Lithium-ion batteries, these marvels of light-weight energy which have made potential immediately’s age of handheld electronics and electrical autos, have plunged in price since their introduction three many years in the past at a fee just like the drop in solar panel costs, as documented by a study revealed final March. But what caused such an astonishing price decline, of about 97 p.c?
Some of the researchers behind that earlier examine have now analyzed what accounted for the extraordinary financial savings. They discovered that by far the most important issue was work on analysis and growth, significantly in chemistry and supplies science. This outweighed the good points achieved via economies of scale, although that turned out to be the second-largest class of reductions.
The new findings are being revealed within the journal Energy and Environmental Science, in a paper by MIT postdoc Micah Ziegler, latest graduate pupil Juhyun Song Ph.D. ’19, and Jessika Trancik, a professor in MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems and Society.
The findings might be helpful for policymakers and planners to assist information spending priorities in an effort to proceed the pathway towards ever-lower costs for this and different essential vitality storage applied sciences, in line with Trancik. Their work suggests that there’s nonetheless appreciable room for additional enchancment in electrochemical battery applied sciences, she says.
The evaluation required digging via quite a lot of sources, since a lot of the related info consists of carefully held proprietary enterprise information. “The data collection effort was extensive,” Ziegler says. “We looked at academic articles, industry and government reports, press releases, and specification sheets. We even looked at some legal filings that came out. We had to piece together data from many different sources to get a sense of what was happening.” He says they collected “about 15,000 qualitative and quantitative data points, across 1,000 individual records from approximately 280 references.”
Data from the earliest instances are hardest to entry and may have the best uncertainties, Trancik says, however by evaluating completely different information sources from the identical interval they’ve tried to account for these uncertainties.
Overall, she says, “we estimate that the majority of the cost decline, more than 50 percent, came from research-and-development-related activities.” That included each personal sector and government-funded analysis and growth, and “the vast majority” of that price decline inside that R&D class got here from chemistry and supplies analysis.
That was an fascinating discovering, she says, as a result of “there were so many variables that people were working on through very different kinds of efforts,” together with the design of the battery cells themselves, their manufacturing techniques, provide chains, and so forth. “The cost improvement emerged from a diverse set of efforts and many people, and not from the work of only a few individuals.”
The findings concerning the significance of funding in R&D had been particularly important, Ziegler says, as a result of a lot of this funding occurred after lithium-ion battery know-how was commercialized, a stage at which some analysts thought the analysis contribution would develop into much less important. Over roughly a 20-year interval beginning 5 years after the batteries’ introduction within the early Nineteen Nineties, he says, “most of the cost reduction still came from R&D. The R&D contribution didn’t end when commercialization began. In fact, it was still the biggest contributor to cost reduction.”
The examine took benefit of an analytical method that Trancik and her workforce initially developed to research the equally precipitous drop in prices of silicon solar panels over the last few decades. They additionally utilized the method to know the rising costs of nuclear energy. “This is really getting at the fundamental mechanisms of technological change,” she says. “And we can also develop these models looking forward in time, which allows us to uncover the levers that people could use to improve the technology in the future.”
One benefit of the methodology Trancik and her colleagues have developed, she says, is that it helps to kind out the relative significance of various components when many variables are altering all of sudden, which generally occurs as a know-how improves. “It’s not simply adding up the cost effects of these variables,” she says, “because many of these variables affect many different cost components. There’s this kind of intricate web of dependencies.” But the workforce’s methodology makes it potential to “look at how that overall cost change can be attributed to those variables, by essentially mapping out that network of dependencies,” she says.
This may also help present steerage on public spending, personal investments, and different incentives. “What are all the things that different decision makers could do?” she asks. “What decisions do they have agency over so that they could improve the technology, which is important in the case of low-carbon technologies, where we’re looking for solutions to climate change and we have limited time and limited resources? The new approach allows us to potentially be a bit more intentional about where we make those investments of time and money.”
Determinants of lithium-ion battery know-how price decline, Energy and Environmental Science (2021). DOI: 10.1039/d1ee01313k
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The causes behind lithium-ion batteries’ fast price decline (2021, November 22)
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