The next generation hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles will become even more interesting for consumers looking to cut fuel consumption as the battery packs are finally getting cheaper and increasingly efficient.
According to Sam Jaffe, an industry analyst with Navigant Consulting Inc., the average price of battery packs that now use the latest lithium-ion cell technology could dive to $175 by 2020. They are today priced at around $496 a kilowatt-hour, which has registered as a 60 percent reduction from the quota seen in 2010. The market for such technologies that reduce fuel consumption begins with the so-called microhybrid systems – they have a more powerful battery that allows the engine to be stopped when in stop and go traffic. Adding break recovery technology – electricity is generated and stored in the system when you break the car – will make the current stop-start systems even more efficient. Johnson Controls Inc., a supplier implicated in the production of such systems, says the potential fuel savings are doubled to around 15 percent. “Automakers want to squeeze as much efficiency as possible out of the internal combustion engine,” comments MaryAnn Wright, a vice president at Johnson Controls. “These technologies bolted together will cost a fraction of electric vehicles.” The parts maker builds both lithium-ion and the older, lead-acid batteries.
The systems are emerging as the US is preparing to meet the industry-wide goal of having the entire fleet at an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The early start-stop systems have been adopted for years now by major automakers including Toyota, GM or Ford. Now the new systems and cheaper, more efficient batteries mean smaller, less expensive systems which in turn improve fuel savings by turning engines off in more situations.