Battery Energy Density to Equal Gasoline by 2045: Report

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

The energy density of today’s automotive batteries does not compare very favorably to good old gasoline. However, researchers and scientists are continually pushing to improve the range and storage capacity of EVs.

And their hard work is paying off. According to the Argonne National Laboratory, the energy density of batteries should reach parity with fossil fuel by the year 2045. That means we’re just three decades away from electrified automotive nirvana, or so the popular narrative goes.

Unfortunately, things aren’t as favorable for EVs today. Directly comparing lithium-ion capacity to an identical amount of gasoline reveals that this battery technology only holds about 1 percent as much energy. But not so fast.

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According to the report, this common comparison isn’t accurate because internal-combustion engines are much less efficient than electric motors. In short, EVs need less energy to travel the same distance because they aren’t as wasteful.

Powertrain mass and efficiency matter in these equations as is stated in the paper: “The energy density of gasoline is about 100 times greater than that of a battery, but this does not mean that BEVs will have to weigh more than conventional vehicles to be able to run the same distance.”

In any event, researchers at the Argonne National Lab estimate that by 2045 battery-electric vehicles will compare very favorably to conventional vehicles “in terms of the energy spent at the wheel per kilogram of the powertrain mass.” This is because batteries and other components will continue to get lighter and more efficient.

[Source: Argonne National Laboratory]

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Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

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  • DoubleCoppers DoubleCoppers on May 13, 2016

    Wow. *Only* 30 more years to reach the same energy density as gasoline--IF all those projected technology breakthroughs actually occur. How much money and pollution will all that research cost? This report from Argonne Labs sounds suspiciously like it is designed to keep those people employed for the next 30 years.

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    • Perry F. Bruns Perry F. Bruns on May 17, 2016

      The first practical internal combustion engine was built in 1860 by J.J. Etienne. You may be thinking of either the first EXTERNAL combustion vehicle, built in 1769 by Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot: the Cugnot steam wagon. The first battery is literally thousands of years old (Google "Leyden jar"), but the first practical battery-powered car, according to the Department of Energy's history pages "...made its debut around 1890 thanks to William Morrison, a chemist who lived in Des Moines, Iowa. His six-passenger vehicle capable of a top speed of 14 miles per hour was little more than an electrified wagon, but it helped spark interest in electric vehicles." My timetable is far more accurate than you would believe. And with the advent of more efficient batteries, why would I NOT rely on solar and wind power to generate electricity that I could store for later? Plus, if I want power when a storm is going on, I would absolutely want access to wind power. The facts, and the weather, are on my side.