At $100/kWh It Is “All Over” For The Internal Combustion Engine – Energy Expert

SEP 3 2013 BY JAY COLE 61

We know that as costs for batteries have come down, the costs of plug-in cars have followed suit.

Ultimately, Price Moves Metal

Ultimately, Price Moves Metal

When was the last time the MSRP on a strictly fossil fuel vehicle came down by $5,000 like the Chevrolet Volt did this month?  Or the $4,000 off the Focus Electric?  Or the $6,400* off Nissan LEAF(*-with a little de-contenting)

The result of these significant price drops?

The Chevrolet Volt is going to set an all-time record this month for EV sales (at more than 3,000 units), and the new 2013 Nissan LEAF has sold 10,400 units in its first 5 months on the market (2,080/month) – that’s 600 more than it sold in all of 2012.

But at what cost do plug-in vehicles reach parity with the traditional internal combustion engine?  To make the “top 20” vehicles sold list in the US in any given month, the Chevrolet Volt is still about 12,000 shy – so really, not that close.  And further still, at what price can the plug-in make the gas vehicle irrelevant?

Tony Seba, an energy expert from Stanford University, who has published a book called Solar Trillions – which spoke to the opportunities ahead in that solar (well before the cost of solar plummeted of late), is working on a follow-up – but with some pretty specific predictions for electric vehicles as well.

“The tipping point for the mass market to move from internal combustion engines to EVs is between $US250 and $US300/kWh. Once it gets to $US100/kWh, it is all over. I think we will get to $US250/kWh by 2020. By 2030, when batteries are at $100/kWh, gasoline vehicles will be obsolete. Not on their way out, obsolete,” said Mr. Seba to RENew Economy, while noting that he thinks that “mass migration” to EVs will start between 2018 to 2020.

Tesla Model S - Next Green Car - Executive Winner

Tesla Model S – Next Green Car – Executive Winner

It is interesting to note that Tesla has pretty much said they are right around the $250/kWh mark now using a version of off-the-shelf cylindrical laptop cells from Panasonic.  (Almost all other electric vehicle makers have chosen automotive-specific/larger pouch batteries which are said to hold greater long-term cost saving potential – but just not yet)

So how has it gone for Tesla? Are they at a “tipping point” against the ICE?

Tesla does indeed outsell all their peers in the high end luxury category (including the likes of the Mercedes S Class, Audi A8 and the BMW 7-Series), and also sports a $20 billion dollar market cap – based mostly on their future outlook.  So the author seems to have built a case.  Especially since Tesla also is being penalized by being a small OEM with little to no established infrastructure.

The author says of Tesla specifically:

“Basically, EVs were supposed to be expensive and underpowered and weak and 50 years away. Tesla showed all that was wrong. The EV will do to oil what solar will do to coal, nuclear and gas. EVs are a disruptive technology, there is no doubt about that.”

As for Mr. Seba’s forte – solar energy, he says that by 2030, it will make the fossil fuel industry pretty much redundant.

Categories: Battery Tech, Chevrolet, Ford, Nissan, Tesla

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61 Comments on "At $100/kWh It Is “All Over” For The Internal Combustion Engine – Energy Expert"

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The LGchem cells in the Volt cost 3000$, little under 200$/kWh.
And if the car wasn’t so heavy and wasteful then you could do with half of that.

/Mod edit (thread topic)

Link proving your claim for the cost of LGChem cells?

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Wow! That is an inexpensive, relatively large battery pack that would work perfectly in many EV conversions.

That means one of 2 things:
a) The battery does actually cost $3k and GM are getting supply chains built up right now in order so they can crank up PHEV production and wipe out their competitors.
b) The battery has a subsidized price of $3k, with that $3k representing a future unsubsidized price target.

I remember reading that the Prius battery cost anywhere from $3000 to $2800 to replace on a regular Prius battery for a older model Prius

If these two prices are true on the Volt and on the Prius this means the volt can go on a little bit of a Prius hunt or at the least the Prius is obsolete and bringing the pricing inline with the Prius may not be out of the question.

The Prius battery is NiMH, not Lithium. Toyota continues to use NiMH bacuase they invexsted heavily in that technology, before Lithium bacame the standard. This is still true for new Priuses.

I checked on the dealer installation about a year ago and that only adds $360 to the price. Not bad…..

I watched a “How It’s Made” on both lithium pouch batteries and alkaline cylinders this weekend. The cylindrical units were not lithium, but the video showed the investment in amazingly specialized machinery for the cylindrical cells that took advantage of the greater size of that market. Meanwhile, the pouch cell process looked almost like a cottage industry. The video was from a few years ago, and I think investments have been made to take advantage of the higher volume since then, but there will be much more automation to take advantage of a half-billion-unit market coming in the future.

So, Tesla was smart to get in with 18650s, AND the other OEMs are smart to go with pouch cells, since they have the capital to invest in automating the production of that format, long term. Cells will definitely get much cheaper over time with volume. Is there a pouch format standard, like the 18650 standard, that would contribute to lowering the costs on production machinery?

As I’ve been saying, we’re at a point now where a Leaf S with double the battery capacity using current technology is roughly a $35k car ($28,800 + 24 * $250), or about $27,300 after the $7,500 US federal incentive.

Even adding in some state incentives, where available, that’s still not low enough to overcome the misperceptions and plain old ignorance of the mainstream US consumer regarding EVs to let them take the market by storm. But it’s definitely getting much closer, as the gap is closing from both ends — consumers are getting better educated and the price is coming down.

I don’t think that gasoline engine vehicles will be “obsolete” at $100/kWh. It will happen sooner, possibly much sooner. All signs are that gasoline will only get more expensive in the coming years, which will further push consumers to look for alternatives.

I think it could happen a lot faster such as if they came out with a leaf that had a 150 mile range next year I bet sales of the leaf would double or triple in that it would get a lot of people in more rural areas including myself to jump off the sidelines into the EV market. I don’t think it’s prices at this point holding down EV’s but the size of the batteries in that they should start looking at putting in 30kWh and 40kWh in the next model year do to falling battery prices. What is interesting from some of the data we have been finding is that the battery prices across the board are right now anywhere from $300 to $200 and I remember reading a story that the Nissan Leaf back in 2011 cost $375 a kilowatt hour to make. So at the least Nissan should try raising battery power to the big 100 mile mark. As for oil powered cars the rising gas prices or some kind of oil shock will help do them in. When they talk about global warming with Ev’s they turn a lot of people off instead they should… Read more »

+1 How many guesses should automakers need as to why Tesla is successful?

Uh, no. The reason you need $100/kWh is that cheap batteries would cause widespread electrification that would dramatically cut petroleum use and that would help suppress prices. So you have to go lower than current break-even to counteract the price suppression. Over 60% of global petroleum use is for transportation. Even though lower petroleum prices would then help grow the global economy and expand demand, the key to suppressing prices is that a large amount of the use outside of transportation is not in instantaneous end-user demand. When you add in increasing fuel efficiency and the continual increase in the use of solar power and other tech alternatives* to displace kerosene lighting in developing countries (LED is another important technology) you’re on a steady path of petroleum demand suppression.

* has a nice idea called the Gravity Light

I think a range extender can be made much cheaper than 24*$250, and will make the LEAF a zero-compromise EV.

75 mile EVs are enough to electrify 12k+ miles per year. 150 mile EVs may push that up by 1k (how often does a typical driver do more than 75 miles a day?), and you still will find limitations on rare occasion. I don’t think it makes sense to produce and lug around all those extra 24kWh for an extra 1000 miles. Maybe at $100/kWh it does, but not for the next decade.

But a range extender? It’ll last forever if only used for a couple thousand miles a year. It can be pretty light and cheap, like a motorbike engine. Finally, it outright eliminates range anxiety.

A larger battery requires less energy to lug around than a range extender burning gas.
A larger battery means less cycling per year, meaning longer lasting.
A larger battery mean more power output than a smaller battery.
A larger battery is more expensive than a smaller battery – no so tragic at $100/kWh.

1. No it doesn’t. A 25kW range extender will be far lighter than 24kWh of batteries, which weighs 600 lbs on the LEAF including cooling/protection. The i3 REX weighs ~260 lbs.

2. True, but that may not be a big factor. 3000 cycles * 70 miles per cycle gives you 210k miles. Modern batteries are rated for even longer, but we’ll have to see how they fare in the real world.

3. True, but 24 kWh at 10C discharge (easy for modern batteries) gives you 322hp. That’s plenty, and 0.5kWh of supercaps can be used for more power.

4. That’s what I said. At $200+/kWh, however, it does matter.

1. I did not just mean weigh, but the amount of energy per mile used by burning hydrocarbons, after all the energy, including electricity, used to drill, pump, transport, refine, transport and finally pump them into the tank.

3. Supercaps are still too expensive.

4. Agreed.

Don’t forget the weight of the fuel and BTW teh Volts RE is much heaver…..

We are not yet at 100 $/KWh, but even if we were, at 0.2 KWh/mile, that would mean for 500 miles a total of 10000 $. A well made range extender can be at much cheaper than that. So, I would agree with Mint that 75 EV miles with a micro rex is for a very long time to come the economic and practical optimum. A car that is affordable has decent EV range and can take you on vacation anytime anywhere, even in Africa.

There’s no ignorance out there, it’s just that nobody wants to wonder if they are going to be able to get home every time they leave the house with their little battery cars. ” Oh, I changed my plans after work and need to go across town, oh now I am low on charge! Let me just stay overnight while my car charges and I will get home tomorrow !” Electric cars could be free and most people won’t take them. When a battery can get me 400 miles and charge up in 15 minutes ( like a gas car) then give me a call….until then they are a failure. Oh, plus we have 300 years worth of gasoline conservatively so give me a call a few centuries from now.

Yes, and in the meantime, for the sake of convenience, you can prefer to support the highly corrupt oil business, including theft of natural resources, destruction of the plantlife and the very air we need to breath, leading to the death and suffering of many of your fellow human beings across the globe, including in your own country.


What I’m saying is people will not sacrifice convenience to save the planet. If that tactic worked we would not have any planetary problems now. People will look after their own self interests. Therefore whining about saving the planet does no good. You must create a superior product in order to “save the planet” if that is what you want to do. I’m sure you live under a rock, naked, consume no power at all and are friends with your little local woodland creatures. Of course not. People want cheap power and convenience, they are not evil for that. I am just asking you people to build a better mousetrap and you will save the world. I’m just not about to be portrayed as a selfish corrupt oilman. I like my four oil wells , they support me and my family. And my cattle that live right above my freshly fracked wells I’ll buy your electric car, just make one as good as my Ford F350 4×4. Now go my little furry friend………SAVE THE PLANET!!!!!

You are right.
Humans are selfish and this is the result.

Also i am not stealing natural resources. i paid for this land my friend. I would call people who want government tax breaks for electric cars the thieves. you take my money at the point of a gun and give it to loser solar and electric companies that cant make an affordable car with any performance. Besides you guys don’t want to drill for oil…..that means they are not resources . They are only resources if we go after them.

Maybe not you personally, but look at the oil industry as a whole, and the people trampled on.
Look at those who suffer the consequences of pollution.
They all pay part of the price for what we want.
They do not agree with this arrangement.
We you pay for something without agreeing to it, you are being stolen from.
We are buying stolen goods.

We still have to let consumers know there are electric vehicles! Yes, really. Now, I work for a technology company, and many people in this company know about electric vehicles. However, talking with regular people on the street, a majority of those I talk with don’t know there are cars powered exclusively by electricity. The question they typically ask, “Do you mean a hybrid?”

A lot of people are shocked when I tell them that they exist. But it’s amazing at the same time how many people I have talked to hate them with a passion.

They r useless, unless you use one to play golf in!

Who plays golf in a golf cart?

You are giving the strong impression that you are a strange and illogical human being.

I have a golf cart and I play golf what’s the big deal… you want me to walk 18 holes?

“Almost all other electric vehicle makers have chosen automotive-specific/larger pouch batteries which are said to hold greater long-term cost saving potential – but just not yet.”

I think this is key point. Tesla is riding the mass manufacturing advantage of the cylindrical cells. But ultimately, it is a dead-end because it is wasteful on packaging costs. As soon as automotive prismatic form factor cells hit the larger mass manufacturing scale, they will be cheaper and thus enable a little bit more of a price drop. I don’t think we’ll ever hit the $100/KWH because material costs won’t allow it, IMHO. Of course I could be wrong.

But I am certain that battery prices will ultimately compare favorably against gasoline prices if only due to gasoline prices ultimate rising more due to high demand and oil being harder to find and more expensive to extract.

There appear to be other advantages to smaller cell size.
– Easier to handle defective cells. Losing one out of thousands is less of an impact than one of 96 in the Leaf.
– Easier to handle overheating cells. Lots less energy in a single cell makes it easier to prevent fires.
– More consistent temperature control by spreading coolant around smaller cells.
– Easier to create narrow form factor under the passenger compartment.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Don’t forget that massive numbers of energy batteries gets past any limitations of LiIon and power. To quote Stalin, “Quantity has a quality all its own.”

C’mon people, it’s simple. The reason EVs have not yet reached the mass market is the price. It’s not that people are ignorant, it’s that most people cannot or will not overpay for a vehicle. When the price reaches parity with ICE (and different people with define that in different ways), we’ll see all the “ignorant” people start buying them.

Not simple. Not as long as overall vehicle cost is a function of cost-to-fuel.

It is simple, considering that most people tend not to view overall vehicle cost, and if they did, they would see that evs cost-to-fuel is lower.

But even here in Europe, with higher fuel prices, I find that in my yearly cost of ownership, fuel prices play quite a minor role.

A minor roll maybe but the United States is huge. I commute 108 miles one way in Texas. Where is my electric solution? That’s right there is not an electric solution. You people act like everybody lives in a nice tight metropolitan area. Get a car that drives 400 miles and can recharge in the time it takes to gas up and requires no government subsidies then I will buy you little toy cars.

It already has reached price parity. Several EVs can be leased for $200/mo and need about $35 in electricity to go 1000 miles. So that’s $235/mo.

A gas car will need about $100/mo in fuel to cover that same distance. What gas car can you lease for the remaining $135/mo that is anywhere near as well equipped as a LEAF? Even if you’re purchasing the car, finance payment plus fuel puts the LEAF ahead.

The real problem is range/charging and, IMO, styling.

Price does play a huge role, at least that of the batteries.

Not everyone buys new cars.
I have never bought one, as they lose so much value as soon as you turn the key.

By the time they become the used cars most people buy, they will probably need a new battery.

True, which is why CAFE and EV tax credits are important. People who buy new cars have higher income than average, so they don’t care much about fuel efficiency, and certainly not about running costs over 15+ year lifetimes. The majority of people buy used cars, but they’re stuck with with the selection that new buyers made for them years earlier. Unless a used car guzzles so much that it’s literally worthless, it will find a use from someone until it stops working.

One possible way to change this, however, is with the cellphone model. EVs get sold below cost, but only run if you pay $60/month. That still puts running cost below that of a fuel efficient gas car, and the manufacturer gets an income stream for the life of the car which has a present value of maybe $10k.

Eliminate tax breaks…….I’m tired of paying for you guys cars. Make a product that can stand on its own.

It is not simple at all. It is impossible to make a really informed buying decision because you don’t know the price of gas in the future, the interest rates in the future, the price of batteries in the future, etc.

The best you can do is make an educated guess. You’ll pay more up-front for that EV but you’ll be assured of a low fueling cost.

It’s not price you people, get over it, IT IS RANGE AND CHARGING TIME!!!!!!!!!!! Price always takes care of itself in the free market. When you have a product that everybody likes, the factories gear up and produce more, when you produce more units price goes down. Economics 101. Example: cell phone is cheap and very complex, a lamp at the local furniture store is probably the most basic of electrical devices going back a hundred years…..why is that lamp $200 and the cell phone $49 or free? Economy of scale. I see this in my electronics business. Parts that are simple but rarely used are expensive, however, I have a number of very complex and difficult to manufacture parts that everybody needs and they are cheap. You have to build an electric car that goes as far as a gas car,AND can be “refueled” just as fast to compete. People will spend a great deal of money to solve a problem. They will spend very little to create a problem. An electric car creates a problem. Short range and long refueling time. Solve that and they will become cheap cheap cheap. Microwave ovens can be had for $39 at… Read more »

There probably needs to be a weight reduction advancement in addition to the $100/kWh so that cars can get a 200 mile range with a battery pack that weighs the same as the 80 mile range packs of today.

Ultracapacitors are cheaper. Especialy the ones that are made of Graphene. Even though it is not publicly known. I am sure that they are coming soon on the market with higher energy density than Li ion batteries. They will be less than $100/Kw

I believe I read somewhere that Tesla is working on R&D for a battery/ultra capacitor hybrid design for the Gen3 vehicle electric storage. Wonder how that’s going.

Really? Last I heard ultra-capacitors were at least 20x more expensive than batteries.
Any link to these cheap caps?

They’re not cheaper. Not by a long shot.

Ultracaps need a production technology breakthrough to even have a chance at matching batteries in cost.

Besides, the first application of cheap, dense ultracaps will be cell phones. Premium phone makers will pay over $1000/kWh for a phone battery (~10 Wh) that charges in a minute or two.

It’s charging time that is the issue more than range. I’ll pullover every 100 miles or so if I can charge up I 15 minutes.

My personal tipping point is *real* 120ER (which is about 200ER EPA) in a car that is a large enough form factor for me and the wife and the occasional grand-kid. Volt’s size is a little tight. I need something like Malibu or Impala size. (or Model X).

80ER doesn’t cut it because I do 80miles on a lot of days. Plus, the range goes way down when using cabin heat.

In other words, to replace my primary (in-town) car, it needs to do everything my Volt does for in-town driving.

The other issue is if you use 50 miles ER and sometimes 80 miles, what happens if the car doesn’t charge that night? With a 120ER car, you would be empty in 2 days. Yeah, it’s convenient to charge every day, but, if something goes awry, you have a transportation problem.

The whole point of this rant is that the price/kwh is not the only factor. Reliability and over-capacity that people are used to needs to be there.

Sounds like the Rav4EV would meet your requirements. I can do 130 miles at 65mpg with no problems with mine.

I agree but it also sounds like you made the case for keeping a Volt as a backup alternate energy source. I too would like more leg room in the rear of the Volt and an additional inch or two in height. I could care less about a 5th seat. I like many am watching the gen III Tesla for the real 120 ER but more than likely will keep the Volt even if I purchase a gen III or Model S. If one wants to know how long a battery will really last I will let them know because I plan to drive the wheels off. Like Kdawg I am one of the 5% who own mine.

The volt is tight for you, your wife and one other person?

How big are you? 🙂

Another oil war and $5 gas will force the transition faster…


I would not count on it.

No amount of other people’s blood with cause people to give up a slight amount of convenience.

And $5 gas would be very cheap for Europe, yet there is little change here; we just get the fuel efficient polluters.

The new Volt and Spark EV pricing is more than competitve with gasoline, when you consider fuel costs the Volt and Spark EV win hands down.

The 100 KWH mark would make it desirable to take even old fuel efficient cars, still in working order off the street.

The question of the day really is: Can GM and Nissan or any other automaker come up with the batteries to produce the cars in the volumes that these prices dictate. In other words as the orders come flying in will GM actually have the batteries. This will be Tesla’s challenge as well.

There is a lot of research going on in the battery field. This goal of superior batteries with at least 3x energy density and $100/kwh will be met before 2023. Might even be 5x better energy density. This is why I believe fuel cell cars won’t have a chance. FCVs may grab some noticeable market share in the next 2 to 10 years, but after that they will die out. I hate to think about how many $B of our tax payer dollars will go into the Hydrogen infrastructure without our permission, just to be obsolete in 10 years.

I agree about fuel cells being a dead end except maybe as a range extender when they get really cheap in 10-20 years.

But 3-5x density and $100/kWh by 2023? No way. Density isn’t even a problem for EVs, as proven by the roomy Model S. Density takes a back seat to cycle life, and a lot of nanostructures used in bleeding edge research won’t last that long.

$200/kWh paired with 4000 real-world cycles (which is almost the reality for current tech) is enough for a PHEV to replace most gasoline use. All we need is a financing plan similar to cell phones. $2/day (way less than gasoline) * 4000 days can easily finance 20 kWh (more than enough for 40 miles a day) * $200/kWh plus electronics and a motor.

It’s a real shame that nobody is using the Renault Zoe financing model in the US, but I guess it’s a matter of confidence in battery life. Otherwise, there is a lot of long term money to be made this way.

Range anxiety and charge time are the two big challenges currently facing EVs. A ‘plug in/demountable’ Rex would be a good idea. Something that could be stored in the garage and driven up to close-coupled and then plugged into the vehicle for longer trips. Hey now there is an idea, time to get out and invent this mother!

You’ll have to pry my Nissan 370Z out of my cold dead hands before I’d EVER consider buying an electric car.

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