Packing Potential Power: Better Batteries Blasting Baselines

Graph showing increasing quality of batteries and decreasing costs of batteries.
Source: Ziegler and Trancik (2021) before 2018 (end of data), BNEF Long-Term Electric Vehicle Outlook (2023) since 2018, BNEF Lithium-Ion Battery Price Survey (2023) for 2015-2023, RMI analysis.

The baseline power that a battery can deal out is increasing at a faster rate than anticipated. This s-curve of growth reflects the burgeoning demand of batteries as we increasingly electricity our systems and shift away from fossil fuels (finally!), and global industry is feeding that demand. As there is more demand for batteries we see an increase in supply and research into improving batteries, which lead to better batteries. This feedback loop of efficiency is driving growth in batteries to double every three years! Even government subsidies for the fossil fuel sector won’t keep the oil companies burning our planet once these bigger market factors really are felt on the global economy. Once you go electric, you never go back.

If we look forward to the next seven years, we see the drivers of change strengthening. Notably, we see costs continuing to fall, policy support continuing to rise, and competition between economic blocs continuing to drive a race to the top. And while there are barriers to battery adoption on the horizon, humanity’s wit, will, and capital are scaling proportionally faster. Thus, we do not see a scenario of slow adoption as credible; instead, we model two futures: fast or faster. Reality is likely to lie somewhere between the two.

RMI forecasts that in 2030, top-tier density will be between 600 and 800 Wh/kg, costs will fall to $32–$54 per kWh, and battery sales will rise to between 5.5–8 TWh per year. To get a sense of this speed of change, the lower-bound (or the “fast” scenario) is running in line with BNEF’s Net Zero scenario. The faster S-curve scenario exceeds it.

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