Falling prices and sunk costs mean that the reigning storage technology has a lasting lead.
Clean-energy visionaries have long argued that the world needs a better battery capable of selling skeptical consumers on electric cars and running the grid on renewable power. And yet the battery of the future—at least for the coming decade—will almost certainly be the battery of the past.
The humble lithium-ion battery has built up such a commanding lead in the market that competing technologies may struggle to catch up. That lead will only widen as a wave of planned new lithium-ion factories comes online in the next five years.
The batteries pouring from new factories in China, the U.S., Thailand and elsewhere will further drive down prices, which have already plunged 85 percent since 2010. And the billions spent on factories will create a powerful incentive for the industry to keep tweaking lithium-ion technology, improving it bit by bit, rather than adopting something else.