Batteries can’t match LEDs’ bright outlook

Given the way prices fall in electronics, it’s easy to forget that many types of products don’t offer steady price declines. The contrasts are readily apparent in a couple studies from Lux Research.

One has bullish projections for white LED components, but it’s not as optimistic about other elements in bulbs based on LEDs. Those mechanical components won’t drop nearly as quickly. The other Lux report is pretty negative about prices for a product that’s based more on chemical engineering than electronics: the batteries that will power electrified vehicles.

First the good news on LED pricing. White LEDs are still far more expensive than the colored diodes used in clocks stereos and other products. Lux researchers estimate that the LED for a light bulb with the output of a 60 W bulb will drop 70 percent to $2.14 by 2020.

But the  thermal management, drivers, and optics won’t decline as rapidly, so the price of an LED bulb will be $11.06 by the end of the decade. Thermal management is expensive, partially because aluminum is one of the key heat sink technologies. That’s an area IPC has examined to see if standards can help improve pricing.

Batteries for electric vehicles are even more resistant to price declines, according to Lux. The lithium ion battery packs used in hybrids and electric vehicles will drop to $397 per kilowatt hour by 2020. That’s nowhere near the $150/kWh target set by the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium.

LED lighting and electrified vehicles are both technologies that are getting a lot of attention from government agencies that want to reduce energy consumption. But they’re both going to remain costly since these physical products can’t match the pricing declines that semiconductors continue to deliver every couple years.

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