Why Lithium-ion Batteries Are So Expensive?

With climate change emerging as a threat to human existence, there’s an urgent need to cut down on pollution levels. It’s the reason why several countries have signed the ‘Paris Agreement’, which primarily aims to limit the rise in global average temperature to less than 3.6 °F (2 °C). Towards that end, the switch to electric vehicles (EVs) has emerged as one of the key focus areas.

We are already seeing a significant increase in EV brands and their acceptance among consumers. However, their numbers are still miniscule, as compared to the standard fossil-fuel powered vehicles. As of now, mass adoption of EVs is not taking place. One of the main bottlenecks is the high price of EVs. Electric vehicles cost much higher because they utilize expensive lithium-ion batteries. If you are wondering why, here are some reasons that explain why lithium-ion batteries are so expensive.

Expensive metals – Lithium-ion battery packs utilize metals that have limited availability on planet earth. As a result, they are quite expensive. The list includes metals like lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt. These are not as abundant as other metals like iron or aluminum.

Processing cost – These metals are needed in their purest form, which increases their production cost. Advanced processes are used to refine these metals and convert them into high-purity chemical compounds.

Per kilowatt hour (kWh) cost – On an average, lithium-ion batteries cost $156 per kilowatt hour. That’s quite expensive, even though prices have come down over the years. If we consider an electric car with 100 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, its battery alone will cost more than USD 15,000 at current rates. To bring the cost of EVs at par with fossil-fuel vehicles, the battery cost has to be below $100 per kilowatt hour. It’s only then that mass adoption of EVs can be a possibility.

Alternatives for lithium-ion batteries

So, will the future of our planet be adversely impacted by costly lithium-ion batteries? Well, that’s quite unlikely. It’s because researchers are working on several new battery technologies that have proven to be much cheaper and even offer a higher range than lithium-ion battery packs. Some of these newer battery platforms are also a lot safer and last much longer. Some examples include zinc-manganese oxide batteries, lithium-tungsten batteries, silicon electrolyte batteries, and aluminum-air battery.

However, most of these new battery technologies are still in development phase. So, they are still a few years away from being utilized on a commercial scale. But rest assured that something better is on the way. In the future, it is likely that there will be multiple battery options. These will be cheaper and better than the current generation of highly expensive lithium-ion batteries.

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