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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Are batteries ready for plug-in hybrid buyers?

  • Author(s): Axsen, Jonn
  • Kurani, Kenneth S.
  • Burke, Andrew
  • et al.
Abstract

The notion persists that battery technology and cost remain as barriers to commercialization of electric-drive passenger vehicles. Within the context of starting a market for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), we explore two aspects of the purported problem: (1) PHEV performance goals and (2) the abilities of present and near-term battery chemistries to meet the resulting technological requirements. We summarize evidence stating that battery technologies do not meet the requirements that flow from three sets of influential PHEV goals due to inherent tradeoffs among power, energy, longevity, cost, and safety. However, we also show that part of this battery problem is the overly ambitious PHEV performance goals thought to be necessary to meet consumer priorities. We elicited PHEV designs from potential early buyers among U.S. new car buyers; most of those who are interested in a PHEV are interested in less technologically advanced PHEVs than assumed by experts. Using respondents’ PHEV designs, we derive peak power density and energy density requirements and show that current battery chemistries can meet them. By assuming too aggressive PHEV goals, existing policy initiatives, battery research, and vehicle development programs mischaracterize the batteries needed to start commercializing PHEVs. To answer the question whether batteries are ready for PHEVs, we must first answer the question, “whose PHEVs?”

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