Most of the DOE budget for batteries goes to development, Mr. Reed noted. “What people often lose sight of is that once you have a material, cell, or product, you then have to go through a full series of qualifications to get them into an OEM program,” he said. “It may cost you $2 million to $3 million to take a fully engineered cell through a full range of qualifications for one or more customers.” That process for a battery pack can take $10 million after it’s been developed all the way to make sure it has the life and durability to make sure it is a successful product, he said.
Still, Mr. Reed said he doesn’t expect standard products to emerge until high volumes of vehicles are produced. That will determine the “winners in the survival-of-the-fittest process,” he said. “Then I think we will have standards cells. But that is many years into the future.”
Mr. Watson said he does not see a rush toward standard cell sizes or capacity. Whether the customer is an automaker or consumer-electronics company, “I’m not sure that we as a battery maker want to dictate the way they do their businesses,” he said. Standardization could help testing, charging, handling, and transportation standards, he said.