Slow, but steady, progress on EV batteries, costs

batteryWe knew all along that it was going to take some time for investments in electric-vehicle technology to bring down sticker prices, although their benefits at the fuel pump are immediate.

A recent report in the Detroit Free Press confirms that we’ll need a technological breakthrough to reduce battery costs.

"There are some advantages to cost that will accrue due to scale," Jon Lauckner, chief technology officer at General Motors who oversees GM's research and development arm, said in the Free Press story. "But the big steps are going to be the technology. It's moving from the current generation of technology into the Gen 2 -- and into the generation beyond that."

On the scale sales? side of the scale, sales of alternative powertrain vehicles were booming through the first two months of this year: sales of gas-electric, non-rechargeable hybrids rose 29 percent over last year, and sales of plug-in hybrids and all-electrics more than tripled.

Why are sales going up? Smart consumers are looking at their overall transportation costs, and realize that an electric vehicle can bring their dollars-per-mile bill down considerably, especially when gas prices go up and lease rates for electric vehicles come down.

In the short term, General Motors expects Volt sales to go up 20 percent this year. And over the long run, sales of hybrids and electric vehicles are expected to more than double by the end of the decade, from 3.4 percent of the U.S. market in 2012 to 7.7 percent in 2019, according to a J.D. Power report cited by the Free Press.