Electric vehicles may never be the environmental savior that consumers hope for.

EV costs — driven by expensive batteries — are prevented by a number of factors from ever falling to a range where they would be widely affordable, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study written up in MIT Technology Review. 

Lithium-ion batteries account for about a third of the cost of an EV, and they’ve dropped about as far in price as they can. Further declines are limited by the cost of raw materials used to make the batteries.

The MIT report, besides throwing cold water on the hopes of those who see electric vehicles as playing a key role in cutting global greenhouse gases, contradicts recent research that concluded gas and electric vehicles will near price parity in the next few years.

“If you follow some of these other projections, you basically end up with the cost of batteries being less than the ingredients required to make it,” says Randall Field, executive director of the Mobility of the Future group at MIT. “We see that as a flaw.” 

Battery costs need to fall precipitously for the prices of EVs to near those of gas-powered cars. That may be impossible because global demand for batteries is expected to soar over the next decade, the report said.

None of this is good news for a transition to electric vehicles. As the MIT report stated, transportation is the U.S.’s largest source of greenhouse gases, so a switch to cleaner vehicles is crucial to making a dent in global warming.

Such projections aren’t stopping carmakers from introducing new electric models. Ford this week introduced a new electric car and badged it with the iconic Mustang moniker in hopes of reaching a new generation. 

  • The Mustang Mach-E starts at $43,895; Tesla’s cheapest vehicle costs $35,000. Bugatti’s planned touring EV will cost $500,000 to $1.1 million.
  • The average price of a compact car like a Kia Forte is about $20,000.
  • EV’s make up a tiny portion of global car sales — about 2 million of 78.6 million. That number is expected to soar, as Bloomberg NEF projects more than half of all cars sold will be electric by 2040.