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Despite the fuel efficiency benefits of a hybrid vehicle, the average cost premium of purchasing a hybrid over a conventional internal combustion vehicle is still approximately $2,000.
In order to begin seeing the cost benefits of fuel frugality, an ownership period may be as long as 6 years before money saved at the tank can make the initial premium of the hybrid technology seem worth it. Because of the long payback period, hybrids seem less appealing, reflected by the small market share of hybrid vehicles in North America at a mere 2.2 percent.
However, research firm Pikes Research predicts that the price difference between EVs and gasoline-powered cars will gradually lessen as the cost of lithium-ion battery production is expected to drop by over 30 percent by the end of 2017.
The key component for the drop in Li-Ion battery costs is the continuous innovation in the field of Li-ion battery technology and the streamlining of manufacturing processes to make its construction more cost effective. What’s more, as the access to lithium becomes more common, the price of raw materials should fall as well. Basically, Pikes Research claims, a growing demand of electric and hybrid vehicles will become the catalyst for the future cost decline.
Research director John Gartner explains, “The market for Li-Ion batteries will be driven primarily by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs), which require much larger battery packs than hybrids.” Gartner then adds, “Reducing the installed price of EV batteries to $523 per kilowatt hour in 2017 will be a critical step towards making PEVs cost-competitive with petroleum-powered vehicles.”
Studies from Pikes Research suggest that if electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles could really narrow the price gap, then the market for Li-Ion batteries will increase from $2 billion in 2011 to $14.6 billion by 2017. Approximately half of the demand is expected to come from Asia, 25 percent from the United States, and 21 percent from Europe.
[Source: Pikes Research]
Electric powered vehicles have long faced challenges in battery cell packaging and the difficulties of maximizing range optimizing weight and placement.
In the past, nickel-metal hydride cells failed to store enough energy to propel an EV any more than 100 miles and required a lengthy recharge after the battery depletes. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) does improve the volume-to-energy capacity ratio but automakers must still store battery cells that weigh 1,000 pounds.
Now, technology giant IBM has developed a new battery cell that promises to deliver a solution. Called the lithium-air (Li-air) battery, this new cell has the theoretical density of more than 1,000 greater than Li-ion. What’s more, IBM found the Li-air cells capable of being one-fifth the size and to possess a lifespan that is 5 times as long.
However, IBM withholds the technology for now because they discovered that frequent recharging cycles still compromise the life of the battery. Engineers are currently testing an alternative electrolyte to see whether they could attain improved results. A full-scale prototype is targeted to be ready by 2013.
[Source: New Scientist]