JB Straubel’s Ten Year Outlook On Electric System Transformation (w/video)

JUL 15 2015 BY MARK HOVIS 66


“The cost of lithium-ion batteries will quickly plummet, and that will transform transportation and electricity use,” says JB Straubel.

Original quote/article via , Fortune here

The promises of the transformative battery is numbing at times. It seems that every month is filled with a university breakthrough that will change the industry. When Tesla’s CTO JB Straubel speaks on the state of battery technology, we pause to listen. Straubel after all is one of the key inventors of the company’s battery pack technology, as well as one of the core executives involved in the company’s five billion dollar battery gigafactory.

While speaking at a solar conference in San Francisco Monday night, Straubel described a future of new electricity systems from homes to transportation that will be powered with solar panels combined with batteries. He further predicted that lower battery cost will begin to transform transportation and access to electricity via solar within the next decade.

Not only have we been inundated with new technologies, so have we been covered with reports and studies on the decline in battery costs accompanied with less aggressive implementation time lines. Here is Straubel’s take on the matter:

“All of this focus on battery cost and all of this focus on connectivity, and how we manage the charging times of cars and their interface to the grid, it was somewhat natural for us to expand our products into the grid market. It also helps us enable this synergy between photovoltaics, wind, and renewables in general with cars. Because our fundamental goal is how do we get sustainability into transportation. We don’t want to just make cars electric. We need to link cars all the way back to where energy comes from. It has to be renewable energy to what we have to do.”

Straubel on the cost of battery storage:  

“I think we are at the beginning of a new cost decline curve, with a lot of similarities to what happened with photovoltaics. Almost no one today would have predicted that the price would have dropped as fast as they have with photovoltaics and storage is right at the cliff heading down that price curve. “

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When it becomes cheaper to drive on battery energy than it is to drive on gasoline, electric vehicles will dominate world transportation, predicted Straubel.

Likewise, he said, that the cost of energy storage is going to fall and there is going to be much faster growth of grid energy storage than anyone expected. When the combination of batteries and solar panels become cheap enough to provide electricity for less than the cost of fossil fuel power, solar energy will become the low cost choice. “Once we get to that, there is no going back.”

That’s the amazing tipping point that’s going to happen, I am quite certain, over the next 10 years,” said Straubel. Straubel called Tesla Energy a “turning point” for what Tesla represents and the products that Tesla will sell.

Additional details and remarks from Straubel in source Fortune article here.

Categories: Charging, Tesla


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66 Comments on "JB Straubel’s Ten Year Outlook On Electric System Transformation (w/video)"

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Bring it on!

I don’t see the video here, or in the source article.

Now I see it! Thanks!

Sorry about that…accidently lost the link connection for a couple minutes.


Solar will indeed become dirt cheap, and the problem then does shift to storage, but hydrogen will offer batteries a run for their money in the grid storage market; implementation is already underway in Germany (http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2014/07/hydrogen-energy-storage-a-new-solution-to-the-renewable-energy-intermittency-problem.html).

However, I can understand JB’s viewpoint; when you have a Gigafactory hammer, every storage problem looks like a nail.

The article only address electrolyzer costs, doesn’t really touch on storage and generation of electricity from hydrogen.

A lot of the storage comparisons today assume a lower bound of $700/kWh for batteries. Tesla’s talking more like $100/kWh. That’s going to change a lot of equations.

Hydrogen storage costs are dominated by electrolyzer costs; battery storage systems by battery cost. Some capex estimates here:

… put hydrogen capex at five cents per kWh, which is the same as a $100kwh battery–and that’s with today’s technology.

This is why Musk always talks about efficiency when trashing hydrogen–because costs are much better with H2, at least at present.

I don’t think you are understanding what you are linking. They are saying under an assumption of electricity costing $0.05/kWh, with high utilization, they estimate they can get hydrogen costs down to $3.82/kg.

It is not talking about cost per kWh of storage, which is what the $100/kWh represents for the battery. For that you have to figure out the costs of the hydrogen tank per kg of storage, which your slide doesn’t touch on.

I should note too that the battery serves multiple roles vs just a hydrogen storage tank. The hydrogen equivalent needs also an electrolyzer, compressor, and fuel cell to match the same as a battery.

Since the original comment talked about the grid storage market for batteries vs. hydrogen, shouldn’t we be computing the costs of storing hydrogen in salt caverns and other geological formations (at 200 bar pressure) as opposed to hydrogen storage tanks.



Maybe, but so far this has never been done so there is no real world numbers for costs, only projections. And similar to pumped hydro, there is a limited amount of areas where this such storage is viable (while storage tanks and batteries are viable regardless of geography).

You’re right, hydrogen looks like a screw, not a nail.

Mr. Electric said:

“…hydrogen will offer batteries a run for their money in the grid storage market; implementation is already underway in Germany…”

Let’s see: In-situ hydrogen generation offers power storage at maybe 30-40% round-trip efficiency; battery storage offers power storage at about 75-80% round-trip efficiency.

Nope, not gonna be any real competition from hydrogen, especially with the cost of batteries rapidly dropping. The fact that Germany or Japan or any other country has already invested in hydrogen generation just means they’ve wasted a lot of money on a dead-end technology.

Are you proposing that in the future, when renewable energy will account for the vast majority of the electric grid mix, that Germany and Japan should use batteries to store electricity on a countrywide scale for the summer/winter seasonal variation in solar electricity production? How would that work exactly? You would charge a battery once with renewable energy in the summer, then discharge it once in the winter to make up for a shortfall in solar energy, then repeat this one-cycle per year use of the batteries every year? You would do this on a countrywide scale for 180 days, every day of the winter, late fall, and early spring? That doesn’t sound very efficient. Don’t batteries also deteriorate with age, so that you would have to replace the entire countrywide battery storage system every 20 years or so?

Rather than manufacturing enough batteries for countrywide storage and then having to replace them every 20 years, wouldn’t it be cheaper to store the excess summer renewable electricity as hydrogen in underground salt caverns and other geological formations that last for centuries or millennia.



If you can install it yourself, solar PV is beyond dirt cheap.

I’m waiting for someone to project what the local electric company’s role in that future would look like.

Would the grid really still be a supply system? Wouldn’t it turn into an overflow and redistribution system?

Or perhaps it becomes like home ownership, if you can afford to produce your own electricity, you save and get paid. But if not, you pay for the electricity your neighbors generate for you.

Without completely redoing all the insulation, windows, doors, and A/C in my house ($50,000 or so in cost) I could never generate enough solar to power my entire house and I’m sure there are a lot of homes out there that are the same way.

Without some revolution in solar cells (that’s a long wait for a train that wont come), there isn’t enough roof area for most people to be completely self sufficient with 365 sunny days per year, never mind what your actual local conditions are.

Solar and storage can take the peak off the day for most areas of the country. Otherwise, you still need baseload plants to provide baseline power. Wind and storage might be able to do that over time. But I expect natural gas to beat out more solar and storage for the next 25 years.

I could get by generating most of my modest electrical use, around 250 kwh per month, which is around 1/3 of what most houses use.
So yeah, for the most part solar will only pay part of the bill for most people.

2000 kWh/year (base) + 500 kWh/year (per Person) is the european average. You are probably close to that.

Probably. Here in the U.S. I’m in the top 5% efficiency, in Europe I probably would be nearer the middle.

There will still be a lot of customers for the local electric utility. Generally speaking, only single-family homes have sufficient room on the roof for solar panels to provide enough energy for the building. Apartment buildings, commercial buildings, and especially industrial buildings will continue to need electricity provided from off-site. And here’s a fact that solar power advocates like to sweep under the rug: Residential solar power is almost never used to disconnect from the grid. Home owners typically install only enough solar power generation to offset the home’s consumption during the hours of highest demand and highest energy cost. Those with residential solar power usually continue to buy electricity from the grid at night, when prices are cheaper. So although wide distribution of rooftop solar power plus battery backup will reduce the demand for residential grid power, it won’t eliminate it. Solar power installations may make a similar impact on some commercial buildings; the ones that are only one- or two-story buildings. Multi-story building, like large apartment buildings, will continue to depend on grid power for nearly all their power. On a related topic: What I think a lot of people are ignoring is that utilities are going to… Read more »

Uh . . . the fact that some 96+% of solar PV homes are grid-tied is no secret dude.

And what is wrong with that? Nothing.

Actually . . . it is MUCH BETTER than being off-grid.

It is currently the best way to do things. The grid has massive amounts of excess capacity at night and not quite enough power during the day such that expensive peaker plants are required. Being grid tied means the solar PV HELPS the utility by providing peak electricity when it is needed most. The utility repays the borrowed electricity with excess electricity they have at night.

Eventually, when solar PV penetration becomes much larger, then storage will be needed. But for now, you are much better off spending money on more solar PV panels instead of buying batteries.

“Actually . . . it is MUCH BETTER than being off-grid.”

Dealing with the power companies is like dealing with a used car salesman. Its a matter of when, not if, they are going to screw you over.

The aforementioned screwover is already happening in places. The power companies are required to purchase power at the same rate they sell it back to you right (net metering). The power companies read a good book called “buy low and sell high”, and are lobbying against net metering.

Ie., at the end of the day you will have paid a lot of money to provide cheap power to the power companies.

Oh, and by the way. All of you folks running off to install microinverters? Forget about EVER adding storage to your solar systems.

Well, they are a monopoly so they’ve kinda got the power to screw you. But that is why we have the CPUC to regulate them. The PV rules will change as it become more popular but I’ll get grandfathered in. That’s one of the advantages of being an early adopter in this situation.

Oh microinverters can definitely add a battery. Yes, it is slightly more complex but doable with AC coupling as already mentioned.

There is a slight drop in efficiency but if it is being used as a back-up system, it will rarely be used to the efficiency drop really is not an issue.

Speculawyer said:

“Uh . . . the fact that some 96+% of solar PV homes are grid-tied is no secret dude.

“And what is wrong with that? Nothing.

“Actually . . . it is MUCH BETTER than being off-grid.”

Looks like I pushed your button, Speculawyer. Sorry about that. Actually, I think we’re on the same page here. I don’t see electric utilities as the “enemy”, and one of the things I was saying is that the grid isn’t going to stop being either useful or necessary. Perhaps I didn’t make that clear.

very positive and uplifting news

does anyone else here want this to happen sooner? Get sick of cycling and having all the smoggy fumes blown in my face. Just walking down the road to the shops is noisy with all the diesel engines roaring along.

I found the linked Fortune article a far more interesting read.

Quoting Fortune:

While the cost of lithium-ion batteries has dropped in recent years, Straubel said that the price will continue to decline dramatically — and he thinks it will happen much more quickly than most people think. These batteries are just at the beginning, or at “the cliff,” of even lower prices, said Straubel.

When it becomes cheaper to drive on battery energy than it is to drive on gasoline, electric vehicles will dominate world transportation, predicted Straubel. Likewise, he said, when the combination of batteries and solar panels become cheap enough to provide electricity for less than the cost of fossil fuel power, solar energy will become the low cost choice.
[end quote]

We should take Straubel’s remarks with a few grains of salt; after all, he is selling something.

But if I was to bet on it, I’d bet that this is much closer to what’s really going to happen over the next 10 years than any of those “outlooks” from Pike Research or Lux Research.

It’s certainly exciting to think we’re on the edge of the cliff of the EV revolution shifting into high gear!

I did bet on it! Hope it works for me! 🙂

Uh yeah . . . he is selling very expensive electric cars. If he is right then he is basically telling you to wait instead of buying an EV now. So he is kinda talking against his own best interest.

Speaking the truth, might seem like a conflict of interest for him…

But I don’t think JB’s against the less wealthy masses waiting for the Model 3’s… 2-3 years away isn’t that far off, and EV’s and related tech, will be much more mature, well rounded products and much more affordable.

That might be a far better time to buy into EV’s and Solar, than at any point in the recent past. And it still dovetails nicely into what he’s saying, today. So, I don’t see any conflict.

Well, hummmm, the EV1 came out with the Nickel batteries (Gen2) in 1999 or maybe a bit earlier… That’s 16 years ago, and could go 100-140 miles on a charge. The suggested retail price was around $32,000? Even though the REAL cost of the car varied between $80k and $250 k, anyone hoping for ANY improvement value wise in the next 16 years was going to be deeply disappointed. IF you had told someone 16 years ago that the current roughly $32,000 – 140 mile range GM car was, in 2015, sixteen years later: 1). Not going to be available, although they do make a PHEV that can go 40 miles with an engine backup 1a). GM’s current recharge rate is 1/2 that of the old EV1, although one EV which doesn’t have nearly the EV1’s range, may also be quick charged at a few public qc’s. 2). The ev’s currently available sixteen years later for the same price have just a bit better than HALF the range of the EV1. 2A). THere is a company that makes a car that will go farther, but plan on spending $100,000 minimum. The person from SIXTEEN YEARS AGO would say, “What the….… Read more »

Yeah, the original EV-1s had lead-acid . . . that’s just not viable. The NiMH made them viable. But the 100 to 140 mile range number is exaggerated IMHO.

And the price was definitely NOT $32K. There was no price. Lease only. And a lease that was massively subsidized by GM.

This was the MSRP even though none were offered directly for sale, according to Wikipedia. Argue the point with them.

The volt was initially subsidized also.

It was expensive only because they built a very small number… Like any model to be successful, it must be built massively. Scale economy is a very important factor in an industrial society.

It was “The M.S.R.P. for the EV1 ranged from $33,995 to $43,995, depending on the model year and the battery pack. The monthly lease payment ranged from $349 to $574.”

This quote is taken directly from a General Motor copyrighted site. For some reason, I cannot get the link to go thru.

And you have to subtract 9000$ of incentives at the time.

Tried many times, no way to get the post with the direct link? Any help from InsideEVs webmaster?

Here is a picture of the adress:

“The M.S.R.P. for the EV1 ranged from $33,995 to $43,995, depending on the model year and the battery pack. The monthly lease payment ranged from $349 to $574.””

It is an estimated MSRP based on lease price. There was never official MSRP since it missed the “R” part.

The price was setup to make the leasinng plan work.

Also, $40K back then is about $57K today.

Meh. We don’t know nor will we every know the real cost/price numbers of the EV-1.

However, if GM was making money on it they certainly would not have been so desperate to kill it. Thus, they were obviously losing lots of money on it.

GM may be stupid but not so stupid that they would kill a profitable car.

If the Model S had been produced at 1500 Tesla would be toast right? All ICE car makers did rush to put EVs on the map in the late ’90s. But they realised they were shooting themselves in the foot. So they swiftly killed them off. It was a false start. All the competitors stopped alltogether.

Bill Howland said:

“The ev’s currently available sixteen years later for the same price have just a bit better than HALF the range of the EV1.”

If you’re claiming that the Leaf has only a bit over half the range of the EV1… no. The Wikipedia article claims the second generation “NiMH cars could travel between 100 and 140 miles between charges”, but that appears to be rather on the high side of the real-world ranges reported by drivers. Another source says “General Motors estimated the range for cars with nickel metal hydride batteries at 75 to 130 miles.”

The average reported range was at most 100 miles, and probably a bit less. Some drivers certainly did eke out more range using hypermiling techniques, but those are cases of range having more to do with driving techniques than the performance of the car.

There are other eV’s besides the leaf. As for the other conjecture, it is noted.

i’m repeating a post from another thread, but today I rented a car from Enterprise and asked what happened to all the Leafs they used to have. The manager said they had 14 Leafs at one time, but they had so much trouble with 30 mile range during the winter that it was a superbig headache and that he couldn’t wait till they got rid of them.

Not exactly the impression to be left to a big rental car company.

“The person from SIXTEEN YEARS AGO would say, “What the…. Are we going backwards?”.

So I too am not holding my breath regarding the next 10 years.”
The last 16 years started with 1 manufacturer making a single EV that lost over $50k per car.
This 10 years starts with many models made by quite a few manufacturers, some of which are actually profitable.
So I think there is a lot of reason to be more optimistic about EVs.

The EV1 was overrated in terms of range. The numbers you posted were unadjusted numbers on on the more lenient 2-cycle test.

The EPA rates the 1999 EV1 at 55 miles of range after adjustments to account for a more modern cycle:

Well if everyone here knows so much more than Wikipedia, why don’t you quote a good Source Authority, and CHANGE IT.

I wrote quite a few paragrahs on Mergenthaler’s Linotype machine (since I had so many hours of operation of it under my belt from around 10 – 14 years of age during the summertime), and they thanked me for my First Person experience.

People come up with complicated explanations why Wikipedia is wrong, but just talking to people in general (as this Enterprise Manager), makes me know whom to believe.

Wikipedia is a third party source. I quoted the EPA website which is a first party source. It doesn’t get more direct than quoting that.

Quoting some anecdotal claims of range is not an apples to apples comparison, but quoting EPA gets you close (the adjusted 2-cycle is still not 100% the same as an actual 5-cycle test result, but it is a closer approximation).

Again, the EPA says the range of a 1999 EV1 is 55 miles using the adjusted 2-cycle. A Leaf is rated at 84 miles today on the 5-cycle test.

Yeah, you talk to the Enterprise manager I talked to yesterday and he wouldn’t believe you. He’s seen with his own eyes what happens.


“freeway commuting with minimal stop and go: 130-150 miles per charge

city driving mixed with freeway (including “performance demonstrations”): 100-130 miles per charge

worst case – hard use including driving in the hills: 75-100 miles per charge”


And it had limited interior space and only seat 2 person…

So, the LEAF today would have more range on per person basis and about the half the price.

Yeah, sure, every one knows that range testing are done with all seats full right? 😉 😉

I was referencing his predictions of battery prices plummeting. I want to believe that. But I tend to believe that we will only slowly grid down the prices with slight improvements, a more efficient supply chain, reduced raw material prices, slightly better mass manufacturing, etc.

Especially with the fact that Iranian oil will hit the world market and thus push down oil prices. :-/

Efficiency is Musk hating propaganda–don’t buy into it. Only total system cost matters. If one system is 50% less efficient but costs 4x less (including storage) it is the better choice.

That’s the most excited I’ve ever seen JB Straubel get. (I’ve watched quite a few videos of him speaking.)

Because many people like to chime in opinions on this battery topic, let me propose this question: what’s more important, cheaper batteries with the present power-density, or somewhat more expensive batteries that have greater power-density?

With greater power-density that can accept, say, 500KW charging, then charging a car with a 50KWH battery pack will only take about 6 minutes. You know, like the time it takes to fill your gas tank. With that kind of power-density, you wouldn’t need as many batteries in your car, so your car would be cheaper, lighter, have tremendous regenerative braking efficiency, possibly be quicker (if it had a powerful motor), and you’d never have range anxiety.


That will be an interesting day, when it is commonplace to see a 500 kw charger that day to day people actually use.

I won’t live to see it.