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Rising battery prices threaten to derail the arrival of affordable EVs

Dec. 6, 2022 Updated Tue., Dec. 6, 2022 at 7:38 p.m.

A Canoo prototype electric van is displayed in Los Angeles in 2021.  (Bing Guan/Bloomberg)
A Canoo prototype electric van is displayed in Los Angeles in 2021. (Bing Guan/Bloomberg)
By Colin McKerracher Bloomberg

Falling battery prices have been one of the most consistent trends in the electric vehicle industry for the past decade.

Prices dropped from well over $1,000 per kilowatt hour in 2010 to $141 per kWh last year.

This jump-started one of the biggest shifts in the auto industry in the last century, spurring automakers to plow billions of dollars into EVs.

The trend has ground to a halt this year, with BloombergNEF’s annual lithium-ion battery price survey showing a 7% increase in average pack prices in 2022 in real terms.

This is the first increase in the history of the survey.

There are several factors driving the uptick, but the single most important one is rising costs for materials including cobalt, nickel and lithium.

While prices for nickel and cobalt have come down in recent months, and lithium may be about to turn, each of these are still higher than they have been in previous years.

This is driven by surging battery demand and a lag in how fast new supply can be brought online.

The average battery price would have been even higher if not for the shift to lower-cost lithium iron phosphate, or LFP, batteries, which contain no nickel or cobalt.

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