Batteries, though, are not atomic bombs, integrated circuits, or penicillin. With a great deal of effort on the part of engineers, you get progress, not breakthroughs. That progress will not come at a pace that can change the reality that fossil fuels store a great deal more energy in a smaller space at a low cost, at least not within the next decade.
It is tempting to think that the performance of batteries can improve as quickly as that of the microelectronics, software, and display screens they power. As a battery engineer friend of mine says, though, “batteries are a smokestack industry”.
Mind you, they are a smokestack industry that is growing pretty fast, thanks in part to the public policy commitments made to the electric vehicle industry, particularly in China. According to Christophe Pillot, of Avicenne Energy in Paris, global lithium ion battery demand for vehicles will grow from $15bn in 2016 to $28bn in 2020, and $38bn in 2025. Even so, Mr Pillot projects that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles will have less than a 2 per cent share of the global market by 2020.