It’s not news that the world must rapidly transform its energy systems if it’s to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Nor is it news that a giant obstacle to energy transformation is the intermittency of solar and wind power. (As no doubt you’ve heard, the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.) Here’s the news: Large battery factories are coming on line very fast and appear ready to send energy storage prices tumbling precipitously.
Today in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel oversees groundbreaking at a $540 million Daimler plant where lithium-ion batteries will be assembled. Large battery facilities are also planned in Sweden, Hungary, and Poland. US electric-car firm Tesla, meanwhile, even before it finishes its giant, $5-billion “Gigafactory” in Nevada, is working on four additional Gigafactories.
Battery production on such a scale is bound to drive down costs. According to a Bloomberg outfit called New Energy Finance, global battery manufacturing capacity is set to double within four years—and prices for lithium-ion batteries will drop more than 40 percent over the same time. Electric cars, Bloomberg claims, could be cheaper than fuel-burning models within 10 years.
But wait! An even rosier evaluation comes from the investment bank UBS, which bought a Chevy Bolt, took it apart to examine its power train, and determined that electric vehicles are much cheaper to produce than previously believed. According to UBS, the total cost of owning an electric car in Europe will draw even with the cost of owning a conventional vehicle as soon as next year.
Clean-energy news is coming so fast, you’d think it was a White House scandal.