Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

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.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

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.


  1. Guarnieri, M. Looking back to electric cars. In 2012 Third IEEE History of Electro-technology Conf. (HISTELCON) 1–6 (2012);

  2. Global Plug-in Sales for 2016 (EV-Volumes, accessed 3 August 2017);

  3. Energy Technology Perspectives 2017 (IEA, 2017);

  4. Castle, S. Britain to ban new diesel and gas cars by 2040. The New York Times (2017);

  5. Hocking, M., Kan, J., Young, P., Terry, C. & Begleiter, D. Welcome to the Lithium-ion Age. (Deutsche Bank Markets Research, 2016);

  6. Placke, T., Kloepsch, R., Dühnen, S. & Winter, M. Lithium ion, lithium metal, and alternative rechargeable battery technologies: the odyssey for high energy density. J. Solid State Electrochem. 21, 1939–1964 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Saxena, S., MacDonald, J. & Moura, S. Charging ahead on the transition to electric vehicles with standard 120 V wall outlets. Appl. Energy 157, 720–728 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Nykvist, B. & Nilsson, M. Rapidly falling costs of battery packs for electric vehicles. Nat. Clim. Change 5, 329–332 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Schmidt, O., Hawkes, A., Gambhir, A. & Staffell, I. The future cost of electrical energy storage based on experience rates. Nat. Energy 6, 17110 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Curry, C. Lithium-ion battery costs: squeezed margins and new business models. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (accessed 14 July 2017);

  11. Knupfer, S. M. et al. Electrifying Insights: How Automakers Can Drive Electrified Vehicle Sales and Profitability (McKinsey & Company, 2017);

  12. Sierzchula, W., Bakker, S., Maat, K. & van Wee, B. The influence of financial incentives and other socio-economic factors on electric vehicle adoption. Energy Policy 68, 183–194 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Global EV Outlook 2017: Two Million and Counting (IEA, 2017);

  14. Singer, M. Consumer Views on Plug-in Electric Vehicles—National Benchmark Report 2nd edn (NREL, 2016);

  15. Li, W., Long, R., Chen, H. & Geng, J. A review of factors influencing consumer intentions to adopt battery electric vehicles. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 78, 318–328 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Dimitropoulos, A., Rietveld, P. & van Ommeren, J. N. Consumer valuation of changes in driving range: a meta-analysis. Transp. Res. Part Policy Pract. 55, 27–45 (2013). This paper is a meta-analysis of studies investigating consumers’ willingness to pay for higher driving ranges for electric vehicles.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Kenworthy, J. R. & Laube, F. B. Patterns of automobile dependence in cities: an international overview of key physical and economic dimensions with some implications for urban policy. Transp. Res. Part Policy Pract. 33, 691–723 (1999).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Liebreich, M. Bloomerberg New Energy Finance London Summit 2017: Breaking Clean (2017);

  19. Dahn, J. & Ehrlich, G. M. in Linden’s Handbook of Batteries 4th edn (ed. Reddy, T. B.) Ch. 26 (McGraw Hill, New York, 2011).

  20. Andre, D. et al. Future generations of cathode materials: an automotive industry perspective. J. Mater. Chem. A 3, 6709–6732 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Hagen, M. et al. Lithium–sulfur cells: the gap between the state-of-the-art and the requirements for high energy battery cells. Adv. Energy Mater. 5, 1401986 (2015). This paper, along with refs 22, 51 and 52, evaluates the practically achievable specific energy and energy density of lithium–sulfur batteries.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Gröger, O., Gasteiger, H. A. & Suchsland, J.-P. Review—Electromobility: batteries or fuel cells? J. Electrochem. Soc. 162, A2605–A2622 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Kerman, K., Luntz, A., Viswanathan, V., Chiang, Y.-M. & Chen, Z. Review—practical challenges hindering the development of solid state Li ion batteries. J. Electrochem. Soc. 164, A1731–A1744 (2017). This paper summarizes the reported efforts and challenges in developing solid-state lithium-ion battery cells.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Fulton, L., Jenn, A. & Tal, G. GFEI Working Paper 16: Can We Reach 100 Million Electric Cars Worldwide by 2030? A Modelling/Scenario Analysis (Global Fuel Economy Initiative, 2017);

  25. McFadden, D. Conditional Logit Analysis of Qualitative Choice Behavior (1973);

  26. Chinese-made electric cars. ChinaAutoWeb (accessed 31 July 2017);

  27. The Future of Trucks: Implications for Energy and the Environment (IEA, 2017);

  28. Li, J.-Q. Battery-electric transit bus developments and operations: a review. Int. J. Sustain. Transp. 10, 157–169 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Ye, Y., Saw, L. H., Shi, Y., Somasundaram, K. & Tay, A. A. O. Effect of thermal contact resistances on fast charging of large format lithium ion batteries. Electrochim. Acta 134, 327–337 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Liu, Q. et al. Understanding undesirable anode lithium plating issues in lithium-ion batteries. RSC Adv. 6, 88683–88700 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Gao, Y. et al. Lithium-ion battery aging mechanisms and life model under different charging stresses. J. Power Sources 356, 103–114 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Akhavan-Rezai, E., Shaaban, M. F., El-Saadany, E. F. & Zidan, A. Uncoordinated charging impacts of electric vehicles on electric distribution grids: normal and fast charging comparison. In 2012 IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting 1–7 (2012);

  33. Dharmakeerthi, C. H., Mithulananthan, N. & Saha, T. K. Impact of electric vehicle fast charging on power system voltage stability. Int. J. Electr. Power Energy Syst. 57, 241–249 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Liu, P., Ross, R. & Newman, A. Long-range, low-cost electric vehicles enabled by robust energy storage. MRS Energy & Sustain. Rev. J. 2, E12 (2015). This paper discusses the use of aqueous batteries with inherently safe chemistries to enable long-range and low-cost electric vehicles.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Sripad, S. & Viswanathan, V. Performance metrics required of next-generation batteries to make a practical electric semi truck. ACS Energy Lett. 2, 1669–1673 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Yamaguchi, Y. in Encyclopedia of Applied Electrochemistry (eds Kreysa, G., Ota, K. & Savinell, R. F.) 1161–1165 (Springer, New York, 2014);

  37. Liu, W., Chen, L. & Tian, J. Uncovering the evolution of lead in-use stocks in lead-acid batteries and the impact on future lead metabolism in China. Environ. Sci. Technol. 50, 5412–5419 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Jung, J., Zhang, L. & Zhang, J. Lead–Acid Battery Technologies: Fundamentals, Materials, and Applications (CRC, Boca Raton, 2015).

  39. Weinert, J. X., Burke, A. F. & Wei, X. Lead–acid and lithium-ion batteries for the Chinese electric bike market and implications on future technology advancement. J. Power Sources 172, 938–945 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Salkind, A. & Zguris, G. Lead-Acid Batteries. in Linden’s Handbook of Batteries 4th edn (ed. Reddy, T. B.) Ch. 16 (McGraw Hill, New York, 2011).

  41. Moseley, P. T., Rand, D. A. J. & Peters, K. Enhancing the performance of lead–acid batteries with carbon—in pursuit of an understanding. J. Power Sources 295, 268–274 (2015). This paper, along with refs 42 and 43, reviews the performance of lead–carbon batteries and their power-assisting applications in hybrid electric vehicles.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Yang, J. et al. Review on the research of failure modes and mechanism for lead–acid batteries. Int. J. Energy Res. 41, 336–352 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Karden, E., Ploumen, S., Fricke, B., Miller, T. & Snyder, K. Energy storage devices for future hybrid electric vehicles. J. Power Sources 168, 2–11 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Jaiswal, A. & Chalasani, S. C. The role of carbon in the negative plate of the lead–acid battery. J. Energy Storage 1, 15–21 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. The Advanced Lead–Acid Battery Consortium. Lead–Carbon Batteries to Boost Market Prospects of 48V Hybrids—ALABC (accessed 28 August 2017);

  46. Fetcenko, M. & Koch, J. in Linden’s Handbook of Batteries 4th edn (ed. Reddy, T. B.) Ch. 22 (McGraw Hill, New York, 2011).

  47. Manthiram, A., Fu, Y., Chung, S.-H., Zu, C. & Su, Y.-S. Rechargeable Lithium–Sulfur Batteries. Chem. Rev. 114, 11751–11787 (2014). This paper, along with refs 48–51, reviews the progress and challenges in improving the cycle life of lithium–sulfur batteries.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Eroglu, D., Zavadil, K. R. & Gallagher, K. G. Critical link between materials chemistry and cell-level design for high energy density and low cost lithium-sulfur transportation battery. J. Electrochem. Soc. 162, A982–A990 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Yin, Y.-X., Xin, S., Guo, Y.-G. & Wan, L.-J. Lithium–sulfur batteries: electrochemistry, materials, and prospects. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 52, 13186–13200 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Cheng, X.-B., Huang, J.-Q. & Zhang, Q. Review—Li metal anode in working lithium–sulfur batteries. J. Electrochem. Soc. 165, A6058–A6072 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Pope, M. A. & Aksay, I. A. Structural design of cathodes for Li–S batteries. Adv. Energy Mater. 5, 1500124 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Bonnick, P., Nagai, E. & Muldoon, J. Perspective—lithium–sulfur batteries. J. Electrochem. Soc. 165, A6005–A6007 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Liu, Q.-C. et al. A Flexible and wearable lithium–oxygen battery with record energy density achieved by the interlaced architecture inspired by bamboo slips. Adv. Mater. 28, 8413–8418 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Mizuno, F., Nakanishi, S., Kotani, Y., Yokoishi, S. & Iba, H. Rechargeable Li–air batteries with carbonate-based liquid electrolytes. Electrochemistry 78, 403–405 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Luntz, A. C. & McCloskey, B. D. Nonaqueous Li–air batteries: a status report. Chem. Rev. 114, 11721–11750 (2014). This paper, along with refs 56–58, reviews the progress and challenges in improving the cycle life and practical energy density of lithium–air batteries.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Manthiram, A. & Li, L. Hybrid and aqueous lithium–air batteries. Adv. Energy Mater. 5 (2015).

  57. Christensen, J. et al. A critical review of Li/air batteries. J. Electrochem. Soc. 159, R1–R30 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Gallagher, G. K. et al. Quantifying the promise of lithium–air batteries for electric vehicles. Energy Environ. Sci. 7, 1555–1563 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Fu, J. et al. Electrically rechargeable zinc–air batteries: progress, challenges, and perspectives. Adv. Mater. 29, 1604685 (2017). This paper, along with refs 60, 67 and 68, reviews the progress and challenges in improving the durability and energy efficiency of zinc–air batteries.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Li, Y. & Lu, J. Metal–air batteries: will they be the future electrochemical energy storage device of choice? ACS Energy Lett. 2, 1370–1377 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Blurton, K. F. & Sammells, A. F. Metal/air batteries: their status and potential—a review. J. Power Sources 4, 263–279 (1979).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Atwater, T. B. & Dobley, A. in Linden’s Handbook of Batteries 4th edn (ed. Reddy, T. B.) Ch. 33 (McGraw Hill, New York, 2011)

  63. Eckl, R., Burda, P., Foerg, A., Finke, H. & Lienkamp, P. D.-I. M. Alternative range extender for electric cars – zinc air batteries. In Conf. Future Automotive Technology (ed. Lienkamp, M.) 3–18 (Springer Fachmedien, Wiesbaden, 2013);

  64. Bockstette, J., Habermann, K., Ogrzewalla, J., Pischinger, M. & Seibert, D. Performance plus range: combined battery concept for plug-in hybrid vehicles. SAE Int. J. Altern. Powertrains 2, 156–171 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Sieminski, D. Recent advances in rechargeable zinc-air battery technology. in Twelfth Annual Battery Conf. Applications and Advances 171–180 (1997);

  66. Larsson, F., Rytinki, A., Ahmed, I., Albinsson, I. & Mellander, B.-E. Overcurrent abuse of primary prismatic zinc–air battery cells studying air supply effects on performance and safety shut-down. Batteries 3, 1 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Lee, D. U. et al. Recent progress and perspectives on bi-functional oxygen electrocatalysts for advanced rechargeable metal–air batteries. J. Mater. Chem. A 4, 7107–7134 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Mainar, A. R., Colmenares, L. C., Blázquez, J. A. & Urdampilleta, I. A brief overview of secondary zinc anode development: the key of improving zinc-based energy storage systems. Int. J. Energy Res. 42, 903–918 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Price, S. W. T. et al. The fabrication of a bifunctional oxygen electrode without carbon components for alkaline secondary batteries. J. Power Sources 259, 43–49 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Ross, P. N. & Sokol, H. The corrosion of carbon black anodes in alkaline electrolyte I. Acetylene black and the effect of cobalt catalyzation. J. Electrochem. Soc. 131, 1742–1750 (1984).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Cheiky, M. C. (Dreisbach Electromotive, Inc.) Air manager system for metal–air battery. US patent 5,571,630 (1996);

  72. Goldstein, J. R., Harats, Y., Sharon, Y. & Naimer, N. (Electric Fuel Ltd.) Scrubber system for removing carbon dioxide from a metal-air or fuel cell battery. US patent 5595,949 (1997);

  73. Pivovar, B. H 2 at Scale: Deeply Decarbonizing Our Energy System (NREL, 2016);

  74. Technology Roadmap: Hydrogen and Fuel Cells (IEA, 2017);

  75. Pontes, J. Fuel Cells 2016;

  76. Toyota Mirai US car sales figures (accessed 8 August 2017);

  77. Guerrero Moreno, N., Cisneros Molina, M., Gervasio, D. & Pérez Robles, J. F. Approaches to polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) and their cost. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 52, 897–906 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  78. Wei, M., Smith, S. J. & Sohn, M. D. Experience curve development and cost reduction disaggregation for fuel cell markets in Japan and the US. Appl. Energy 191, 346–357 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  79. Miotti, M., Hofer, J. & Bauer, C. Integrated environmental and economic assessment of current and future fuel cell vehicles. Int. J. Life Cycle Assess. 22, 94–110 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  80. Kongkanand, A. & Mathias, M. F. The priority and challenge of high-power performance of low-platinum proton-exchange membrane fuel cells. J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 7, 1127–1137 (2016). This paper, along with refs 81–83, reviews the progress and challenges in reducing the cost and improving the lifetime of hydrogen fuel cells.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  81. Wang, J. Barriers of scaling-up fuel cells: cost, durability and reliability. Energy 80, 509–521 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  82. Banham, D. et al. A review of the stability and durability of non-precious metal catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction in proton exchange membrane fuel cells. J. Power Sources 285, 334–348 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  83. Banham, D. et al. New insights into non-precious metal catalyst layer designs for proton exchange membrane fuel cells: improving performance and stability. J. Power Sources 344, 39–45 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  84. Wagner, F. T., Lakshmanan, B. & Mathias, M. F. Electrochemistry and the future of the automobile. J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 1, 2204–2219 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  85. Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL in 2017 will be plug-in FCEV. Fuel Cells Bull. 2016, 12 (2016).

  86. Vinsnic, B. Nikola CEO: Fuel-cell class 8 truck on track for 2021 (SAE International, accessed 20 November 2017);

  87. Alazemi, J. & Andrews, J. Automotive hydrogen fuelling stations: an international review. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 48, 483–499 (2015). This paper, along with ref. 74, reviews international deployments and future development of hydrogen production and fuelling infrastructure.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  88. Melaina, M. & Penev, M. Hydrogen Station Cost Estimates: Comparing Hydrogen Station Cost Calculator Results with Other Recent Estimates (NREL, 2013);

  89. Qin, N., Brooker, P. & Srinivasan, S. Hydrogen Fueling Stations Infrastructure (2014);

  90. Schroeder, A. & Traber, T. The economics of fast charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. Energy Policy 43, 136–144 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  91. Lajunen, A. & Lipman, T. Lifecycle cost assessment and carbon dioxide emissions of diesel, natural gas, hybrid electric, fuel cell hybrid and electric transit buses. Energy 106, 329–342 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  92. Kalamaras, C. M. & Efstathiou, A. M. Hydrogen production technologies: current state and future developments. In Conference Papers in Science, 690627 (Hindawi Publishing Corporation, Limassol, 2013).

  93. Ramachandran, S. & Stimming, U. Well to wheel analysis of low carbon alternatives for road traffic. Energy Environ. Sci. 8, 3313–3324 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  94. Staffell, I. & Dodds, P. The role of hydrogen and fuel cells in future energy systems. (H2FC SUPERGEN, 2017);

  95. Zihrul, P. et al. Voltage cycling induced losses in electrochemically active surface area and in H2/air-performance of PEM fuel cells. J. Electrochem. Soc. 163, F492–F498 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  96. Hua, T. et al. Status of hydrogen fuel cell electric buses worldwide. J. Power Sources 269, 975–993 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  97. Ballard Powered Fuel Cell Electric Bus Achieves 25,000 Hours of Revenue Operation (Ballard Power Systems, accessed 8 September 2017);

  98. AC Transit’s Fuel Cell Program Breaks 25,000 Hour Operating Record (AC Transit, accessed 23 November 2017);

  99. Eudy, L., Post, M. & Jeffers, M. Fuel Cell Buses in US Transit Fleets: Current Status 2016 (NREL, 2016);

  100. Kurtz, J., Sprik, S., Ainscough, C. & Saur, G. Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Evaluation (2017);

Download references


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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Zhongwei Chen.

Ethics declarations

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.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables 1–3.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing