The battery is the most expensive component of an electric car. That’s widely known, but how much does an electric car battery really cost? The truth is that there is no single answer: it depends, first, on the size of the battery. Secondly, on the cell technology, as there are significant differences (LFP are cheaper). And third, it depends on the fluctuations in the cost of raw materials. An analysis by Visual Capitalist has put figures on the price of batteries and some of them have a dizzying cost.
Assuming stable prices in the raw materials supply chain and similar complexity in packaging (i.e., similar production cost), the factor that most influences the cost of batteries is the chemical composition of their cells and, more specifically, their cathode.
Currently, most lithium batteries use graphite in their anode. It is the composition of the cathode that changes: in addition to lithium, nickel, manganese, aluminum, cobalt or iron are used. Depending on the choice of materials and their combination, the resulting battery has different properties in terms of performance, autonomy, power, fast recharging and service life. Also in price.
The most expensive batteries are those composed of nickel, cobalt and aluminum.
Among today’s lithium batteries, the most expensive are nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) batteries, with an average price of $120.3 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). They are closely followed by nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) batteries, with an average price of $112.7 per kWh. These two types contain a high proportion of nickel, which offers higher energy density and thus more autonomy.
The cost of a lithium-ion battery pack can cost about $5,000 for a small electric car, but can reach up to $25,000 for electrics with larger batteries. This is the case for the electric Ram 1500, the production electric car with the world’s largest battery pack. Its gigantic 229 kWh capacity battery (more than twice that of a Tesla Model S) weighs as much as a Volkswagen Golf and costs $25,853 to manufacture, equivalent to 24,500 euros at current exchange rates.
These data only take into account the cost of the cells calculated on estimates of the price per kilowatt-hour for the nickel-cobalt-manganese cells used by the Ram. To this should be added the cost of their metal frame and assembly. Even without taking this into account, the battery of the Ram 1500 REV is about three times more than the battery of a normal electric vehicle such as the Volkswagen ID.4 or the Ford Mustang Mach-E.
The Cadillac Escalade IQ doesn’t follow far behind: its battery costs more than $22,500 also due to its enormous size, 200 kilowatt-hours of capacity. However, the Escalade is a luxury SUV and much more expensive, and the battery accounts for about 17% of the vehicle’s price, compared to 32% in the Ram.
Compared to those two, the $12,000 cost of the Tesla Model S battery seems even small. However, we are talking about a fairly large battery (100 kWh) that allows the Model S to homologate 634 kilometers of autonomy. In this case, the cells are the most expensive in the list, but Tesla is ahead of the rest in economy of scale and production costs, so the data can be distorted a little.
Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, on the other hand, cost less because they do not use expensive materials such as nickel and cobalt. The average price of LFP cells is $98.5 per kWh, almost 20% less than NCA cells. They have lower energy density, so they offer less autonomy in the same space, but they are increasingly used.
One example is the standard version of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, which has started using LFP cells. The Ford’s 70 kWh battery costs about $6,900, 26% less than the Volkswagen ID.4 battery, which is smaller (62 kWh), but with NCM cells. If we take into account the cost per kilowatt-hour, the Volkswagen cells are 43% more expensive than the Mustang Mach-E cells. This allows Ford to have a higher profit margin or the ability to lower prices without affecting its margins.
|Modèle||Type de batterie||Capacity (kWh)||Total cost ($)||Prix/kWh|
|Ram 1500 REV||MR||229||25 853||112.9|
|Cadillac Escalade||Cadillac Escalade||NCMA||200||22 540||112.7|
|Fourgon Rivian||LFP||135||13 298||98.5|
|Tesla modèle S||ANC||100||12 030||120,3|
|Volkswagen ID.4||MR||62||8 730||140.8|
|Ford Mustang Mach-E||Ford Mustang Mach-E||LFP||70||6 895||98.5|