Chevy Bolt Electric Car Reveals How Cheap Batteries Really Are

chevy bolt and 6 x LG Chem Resu 10

You can buy 60kWh of storage in a Chevy Bolt for a similar price to 60kWh of uninstalled home battery packs.

Looking to buy some LG Chem batteries but don’t want to pay full price? In that case, I have a little scheme you might be interested in.

If you want to, you could buy an LG Chem RESU6.5 battery system which will set you back around $1,000 per kilowatt-hour of storage. Or you could do a little better by buying a RESU10 as that will only cost you around $900 a kilowatt-hour. But if you follow my advice you can net yourself LG Chem batteries for only $822 a kilowatt-hour.

There is a slight drawback to my plan in that you have to buy 60 kilowatt-hours of batteries to get them for that price. But trust me, it’s well worth it because if you buy these batteries you get a free stereo system! There is no denying that’s a sweet deal.

But wait, there’s still more! You also get, an air conditioner! Two padded seats! A three person couch! A 150 kilowatt electric motor! Four wheels!1 And a car chassis!

Yes, that’s right! My plan is to go to the United States and buy a 2017 Chevy Bolt electric car when it comes out at the end of this year. This will score us LG Chem batteries at a price that’s around 8% cheaper per kilowatt-hour than buying a RESU10 and they come wrapped in a handy mobile package called an electric car for free.

With 9.8 kilowatt-hours of batteries each, it would take six of the inaccurately named RESU10s to almost have the same battery capacity as the Bolts battery pack and they would cost around $52,800 to buy retail and uninstalled.  The cost of the Bolt is $37,495 US and at the current exchange rate of 76 US cents to the Australian dollar that comes to $49,340.

The Bolt Is Not Available In Australia

To actually bring a Bolt into Australia would cost money for shipping and GST would have to be paid, but my point is not that Australians will be able to buy a Bolt in Australia for under $50,000. My point is that, given how much the Bolt costs, lithium-ion home energy storage is probably going to fall a long way in price.

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

I freely admit I am not comparing like to like here. It is not exactly an apples to oranges comparison, it is exactly a home battery storage unit to an electric vehicle comparison, and they are not the same thing.

For example, the car battery pack can save on its manufacturing cost by only needing a single bundle of electronics to serve as a battery management system, while the six RESUs will require one each. On the other hand, the car battery pack has an active liquid cooling system which is probably more expensive than the entirely passive cooling the RESUs use.

The chemistry of the batteries is probably also different. At first I assumed they would definitely have different chemistries, as they have very different jobs to do. But their energy densities are around the same which suggests a similar chemistry and it is even possible the cells are identical to save on manufacturing costs, although I would expect them to at least tweak them a bit.

But even if they have very different chemistries I doubt it would make much difference to their cost. While the material cost of electrodes and the electrolyte filling in a battery cell sandwich isn’t cheap, it is only a small part of the cost of making one. Most of the expense is in the entirely automated production lines that assemble them. Those robots don’t come cheap.

RESUs Have Longer Warranties

Their warranties are a major difference. A RESU is covered for the first of either 10 years or a little under 2,500 kilowatt-hours of stored electricity per kilowatt-hour of capacity.

The Bolt’s battery pack warranty covers the first of 8 years or 160,900 kilometers. A Bolt driven an average of over 55 kilometers a day will run out of warranty before the 8 years are up. With a typical electric car consumption of around 1 kilowatt-hour per 5.5 kilometers of driving, when it reaches the end of its warranty it will have only stored around 490 kilowatt-hours for each kilowatt-hour of battery capacity or 20% as much as a RESU.

graph of warranty

The LG RESU battery has a much better warranty that the Chevy Bolt’s batteries

But the Bolt’s minimum battery capacity at the end of its warranty is likely to be higher than the RESU’s 60%.  It may be 70%, so the comparison probably isn’t quite as bad as it seems.  But it’s still pretty bad.

The reason why there is such a large difference in their warranties is because they do two very different jobs. The Bolt has a 150 kilowatt motor. I’m guessing it wouldn’t have that unless the battery pack could supply 150 kilowatts of power for at least a short time and that’s a lot more power per kilowatt-hour of capacity than any RESU can manage.

High power also means it will generate more heat. While the Bolt battery pack has a liquid cooling system, it is likely to be exposed to more extreme temperature than a RESU.  A car can get very hot just leaving it out in the sun and this is a major reason why electric car makers are in no hurry to put solar cells on them. They’d rather you park them in the shade so the batteries will last longer.

Car Battery Prices

One year ago General Motors said they would be paying $190 a kilowatt-hour for LG Chem’s battery cells. LG Chem wasn’t very happy about that and would have preferred it if General Motors had kept its big mouth shut so they could charge other people more.

That $190 is just for the cells and not for the cost of putting them all together in a battery pack with the required electronics. One estimate for the cost of the battery pack is $285 a kilowatt-hour.  If that is correct then even if it costs considerably more to turn battery cells into RESUs, LG Chem could drop their price by about half while still making enough money on each unit for it to be worthwhile.

Other car manufactures could also have very low battery pack costs. One estimate is Tesla may only be paying $250 a kilowatt-hour for theirs. While some say this estimate is laughable, it seems certain Tesla’s costs will fall below that once their Gigglefactory is complete.2

Meanwhile, Nissan has been offering to replace Leaf battery packs for $300 a kilowatt-hour for two years now, but you have to give them your old pack for free.

graph of cost per kWh

A very rough guess of the cost to manufacture car battery packs for Nissan, Chevy & Tesla.

Why Home Energy Storage Isn’t Cheaper Now

If LG Chem and Tesla and whoever can make electric car battery packs cheaply now, why does home energy storage cost so much more?

Well, firstly, getting to the point where they could make battery packs at the cost took who knows how many millions upon millions of dollars and the companies involved would like to make it all back. And after they’ve made their millions upon millions of dollars back they’d like to make millions upon millions of dollars more on top of that, so they’re not going to be in a hurry to lower their prices until competition forces them to.

But I am certain competition will work its magic. Which is another way of saying that human self interest will triumph. And we will see lithium-ion storage prices fall a long way over the next few years. A 10% a year decline in prices will see them halve in a little over 7 years, but it could be a lot faster once someone decides they can make a little more money supplying large amounts of battery storage to Australian homes and businesses than to electric car makers.

If we play pretend and say that LG Chem can currently produce cells for home energy storage for the same price as General Motors says they buy them for the Bolt and they can turn them into RESUs for an average of $250 per kilowatt-hour while still making an acceptable profit, then the cost of home battery storage could fall by more than half without further technological advances.  And that will be enough to make it cost effective for a considerable number of Australians. Bring it on!

Footnotes

  1. Probably only 4 and not 5 as it probably doesn’t have a spare wheel.
  2. Sorry, Tesla is building a Gigafactory that can produce one gigawatt-hour or one billion watt-hours of batteries a year and not a Gigglefactory which can produce a billion laughs a year. I have been informed the difference is important.
About Ronald Brakels

Many years ago now, Ronald Brakels was born in Toowoomba. He first rose to international prominence when his township took up a collection to send him to Japan, which was the furthest they could manage with the money they raised. He became passionately interested in environmental matters upon his return to Australia when the local Mayor met him at the airport and explained it was far too dangerous for him to return to Toowoomba on account of climate change and mutant attack goats. Ronald then moved to a property in the Adelaide Hills where he now lives with his horse, Tonto 23.

Comments

  1. Howard Patrick says:

    Ronald, how far off are we from having a PV array on the roof, say an LG battery and battery charger that can all be connected to a Bolt/Leaf or whatever.

    Having had a cursory read about the new PV/battery storage technology called SolPad I get the impression it might not be too long before we can store energy for most of our home use, supply the energy for our vehicle, have hot water from energy captured on the roof and when appropriate feed surplus into the grid. What are your thoughts on the possibilties of such levels of integration?

    I am not technological trained but it seems even greater amazing changes are not far away with $300 per Kw storage and perhaps the likes of magnesium batteries with much higher energy density

    • Ronald Brakels says:

      Howard, all that you mentioned can be had now – if you don’t mind spending significant amount of money setting it up.

      So anyone who wants that level of integration can have it and the cost of getting it will fall as time goes by. But just what what sort of “home energy ecosystem” most people will end up with is very hard to say.

  2. PeterT (aka PeteInOz) says:

    G’day Ron, thanks for the article mate. Interestingly enough, I read recently (mot sure if it was on Solarquotes or CleanTechnica) where a bloke from WA had apparently acquired two wrecked Nissan Leafs and created his own home storage system from the battery packs. Whilst he didn’t elaborate, it nevertheless sounded like a pretty good setup.

    In addition to this, not sure if you have ever watched any of the YouTube clips by Jehu Garcia, (Google ‘Electric Samba’) but it will be a real treat on how you can DIY an electric car conversion and/or build home storage from spent 18650 laptop batteries. He actually builds the equivalent of a Tesla Powerwall for about $US300.

    Finally, not sure if you have heard, but Elon Musk tweeted out of the blue just yesterday that he is going to reveal a new Tesla offering on the 17th of Oct … which will precede a further reveal of a new SolarCity / Telsa ‘Solar Roof’ offering that apparently will come with an integrated Powerwall 2 and an additional battery charger (as our mate MT would say … “it’s an exciting time to be alive” :-/ ). Anyway, I reckon Elon will probably reveal a beefed up Powerwall on the 17th that will aim to either match or beat the 10kw LG RESUs. If I am right then I hope he will also announced a major price reduction so as to get us down to the price point that he promised back in April of 2015 (i.e. $US3,000). The fact that we are paying three times that amount is just BS I reckon. Cheers mate … Peter.

    • Ronald Brakels says:

      Thanks for the kind words and the video suggestions, PeterT. I have heard of people acquiring electric vehicle battery packs and using them for home storage, although obviously one would really have to know what one was doing to do that safely. And I also appreciate the update on Elon Musk’s upcoming announcement. Hopefully he’ll have something interesting to say (he’s rarely boring) and we’ll get an improved Powerwall with a clearer warranty.

  3. I suspect I know the answer to this question already.. however…..what if we forgot about powering our homes from our rooftop solar to save money, and instead recharged our electric vehicles as first priority. Would the reduction in running costs over say a 1 hour commute to work and back plus a shopping run on the weekend etc…. throuh Sydney peak hour traffic make a better payback case? given that you get the car for free with its included battery?

  4. Jackson Wallace says:

    For all the effort put into the above arithmetic, we’re missing the point that lead-acid battery-banks available NOW for $2 per AH @ 12V ~ ie about ONE HUNDRED and 65 dollars per kw ~ of stored energy.

    Not only are the materials FAR more abundant than the other options, the construction and application of them far more fundamental/foolproof/robust, but there are NO complicated “required electronics” which deprive the (not-real-bright) owners of any semblance of independence from ‘The System’. (see:- The Malignancy of Mobile Phones story.)
    Moreover, every part of a lead-acid battery can be usefully rejuvenated/recycled. What further use are these touted new-age batteries, including the costly “required electronics”
    Another example of the abdurdity :- “The Bolt has a 150 kilowatt motor.” That’s more power than many V8s put out, and more than many 5-ton trucks require.
    ……..and TEN TIMES the amount of power cranked out by the Grey Fergie tractor!
    Anyone requiring that amount of power is wasting more than they need to use.
    Are there not in-principle parameters in play in this entire subject?
    So, all in all, wouldn’t it be more efficient to stick to fossil-fuels? At least that would allow conscientious conservationists the independence to apply the principles they espouse.

    ps…..I still contend that any battery-bank that can’t be quickly, safely and efficiently put together be any half-witted chimpanzee wouldn’t be worth having.

    • Ronald Brakels says:

      Jackson, an electric car charged from the grid will, in general, be more energy efficient than a standard petrol fueled car, when measured in terms of primary energy. An efficient hybrid will, in general, be more energy efficient than an electric car. The greenhouse gas emissions that result from electric car use can be reduced by increasing the amount of renewable energy used to charge it. And while it may seem strange, when measured by primary energy use, this will increase energy efficiency. If your goal is only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions then the choice between an electric vehicle and a fuel efficient hybrid would come down to the difference in CO2 emissions from their manufacture and what you expect the average CO2 intensity of the electricity used to charge the electric car will be over its lifetime.

      Or you could buy a bicycle.

  5. Jackson Wallace says:

    ….and, Ronald, speaking of horse-power:-

    How about exercising a couple of nags on a treadmill for a couple of hours a day to charge inexpensive LE batteries via a car alternator. (A Celica unit from the 1990s would comfortably crank out 90-odd amps,)

    Moreover the….er, exhaust could be channeled into a biogas producer and then, finally, disposed of in your vegie-patch.

    ie, build an oat-powered vehicle which also indirectly produces food.

    • Ronald Brakels says:

      Looked into it. It is more efficient to burn the horse feed in steam generator. Horses are less than 12% efficient at turning feed into electricity.

      Having only one stomach, horses are poor producers of methane, producing only about one-third as much as a cow, but their manure can definitely be used in methane digesters.

  6. Jack Wallace says:

    Get a bigger horse?….Three horses to = one cow?
    Incidentally, what’s with the censorship of opposing views? Sponsors bitching?
    So much for ‘speaking my mind’.

    • Jack,

      There is no censorship on this blog.

      All comments are manually moderated for spam and to see where we need to reply, so there can be a delay in them appearing, but we publish all no-spam comments unless they are really nasty.

      Finn

      • Jack Wallace says:

        I’ll accept what you say. But I don’t send nasty emails, so I can only assume two arithmetically-detailed mails have been lost to cyberspace, which is quite possible given my current situation.

        The point was, generally, that ANYTHING we choose to use (including our lungs and digestive tract) has a price attached in terms of the environment and energy resources. We have no choice about the principle ~ our only options relate to how we go about prioritising such ‘uses’: and to what degree we use them.
        eg, Charging a car from a power-socket at home sounds useful from a power-bill point of view unless one calculates the cost of building and running a power-station (and the particular type of power generation) in environmental terms.
        And let’s not forget to add into the mix the cost of running the distribution network, including the power used to operate a power-retailer’s business and the cost of getting said retailer’s workers to and from work.

        If one chooses to use energy, then clearly the nearest and most focussed source of energy ~ while still having a cost attached ~ along with an on-off switch ( ‘How often must you be told to switch off the lights when you’re not using them!!’ 😉 ) is the most efficient use of energy.

        I don’t suppose it’s possible to accurately calculate all-inclusive numbers, but suspect a small-as-possible-to-do-the-job car running on lpg might be less costly than a battery-powered-charged-at-night (when the sun don’t-shine) vehicle.
        It’s the sort of scenario that lends itself to the Hybrids. They’re impressive.
        (Diesel-electric locomotives have been around for a long time.)

  7. Stuart Pestana says:

    Hmm, I wonder if anyone has though of the possibility to using the electric car battery for the house as well as the car itself. Plug in the car to the house when you arrive home and this can be used to provide power or supplement power to the house in the evening and then can be charged on the lower tariff when everyone is asleep ready for the next day

    • Jack Wallace says:

      It’s a good idea, Stuart, but not a new one. We ‘Mother-Earth’-type hippies were doing that some 40 years ago. The main reason for such initiatives was that most of us couldn’t afford to build a house on the grid (nor wanted to!) and solar-power was in it’s earliest infancy.
      But rather than use the car battery many people would stash a couple of extra batteries in the boot and charge them from the car alternator on the way to and from work, running the kids to school, etc.

      If I say so myself, it was an age of innovation and invention the like of which we’ll never see again, since technology an mass-production has taken such initiatives out of the hands of individuals.

      Not entirely a ‘bad’ thing; relatively small square-wave inverters that could cost a year’s wages (and regularly destroyed that wonderful new-fangled invention called ‘The Microwave’) are happily buried in the rubbish-bins if history.
      ……….But I Do miss the era. We had hope, and ambition and sometimes a great sense of personal achievement because the Nanny-State restrictions and social-engineering had not yet at arrived, and the Police State only existed in the far-away Big Smoke.

      For all the ‘Brave New World’ I don’t envy today’s kids.

      • Stuart Pestana says:

        Yes this is true re not being new. But many ideas of old have been reused and refined. We definitely have the refinement available to improve on ideas that may have been shelved

        • Jackson Wallace. says:

          Indeed we do….to a degree*. But a large part of the problem of ‘de-personalising’ individual efforts/achievements lies in the Pavlovian conditioning (and brain-numbing distraction) of people ~ particularly children ~ in today’s world. It’s an accelerating process that’s ensnaring ~ and removing the options of ~ everyone. (eg. the ‘power-wall’ vs. the lead-acid battery.) ‘Thinking’ (let alone a ‘comprehensive education’) has become a social no-no; the focus and pressure has shifted to ‘teamwork’.**

          Although scarcely anyone ever reads a book any more, comprehensive descriptions of our world can be explored in reading ‘Brave New World’ (Aldous Huxley) & ‘1984’ (George Orwell) ~ particularly in conjunction.

          * a (computer-designed and built) tv bought 3 months ago had the aerial socket come adrift and cannot be repaired. Because it was ‘external’ to the chassis it was not covered by warranty’: read the fineprint.)
          ** to paraphrase Lazarus Long: ‘A team is a creature with six or more legs and no brain

          • Ronald Brakels says:

            A TV that breaks down after 3 months is definitely covered by Australian Consumer Law. (Which would be a very good topic for a blog post.)

  8. Jackson Wallace. says:

    ps.. ooops! ~ my Grandpa Simpson Syndrome cut in back there.
    What I actually wanted to do was to post this link: http://www.investorguide.com/article/21119/canadian-solar-debt-problem-time-worry/
    …from one of my newsfeeds which touches on a number of interesting issues.

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