Research and development of lithium-ion batteries is the number one reason for price declines of the technology, according to a study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
R&D, particularly in chemistry and materials science, outweighed the gains achieved through economies of scale (the second-largest reason for price drops).
The team estimated the majority of the cost decline, more than 50%, came from research-and-development-related activities that included both private sector and government-funded research and development, and the “vast majority” of that cost decline came from chemistry and materials research.
The new findings are published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.
The study built on one published by MIT in March that found lithium-ion batteries’ price decline in the past 30 years was similar to the drop in solar panel prices.
The findings were documented in a paper by MIT postdoc Micah Ziegler, graduate PhD student Juhyun Song , and Jessika Trancik, a professor in MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems and Society.
The paper collected data to determine changes in the cost components of lithium-ion batteries between 1990-1995 and 2010-2015.
The findings could be useful for policymakers and planners to help guide spending priorities in order to continue the pathway toward ever-lower costs for energy storage technologies, according to Trancik.
Ziegler said: “The data collection effort was extensive. We looked at academic articles, industry and government reports, press releases, and specification sheets.
“We even looked at some legal filings that came out. We had to piece together data from many different sources to get a sense of what was happening.”
About 15,000 qualitative and quantitative data points were collected across 1,000 individual records from approximately 280 references.
The research was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the MIT Technology and Policy Program.