TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) are likely to remain more expensive than their traditionally powered counterparts until 2028, according to a top official with the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.
But promising battery-chemistry technologies likely will drive down the per-kilowatt-hour cost of batteries to a point that would make BEVs cost competitive with internal combustion engine vehicles, Michael Berube said.
Mr. Berube, the acting deputy assistant secretary for sustainable transportation, said a number of factors are contributing to bring down the operating costs of BEVs, including an increasing use of cheaper renewable energy sources by utilities as well as chemistry advances in battery development.
He said current battery technology has a $197-per-kWh cost structure, but advances are likely to bring the cost down to about $125 per kWh in the next few years, near a breakeven point with internal combustion vehicles. However, breakthroughs with lithium-metal and lithium-sulfur based batteries could drive costs down to $80 per kWh or below by 2028, he predicted, which likely will ignite a much broader market acceptance of BEVs.
But Mr. Berube said EV charging remains a potential threat to the technology's long-term success. The current ad-hoc charging infrastructure is largely operated without regard to when electricity is most available and can drive up costs that erase a BEV's operating cost advantage.
"I think there's work that needs to happen on smart charging," Mr. Berube said. "We need to make sure we're charging at the right time of day."
He said development of "behind-the-meter" battery storage, using home-based fuel cells or static batteries to pull electricity off the grid at the most optimal time and store it for use in vehicles, is "a way to buffer and optimize that cost."