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As Battery Cost Falls, Fast-Charging Becomes Key Electric-Car Issue

It’s a given that the costs of batteries for electric cars will fall in the coming years.

The industry hotly debates how much and how fast–after interviewing numerous auto and battery engineers, our figure is around 7 percent a year–but by 2020 or so, costs may be as low as half what they were in 2011 when the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt launched.

The large-volume makers–BMW, GM, Nissan, and Tesla today–will benefit most from these economies of scale, but even lower-volume and compliance-car makers will find their costs falling.

2013 Tesla Model S at Supercharger station in Woodburn, Oregon, Nov 2013 [photo: George Parrott]

2013 Tesla Model S at Supercharger station in Woodburn, Oregon, Nov 2013 [photo: George Parrott]

As annual production of plug-in electric cars rises, and they gradually become more common on U.S. roads, competitiveness may shift to a different arena: fast-charging infrastructure.

At least, that’s the suggestion of electric-car advocate Anton Wahlman, writing for The Street last Friday.

He argues that once multiple makers offer battery-electric cars with ranges of 200 to 300 miles–GM probably among them–the provision of ubiquitous fast-charging stations will become a critical factor for market success.

“Once other car companies have caught up on the all-electric range (200-300 miles at various price ranges),” Wahlman writes, “the speed of charging becomes the critical competitive differentiator” to eliminate range anxiety altogether.


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