Chinese car battery manufacturers CALT announced that it is ready to produce a battery that can last for 1.2 million miles across the span of 16 years. This is double the lifespan and eight-times the mileage of current EV batteries, the best of which are typically warrantied for up to 150,000 miles for 8-10 years. This development implies that CATL has figured out a way to reduce battery degradation and loss of capacity -- a process that occurs naturally with batteries over time.
A battery of this caliber could change the EV industry for the better. It has been long thought that battery technology has yet to reach the capabilities necessary to overtake internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles for good. While the first generation of fully electric vehicles are still coming to age, there is not yet a comprehensive idea of the impact of long-term consumer use on EVs and batteries. Nonetheless, a battery of this capacity could significantly drive forward EV adoption and provoke larger energy storage solutions.
Declining battery costs
It’s believed that what’s dubbed as the “million-mile battery” could help bring down battery costs. Currently, EV batteries cost around $175 to $300 per kilowatt-hour. Analysts believe that battery costs would need to decline to $100 per kilowatt-hour for the prices of EVs to be comparable to that of ICE vehicles. While it has been projected that this cost could be reached by 2025, researchers at MIT have begged to differ.
A report published by the MIT Energy Initiative last year states that the $100/kwh price point may not be reached in the next few years if EV manufacturers continue to rely on lithium-ion batteries. Even though the cost has already been on a steady decline, they predict it would slow down as it reaches the limitations of the cost of raw materials. Moreover, as the demand for lithium-ion batteries will continue to increase, they state it would be unlikely that battery prices would decrease significantly.
CATL’s new battery is currently priced at a 10% premium of their current EV batteries. While the upfront cost is certainly pricier, it makes up for it by its longevity. EV batteries account for a third of the vehicle’s total cost, so the thought of having to replace it if something happens can be daunting for vehicle owners. This is one of the reasons for consumer hesitation towards electric vehicles. Even though most major vehicle manufacturers warranty their batteries for about 8 years, manufacturers and consumers are still waiting to see exactly how long the batteries will last.
The longevity of the battery could even out the overall lifetime cost of ownership by reducing the likelihood that the battery would need to be replaced. The long term durability of the battery could certainly alleviate vehicle owners’ concerns
Longevity, however, does not denote capacity. The capacity per charge of the EV battery would still be determined by the size of battery that can be placed within the vehicle. So while the million-mile battery may address durability concerns, it may not actually address range anxiety. This is another aspect of the battery that would still need to be improved.
The second life of batteries
An average ICE passenger car lasts about 8-12 years and 150,000 to 200,000 miles. With fewer mechanical parts, EVs could last longer than traditional cars. However, if EVs end up having similar lifespans, the million-mile battery would outlive the rest of the car. This could give rise to battery recycling and repurposing, further decreasing the cost of energy storage. The EV battery pack could be reused in a second vehicle or even in other applications such as grid storage.
The million-mile battery could be a significant breakthrough for electric vehicles of all sizes. Commercial or heavy-duty vehicles such as taxis, buses, and trucks would benefit from a durable battery. The batteries of these vehicles typically endure much more stress than private passenger vehicles, with deeper and more frequent discharges and higher power requirements. Again, while it does not necessarily address the energy capacity of the vehicle per charge, it provides a more lasting solution.
With large applications such as grid storage, long-term sustainability is a key concern as frequent maintenance or power-failures could be costly and dangerous. However, a battery of this ability could also be significant to pushing forward this energy storage solution. The CATL packs are estimated to last for 20 years in applications such as energy storage.
The future of EV Batteries
Electrical vehicle battery manufacturers are looking into different ways to further improve battery technology including solid-state electrolytes, heavy-metal free batteries, ultra-fast charging, and higher energy capacity solutions. The EV industry is still finding its footing in the global push towards addressing climate change; a considerable improvement in battery technology would play a huge part in pushing clean energy and a wider acceptance of these solutions. Click the link to see how Arbin is helping to drive the future of EVs.