all their OWN money into this stuff AND use ONLY this technology?
Here in Toronto, Canada, an Alpha Green (Bob Hunter, formerly of Greenpeace) absolutely chortled that he was going to get in on the ground floor of our nifty wind turbine, before, you know, all those greedy capitalists did.
If these guys were a tenth as smart as they think they are, they wouldn’t have to hire students to go door to door or take up space on the sidewalk outside of malls to raise money. They’d all be billionaires many times over.


The phone device in question is the Galaxy Note 7, not the Galaxy 7. I’m typing this now on a Galaxy S7 smartphone, which does not have battery issues.

Gern Blanstein

I am sorry, but you are misusing the $/kWh for storage. It is a volumetric cost based on the size of the battery, not a variable cost of production; If one wants to store 1 kWh, the battery costs $200. Similarly, if one wants to store 10 kWh, the battery costs $2,000. Where your analysis fails is that once the battery is sized and purchased, you only need to pay for the energy to recharge the battery. You apply the full output of the 3x solar PV system to the $200/kWh, this is significantly in error.
In theory, you would optimize the size of both the solar array from an energy produced perspective and the storage for a volumetric perspective so as to maximize the delivered kWh per day. You would oversize the solar array so that when the sun is shining not only are you servicing the demand at the time, you are also charging the battery. Once the sun goes down, the battery kicks in.
Make no mistake, an optimized system is exorbitantly expensive as I have run these numbers for multiple clients, a factor of 10 is a good rule of thumb over retail rates under the best insolation conditions (if cloudy days are involved, forget it). The factor or approximately 1,000 is embarrassingly overstating the case.

Enter stage left
(Small modular disposable / recyclable reactor)

Terry Warner

Conventional oil, gas and coal have had 100 years ++ of practical exploitation to refine generation efficiency – there is little more to come.
Despite massive spend over the last 10 years, solar, wind etc are in their infancy, as is battery technology. If efficiency improvements in battery cost per kwh follow the performance of the last five years, costs will fall by 80%.
This may be wildly optimistic – but we should not count on the current status quo indefinitely – in 5 – 10 years storage technologies may have refined to the point they are contenders, not wholly uncompetitive.


You really need to learn a little history.
Wind is several hundred years old and even solar is some 50 years old.
They have been making practical batteries for over 100 years. Well before the first practical gas powered car was built.
The need to fall by at least 2 orders of magnitude.


First oil is rarely used to generate electricity in the US. Catalyst developments are the new technology that improves use of fossil fuels, these are exciting and provided by the free market without government subsidies. There seems to be no end to the chemistry side of newer and better catalysts. Just look at the application of plastics in every product we buy including auto’s. All these come from fossil fuels. It is not mature and the opportunities in new catalysis is endless.
Second, Natural gas has only more recently been used for electricity generation because of the impressive technology developments mostly fracking that has dramatically increased an abundance of and lowered the cost of natural gas. The fossil fuel folks have found and developed many times additional more BTU’s than solar and wind combined and dramatically lowered the cost of both oil and natural gas.
Third, wind and solar are not in their infancy , wind was used before fossil fuels. No thoughtful investor would assume that there will be a dramatic increase in efficiency, because both depend on a fossil energy source for application. A big part of the cost especially for wind turbines is the concrete, steel, land use, etc. Except for free land use all these should be expected to increase. Do they pay taxes like private Companies on the land and capital investment The government is not honest when they project higher efficiency improvement and dramatic reduction in cost. Unfortunately the government has not learned that there are various laws of thermodynamics that they cannot violate. Mankind has been looking for a better battery for a century, and a break through has been elusive.
If one thinks a breakthrough is near, why invest in defective technology today, wait until later when a better option is developed. Spend the money on research rather than commercialization. Let the free market decide when to commercialize.

richard verney

The problem with wind is there is no economy of scale. Each turbine is an individual unit requiring its own individual base structure and individual coupling to the grid.
Every component used in wind is very old technology, rotors, gearbox, shaft, generator. There can be no great improvement in the design of these components, and one knows when a technology has reached its zenith and that is when minaturisation is no longer happening.
If one wants more output from a windturbine, one does not get a more efficient product in the same or smaller package. Instead one ends up with a bigger turbine.
Because of wind shadow, these large turbines take up ever increasing areas of land.
We are not dealing with something akin to radios which went from valves to transistors to IC chip
There is no revolution coming. Wind will never get significantly cheaper.

Jim Berry

OK – you buy a 1-KW-HR battery for $200. You charge it at night with .$.04 KW/HR power but assume that various inefficiencies of conversion from grid AC to battery DC back to grid AC and battery efficiency means you require 1.2 KW-HR to produce the returned power of 1 KW-HR. Therefore costs about $.048 to charge the battery to produce the 1 KW-HR. Now you sell the power at peak time for $.12 KW/HR for a net gross profit of $.072 per charge cycle. You do this for 250 days a year (Monday thru Friday) and the net gross is $18 per year. $200/$18= 11.1 years to pay back cost of the 1-KW-HR battery. Lots of other costs not considered but I think one can see that if the downward cost trend continues to $100 per KW-HR that these things may very well make economic sense. In CA peak power is sometimes well above $.20 KW/HR and off peak often less than 4 cents.

Peter Sable

You do this for 250 days a year (Monday thru Friday) and the net gross is $18 per year. $200/$18= 11.1 years to pay back cost of the 1-KW-HR battery.

The problem is you get 2,000 (if you are lucky) charge/discharge cycles and the battery is kaput, headed for the recycling center. So @ 250 per year the battery only lasts 8 years. You will never pay back the cost of the battery because the battery won’t last 11.1 years.
You are also ignoring the cost of the DC/AC AC/DC converters (which turn out to be almost as expensive as the batteries), the labor required to install all this, uninstall old batteries, etc etc. etc.

In CA peak power is sometimes well above $.20 KW/HR and off peak often less than 4 cents.

I will just build a gas plant and I’ll not only be profitable if peak hours are $0.08 per kilowatt, I’ll make far more profit than your battery storage concern at any price above that as well.
The only place this technology makes sense is on islands like Hawaii where it’s expensive to import fossil fuels and there’s no native source. At that point it’s cheaper to do solar, wind, and batteries.

Jim Berry

I don’t argue that the gas fired combined cycle plant would be more profitable.
I did mention that other costs were not considered and specifically mentioned the converter/inverter.
My point is that at $100 per KW-HR the batteries may be profitable. Possibly the $100 level will never be met, but also possible is $50. Whether gas, coal, nuclear, solar wind etc. there will always be a large KW/HR price difference between peak and off peak (and I mean 10PM to 6AM for off peak) and there is a reasonable possibility that battery storage may be practical.
Jim Berry


1) You neglect the cost of the electronics needed to charge and discharge the battery.
2) You neglect the cost to install the battery and electronics.
3) You neglect the carrying cost of the money used to buy and install the battery and associated hardware.
4) You neglect the fact that the capacity of your battery decreases by a small bit each time it is cycled.
PS: From what I have read, the best way to destroy your battery quickly is to charge it fully, then discharge it fully over and over again.


Mark, thanks
How about the cost of land or structure, taxes, insurance, maintenance, replacement, disposal, interest and every thing else private industry is required to pay.

Peter Sable

PS: From what I have read, the best way to destroy your battery quickly is to charge it fully, then discharge it fully over and over again.

I completely agree it’s worse than David M. thought it was, but as far as this statement, the PowerWall cycles the batteries between 20% and 80%. I try to do the same on my iPhone (for example).
Which just subtracts from capacity of course. It’s typically 60% of the rating, but that’s how you get 2,000 cycles out of it…


‘The only way wind and solar could ever reliably provide base-load is through the deployment of economically sustainable storage systems.’
No. Periods of no sun/wind are of undefined length. Providing back up for a day might be practical. Once you get to a few days out, the cost is prohibitive. Storage becomes non productive assets.

Jan Wicher

The first part is a bit embarassing. It wrongly assumes you have to buy new batteries for every kWh you want to store.
Later on, the post account for recharging and states 22 cents per kWh. At this price you can run an economy. It hurts, but it’s feasible.
So this post might change my mind after all. But not in the way it is supposed to.

Russell Robles-Thome

Please accept my apologies for not reading all of the comments, but the main article is just deliberately missing the point.
An electric car needs a minimum of 200Wh/Tonne Mile to overcome rolling resistance, at least until the tyre companies come up with better tyres. That means that a 1Kwh battery takes you no more than 5 miles, and hence the Nissan leaf with a 20Kwh Battery rated at 100 miles, and a Tesla with an 85Kwh battery in the 300’s of miles. So at $200/Kwh, a car battery costs $4000-$12000 depending on range requirements.
Electricity is generally cheaper than gasoline, I can fill my 85Kwh battery for no more than, say, $17, probably more like $10. In the UK, 300 miles of fuel will cost me say $50. So I save $40 every time I fill up.
Suppose my car lasts 100,000 miles. I fill up 333 times, so I save over $13,000 on fuel in the life of the vehicle. 333 charges/discharges is not a scary number even for current battery tech.
At some point, not very far away, a cheap enough battery makes an electric vehicle the most economical choice. What’s more, it has no gearbox, no clutch, minimal cooling system, and overall a fraction of the moving parts of an IC car. If theory means anything, it is therefore intrinsically more reliable. It is also more accelerative, (aka sexier) if they do it right.
$200/Kwh is probably not cheap enough to drive a switch, but $100/Kwh may well be. Musk seems to think so too. Further, also c.f. Musk and the ‘Power Wall’, an Auto-sized battery will happily buffer most households weekly power requirements. Put one in your basement and Solar panels on your roof – you would be insane to go off-grid, but your power import requirements can shrink drastically.
Batteries really are a world-changing tech, and we are getting quite close to a cut-over point.
As a smart old man used to say, the stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones, and the oil age won’t end because we run out of oil. It will end because we come up with something better.

richard verney

My Dad had an electric car in the 1990s. The battery life was only about 3 to 4 years, at a cost of about £2,500 .to £3,500. he had the car for about 11 years and had 3 sets of batteries,.
Whenever you use any appliance in the car, it starts draining the batteries, eg., heater, rear window demister, windscreen wipers, headlamps etc.
The batteries needed charging every day. Of course, that was not a complete cycle, but the idea that you can do 100,000 on 33 cycles is nothing like real life experience.

richard verney

whoops typo

100,000 miles on 333 cycles

Caligula Jones

Yes, this is the reason we don’t see too many electric cars in Canada in the winter. Can’t imagine how much fun it would be choosing between freezing and spinning in snow.


In the UK, 300 miles of fuel costs you $50 because most of that is tax. Without tax, the fuel will cost you approximately $20, possibly a bit less.
If the tax man is denied at the gas pump, you can be sure that other tax rates will be adjusted upwards to compensate. As an individual move, you can beat the tax man with this strategy. As a societal move, it’s a fool’s game to try to change behavior to avoid paying taxes.

Reg Nelson

@ Russell Robles-Thome October 19, 2016 at 2:57 pm
Please accept my apologies for not reading all of the comments, but the main article is just deliberately missing the point.
An electric car needs a minimum of 200Wh/Tonne Mile to overcome rolling resistance, at least until the tyre companies come up with better tyres. That means that a 1Kwh battery takes you no more than 5 miles, and hence the Nissan leaf with a 20Kwh Battery rated at 100 miles, and a Tesla with an 85Kwh battery in the 300’s of miles. So at $200/Kwh, a car battery costs $4000-$12000 depending on range requirements.
Russell, you are comparing your subsidized cost of electric cars versus the cost heavily taxed cost of petroleum cars — yeah it works for you, but how about everyone else that is paying for your folly.


You ignore the fact that at least half the cost of fuel is taxes. Once you start taxing electricity to pay for roads, the cost differential disappears.

Russell Robles-Thome

Yes, you guys are right: most of the difference is Tax, but I don’t see that going away. Can anyone imagine petrol taxes being slashed to make way for taxes on EVs? My crystal ball says that when EVs become popular, the govt will add to road-tax to make up for lost revenue from Petrol Tax. But they will leave Petrol Tax in place to keep the differential tax in place. Petrol car owners will get hit twice. Probably that will accelerate the move to EV…
In any case, the cause of the differential is irrelevant. In the UK (is our petrol *actually* the most expensive in the world?) and probably elsewhere in Europe, we are seriously close to a cut-over point. The US will be further away. Here the choice is (ball-park) $17,000 on petrol, or $4000 on electricity plus a 70Kwh battery. When a battery is $100/Kwh, that’s a very interesting equation which may well be good enough to drive adoption. The fact that EVs ought to be simpler and therefore more reliable and cheaper is also a plus.
Anyway, next time you come to buy a car, do the calculation, and see how cheap you think a battery needs to be to make an EV attractive to you.


First of all, I can put over 500 miles’ worth of diesel in my Mercedes in 2 – 3 minutes. How long is it going to take to put the same mileage into an EV? Further, being a fairly elderly old girl, she runs very happily on vegetable oil, obtainable from many outlets for as little as 50p per litre.
Second, it may have escaped your attention, but the company that supplies the EV charging points on the UK motorway network has just implemented a major price hike in the 20 minute charging cost, so the EV is no longer cheaper to “fill” than a conventional vehicle.
Thirdly, I have always carried a spare gallon of fuel in my cars, and over the past half-century that has been a life-saver on several occasions. Try that with an EV.


Also The stone age did not end because a government subsidy caused man to move on.
The technology is not there yet and may never be there.
My state just added a 23 cent per gallon tax on gasoline, where do the electric car owner pay his/her share.


Including massive taxes the cost of 300 miles of fuel in the US is currently about $ 24 dollars.
The average total tax is circa 48 cents per gallon which electric cars do not pay yet. Why?
As I recall, the motor fuel tax subsidizes other expenditures besides roads. How do government’s replace those funding sources as the revenues are eliminated? Not to mention the massive taxes fossil fuel companies pay to the US treasury and royalities paid on oil and naturl gas production to the Feds and the States.


Get ready for GPS calculated taxing on mileage. Similar to the road tax imposed upon interstate and cross country truckers. Search “highway Use Tax” or “Truck Mileage Tax.” State legislators are talking about it now in states with increased numbers of electric and hybrid vehicles. .

Reg Nelson

Yes, Californication has been pushing this for some time. Gasoline (Petrol) tax was initially intended to fund road works and maintenance (ie, Shovel Ready Jobs), but was too lucrative not to raid to fund the General Fund.
Now that Cash Cow is drying up with high mileage, electric\hybrid vehicles; and mandated manufacture fleet efficiencies.
The solution: find more ways to tax.


The article is sound but as so many articles about energy it doesn’t take into account that prices of almost everything depends of the available energy, so doing price analysis can only work at a given instance and never to do projections. Why does a battery costs 1000$ or 200$ and not 1$ per Kw? Simple, cost of energy which defines the price off all commodities and human labor needed to produce them.
If solar develops and since there’s no lack of space to put units it could at some point lower the cost of energy due of increasing availability, so panels and batteries should fall in price to a point where the only cost would be the cost of human labor.
The difference of solar to all other forms of producing energy, wind included, is that almost anyone can own a producing unit so drop in costs will only accelerate the implementation of new units instead of stopping it as is the case for the other sources since only big producers could afford or sources are limited, plus shareholders usually don’t like diminishing returns. Another aspect is that solar is also scalable, as long as you have space to put more that is, so as prices drop it’s easy to add more power and the cycle goes on.
Now the only thing that can limit solar development is the eroi. As we stand I have little doubt that solar has positive returns, at a rate much lower than other sources no doubt about it either but again, with that particular factor that number of units can be virtually unlimited so the only question is if there’s anything in the producing chain (metal, rare earth, etc) that can became so rare as even with more energy available exploitation of a particular resource would make it unsustainable.

Peter Sable

If solar develops and since there’s no lack of space to put units it could at some point lower the cost of energy due of increasing availability, so panels and batteries should fall in price to a point where the only cost would be the cost of human labor.

First, there’s lack of space. Is there free land out there somewhere? What about the power lines that have to go there to where the power is used?
second, a majority of the cost of installation is already labor and maintenance. There’s now diminishing returns on the material cost of solar panels. There’s less than one halving left in solar costs and then it’s a hard plateau on labor costs.
The whole point of energy production is to substitute for labor costs. Else we’d all be pushing wheelbarrows around. Every extra dollar spend on solar and wind is dollars not spent on humans achieving better things in their lives (or eating for that matter)


What matters is not your doubts, but the facts.
At present, the eroi on solar is strongly negative.

$200.00 / kWh????!!!!!!
And what do most of us pay the power company? $000.15 / kWh more or less.
Need to do a lot more plunging.
[One is the price of storage and has multiple cycles, the other is the price of energy used . . . mod]


The English language is one of the most beautiful human constructs. It includes words like ‘gaga’.
So before we get all ‘gaga’ about declining ‘per unit’ price curves for solar cells and lithium batteries, let’s seriously look at the cost inputs to this production.
First, understand the the vast percentage of primary production (material processing, fabrication, overland transport, etc.) occurs in China.
Secondly, and please read this slowly. China completed and brought into commercial operation 1,000, yes, 1,000 coal burning power plants in 3,000 days between 2004 and 2013. That’s one additional unit every three days. Total capacity: 550,000 MWe. Power engineers will appreciate this number but for most others, eyes glaze over.
This single feat is beyond comprehension in the industrial history of humans. And yet there is little note of this in the West. We just focus on carbon (dioxide) emissions.
Third, the Chinese government through the government owned and controlled banking system is in the habit of funding mega industries with low interest rate loans in order to dominate world markets.
So the pricing so gloriously celebrated is largely a product of cheap energy (carbon based), cheap capital (looming financial crisis?), and cheap Chinese labor (which is aging and fading away).
Before we project the cost curves above down to zero, we should understand the EROI (Energy Return on (energy) Invested)’ for electricity provided by ‘solar cells supported lithium storage’. Then compare the EROI when panel and battery production is based on (Chinese) coal versus the bootstrap operation (panels and batteries produced from energy supplied by panels and batteries).
When this calculation is complete with peer review by qualified engineers and economists, get back and let’s talk turkey (Thanksgiving Day is November 24 this year!). 😉

Johann Wundersamer

The battery of that same electric powered forklifter I had to extinguish fire held capacity for 24 hours working time = 3 shifts of 8 hours.
2.5 ys after first starting that same battery barely held for 8 hours = 1 shift.
So after 2.5 ys that same battery has lost 66.67% capacity while work amount remained the same: you load when there’s time window for loading; not when the battery’s already down.
That’s the 2000 cycles.

Johann Wundersamer

Going to work and the battery stench hangs in the hall your lungs collapse and you’re outsourced immediately.
Believe it or not.


I’m surprised no one has commented on the truncated Bloomberg graph, which makes it look like the price has already dropped to near-zero…until you read the values on the Y-axis.