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Improvements In Lithium-Ion Battery Energy Density: The Special Sauce Supporting Better Performing, Longer Range EVs

Lithium-Ion Batteries are experiencing significant cost and weight reductions.

While the cost aspect is straight-forward, measured in dollars per kWh, understanding the concept of 'getting lighter' is more complicated.

It involves considering battery energy density, expressed as Watt hours per kilogram. The greater watt-hours per kilogram, the higher the battery energy density.

Source: RMI

According to RMI, "since 1993, top-tier energy density has increased by 7% for every doubling of battery deployment. Since 2012, top-tier energy density has been growing even faster, at 18% for every doubling of deployment."

Greater Battery Energy Density Results In Better Performing Electric Vehicles

Since batteries are the heaviest part of an electric vehicle (EV), advancements in battery energy density offer up substantial benefits. These efficiencies lead to smaller and lighter batteries, enabling manufacturers to develop EVs with enhanced range, power, and speed, all within a reduced spatial footprint compared to the past.

Source: Bloomberg

For example, the average battery pack size for newly manufactured EVs has increased from approximately 40 kWh in 2018 to over 60 kWh in 2023 (black line in above chart), while the space required to accommodate these larger batteries is decreasing.

With these gains in energy density, manufacturers can now produce EVs with greater battery storage and power, resulting in performance enhancements.

Long Range 100+ kWh Electric Vehicles Will Be The Standard By 2030

As the energy density of lithium-ion batteries continues to increase, 100 kWh electric vehicles will become standard for passenger cars by the end of the decade, with 200 kWh battery-packs becoming standard for larger-sized electric powered SUVs and pick-up trucks.

For a real world look at the progress, consider that the Tesla Model S Plaid, one of the sleekest designed EVs on the market today is equipped with a 100-kWh battery boasting an energy density of 181 Watt-hours per kilogram.

The Model S Plaid battery weighs around 1,200 pounds. As energy density increases to 500-watt hours per kilogram, a 100-Kilowatt hour battery will weigh just 440 pounds.

What's Driving The Improvements In Lithium-Ion Battery Density?

With advancements in the understanding of materials and computational modeling & artificial intelligence aiding design, battery manufacturers keep pushing the limits of what's possible.

In the same way that, as recent as 2016, 350-Watt hour per kilogram prototypes were considered dreamy ambitions, expect that in the next decade, the upper limits of "What's Possible" will also be surpassed. We are already seeing this progress (see chart below), with researchers in China designing batteries in a lab setting with a battery density of 711 Watt hours per kilogram.

With continued increases in battery density, expect that by 2030, 200 kWh batteries will be standard on new electric vehicles, enabling EV's to commonly travel 650+ miles before needing to re-charge.


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