In a recent story in MIT Technology Review, we were surprised to read that we should not expect EVs to compete with gasoline cars on price any time before 2030.
The findings sharply contradict those of other research groups, which have concluded that electric vehicles could achieve price parity with gas-powered ones in the next five years. The lingering price difference predicted by the MIT report could stunt the transition to lower-emission vehicles, requiring governments to extend subsides or enact stricter mandates to achieve the same adoption of EVs and cuts in climate pollution.
The most quoted number for lithium-ion battery packs to reach price parity with ICE is $100/kWh, a price that has been predicted to happen by 2022 for the industry based on prices declines over the last decade (the price was about $1200/kWh in 2009).
MIT researchers contested the 2022 price was accurate, claiming they couldn’t be sustained.
The problem is that the steady decline in the cost of lithium-ion batteries, which power electric vehicles and account for about a third of their total cost, is likely to slow in the next few years as they approach limits set by the cost of raw materials.
“If you follow some of these other projections, you basically end up with the cost of batteries being less than the ingredients required to make it,” says Randall Field, executive director of the Mobility of the Future group at MIT. “We see that as a flaw.”
Well, that would be a flaw, but it flies in the face of decades of actual real world experience with high tech commodities. Computer memory for example, went through numerous boom/bust price cycles over the last 50 years, then has become so cheap that you can almost get a flash drive in your corn flakes. Hell, even oil prices have defied this thinking (in the U.S.), with gasoline currently costing about the same as it did in the 70s (adjusted for inflation).
The article then goes on to state that the adoption of EVs is going to be much slower than economists and advocates have predicted, so we are going to have gasoline cars around for at least another decade.
I started to go dig into the logic and research behind these conclusions, but decided to skip all that work, and instead go straight to the report, Insights Into Future Mobility, skipping to page 8 of the 220 page report where researchers thanked the groups who “sponsored” the “research”.
The MIT Energy Initiative gratefully acknowledges the 10 consortium members whose generous sponsorship made this research possible: Alfa, Aramco, BP, Chevron, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Ferrovial, General Motors, Shell, and the Toyota Mobility Foundation.
Representatives from all of these companies engaged with the MITEI team in extensive discussions, providing valuable critique and perspective that helped us sharpen our analysis and improve this report.
Yeah, I bet they did help “sharpen” your analysis. A study paper that basically says, “Never mind EVs, they won’t really be a thing for another 11 years, so keep burning that gasoline in the cars automakers are currently selling”, sponsored by the largest oil companies and the biggest car maker in the world.
No conflict of interest here.
Now adding MIT to my list of unreliable sources.