Ramez Naam, author of The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet, recently explained that lithium-ion batteries have a fifteen year history of exponential price reduction. Between 1991 and 2005, the capacity that could be bought with $100 went up by a factor of 11. The trend continues through to the present day.
SolidEnergy calculates that its materials could be used to make battery packs that cost $130 per kilowatt-hour, in line with U.S. Department of Energy goals for making electric vehicles affordable. Battery pack costs are typically kept secret, but estimates range from $250 to $500 per kilowatt-hour for packs in commercial electric vehicles.
The 85 KWh battery pack for a Tesla S would go from $20,000 to $40,000 down to about $11,000.
Lithium ion could get even cheaper (if only from economies of scale from factories that are ten times larger in China).
Lithium Sulfur batteries are getting close to commercialization. They have the potential to drive costs to about $60 per KWh. This would be about $5000 for a Tesla S battery pack.
The Tesla model S was picked as the Car and Driver car of the year. If it could be made three times cheaper and the follow on generation 3 is planned to be half the price of the model S.
The Battery singularity would be the electric car singularity.
Batteries (and electric engines) that replace gasoline (and combustion engines) but at lower lifetime costs have the potential to completely replace combustion engines. I believe the costs will be brought down and the factory construction and scaling of the supply chain will take until about 2025. We could get to 10 million electric cars per year by about 2020 and then to 100 million by 2025.
This would likely mean that Tesla with its large lead in electric cars would likely be selling as many cars as Toyota now and possibly 2 to 3 times as many. This would be 10 to 30 million cars. Tesla would be worth $300 billion to $2 trillion depending upon the price earnings multiple. Elon Musk has about 27-28% of Tesla. He would be worth $100 billion to $600 billion depending upon exactly how big and profitable Tesla becomes.
This would also mean that Elon Musk would be able to fund all of his smaller businesses like Spacex with their reusable rockets from his own pocket.
Elon plans on creating a supersonic electric passenger plane. The battery singularity with cheap high energy density lithium sulfur or lithium air batteries would make those possible too. The follow on technology enabled by the battery singularity could make Elon Musk the first trillionaire in the late 2020s.
Self Driving cars too
The real barrier to adoption is cost. In 2010, the cost of Google’s self-driving technology was $150,000, of which $70,000 was just the lidar (a highly accurate laser-based radar). German supplier Ibeo, which manufactures vehicular lidar systems, claims it could mass-produce them as soon as next year for about $250 per vehicle. Self driving car costs for computation are not a problem. I chatted with the developers and they run the car on a regular laptop
There is also the cheap self driving car system that uses cameras, which already only costs about $500
Recommended path for Li-S batteries
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.