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GM’s Jon Lauckner Explains Cost of Lithium Battery Pack in Volt

 GMs Jon Lauckner Explains Cost of Lithium Battery Pack in Volt

The Chevy Volt “T” Shaped Li-ion Battery Pack

Jon Lauckner is General Motors’ Vice President of Global Program Management and recently wrote in the FastLane Blog, describing the cost of the Volt’s Lithium Ion battery pack. Initially, these batteries were priced at $1,000 per kWh and this figure was used (erroneously) by Carnegie Mellon when they examined the effectiveness of plug-in hybrid technologies in upcoming vehicles. You can have a look at my previous blog entry on their study here.

Since the Chevy Volt utilizes a 16 kWh battery pack, the cost of the battery alone totals $16,000, which makes the vehicle very expensive. The goal is to bring the price per kWH down dramatically and this is what Jon describes in the following transcript from his blog. Ironically, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) performed studies more than 10 years ago that stated NiMH batteries should be as low as $250 per kWh if put into production. The NiMH battery chemistry is really the only proven technology as it still propels the Toyota RAV4 EV ten years later and is also used in most hybrid vehicles.

Let’s hope that Li ion batteries can make it to that magical $250/kWh price point.

Here is an excerpt from Jon Lauckner’s blog post. Jon states that the actual cost of the Volt battery is “many hundreds of dollars” less than the $1000 used in the Carnegie Mellon study.

Moreover, our battery team is already starting work on new concepts that will further decrease the cost of the Volt battery pack quite substantially in a second-generation Volt pack. Unfortunately, the impact of dramatically lower battery costs (to $250 per kWh) was treated only as a “sensitivity” in the CMU study when it probably should have been highlighted as THE critical element that would dramatically change the cost-effectiveness of plug-ins with greater electric-only range.

…The bottom line is there isn’t anything in this study that would change the decisions we made for the Chevy Volt. We think a plug-in offering 40 miles of gas- and emissions-free driving like the Volt is the sweet spot for the majority of customers because nearly 80 percent of drivers can drive their daily commute and return home for an overnight recharge that avoids inconvenience for them and additional daytime load on the electric grid.

Actually, as I read the conclusions of the study I had a feeling of déjà vu. Some years ago, GM didn’t introduce hybrid technology as quickly as we should have because it wasn’t considered “cost effective” at the time—and we aren’t going to make that mistake again. In fact, the more vehicles powered by the Voltec system we can put on the road, the faster we’ll see the costs for batteries, power electronics and electric drive motors come down due to economies of scale and innovation. This will lead to even greater adoption of plug-ins and a new way forward for our industry.

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