The Path to Drawdown: Batteries for Electric Vehicles
The first electric vehicle (EV) prototype was built in the 1820s, but its inability to overcome the challenge of building a lightweight, durable battery with adequate range allowed internal combustion engines to dominate the automotive and transport landscape since the 1920s.
Today, that landscape’s changing. Thanks to supportive policies and declining costs, there are millions of EVs on the road. The difference in their effect on the climate is remarkable. Compared to internal combustion engine vehicles, CO2 emissions drop by 50% if an EV’s power comes from the conventional power grid. If powered by solar energy, emissions are cut by 95%. When households purchase EVs, the operating costs for those cars are often cheaper than gas-based cars, too.
What once used to be an obstacle for EVs - the question of how far the car can travel on a single charge - is now much less of a concern. The average range of a battery electric vehicle produced in 2020 is about 217.5 miles, up from 124 miles in 2015.
What’s making this increase in mileage possible is the development in battery technology and expansion in battery production capacity. The cost of batteries is falling fast as a result. The cost of lithium-ion batteries in particular -- the key technology for electrifying transport -- has declined sharply in recent years after having been developed for widespread use in consumer electronics.
But battery production needs to continue to scale massively to keep up with the electrification of the transport sector. According to the IEA:
- <::marker> Manufacturing operations globally produced 170 GWh of batteries in 2020
- <::marker> ~3,000 GWh battery production capacity is needed by 2030 to achieve long-term sustainability goals
- <::marker> That’s CAGR of 33.25%