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Batteries and fuel cells for emerging electric vehicle markets


Today’s electric vehicles are almost exclusively powered by lithium-ion batteries, but there is a long way to go before electric vehicles become dominant in the global automotive market. In addition to policy support, widespread deployment of electric vehicles requires high-performance and low-cost energy storage technologies, including not only batteries but also alternative electrochemical devices. Here, we provide a comprehensive evaluation of various batteries and hydrogen fuel cells that have the greatest potential to succeed in commercial applications. Three sectors that are not well served by current lithium-ion-powered electric vehicles, namely the long-range, low-cost and high-utilization transportation markets, are discussed. The technological properties that must be improved to fully enable these electric vehicle markets include specific energy, cost, safety and power grid compatibility. Six energy storage and conversion technologies that possess varying combinations of these improved characteristics are compared and separately evaluated for each market. The remainder of the Review briefly discusses the technological status of these clean energy technologies, emphasizing barriers that must be overcome.

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Fig. 1: Evolution of cumulative EV sales and EV market share prescribed in the IEA’s ‘Beyond 2 Degrees Scenario’.
Fig. 2: Ranges and price premiums for 2017 model EVs.
Fig. 3: Consumer vehicle purchasing habits in the United States versus emerging countries.
Fig. 4: Characteristics of rechargeable batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.
Fig. 5: Vehicle cost and cost of additional range as a function of driving range.
Fig. 6: Sensitivity plots of mid-size vehicle cost and range.
Fig. 7: Vehicle cost as a function of driving range for Li-ion battery and hydrogen fuel-cell EVs.
Fig. 8: Suitability of alternative batteries and fuel cells to emerging EV markets.


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We thank the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada for financial support. We also thank S. Knights and C. Reid (Ballard) for their feedback and comments.

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Correspondence to Zhongwei Chen.

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Competing interests

Z.C. has patents filed involving lead-carbon batteries (US 62/606,602), lithium-based batteries (US 15/548,549) and zinc-air batteries (US 15/555,668), and patents published or issued involving metal–air batteries (US 15/106,222, US 9,590,253, US 9,419,287). D.B. and S.Y. are employed by Ballard Power Systems, Inc., a provider of clean energy and fuel-cell solutions. A.H. works in the group research unit of Daimler AG, where he is involved in hydrogen fuel-cell and lithium–ion, metal–sulfur and solid-state battery projects.

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Cano, Z.P., Banham, D., Ye, S. et al. Batteries and fuel cells for emerging electric vehicle markets. Nat Energy 3, 279–289 (2018).

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