Batteries Are Advancing According to Their Own Little-Known Moore’s Law

Meet two of the very few bullish observers of ‘Wright’s Law’

Steve LeVine
The Mobilist
Published in
4 min readFeb 26, 2021

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Tesla Model 3s, stacked for delivery. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty

Batteries, say deeply frustrated developers, follow no Moore’s Law. Unlike semiconductors, whose performance has doubled roughly every two years for at least a half-century, just as Intel co-founder Gordon Moore posited, batteries have merely trundled along, eking out advances in crawling fits and starts, seemingly lost to any governing master force. All there is to do is keep working on the chemistry, and hope for the best.

But, as slowly cheapening lithium-ion batteries finally seem close to taking electric vehicles down to the same sticker price as combustion, a couple of industry bulls are taking issue with the industry orthodoxy: The cost decline, they say, has been foreseeable. The lens is an industrial principle just as ironclad as Moore’s Law.

Go on Google, punch in T.P. Wright, and you will find a multitude of links to Wright’s Law. Starting in the 1920s, Wright was an aerospace engineer and later an official in the FDR and Truman presidencies. In 1936, he wrote a seven-page paper in the Journal of the Aeronautical Sciences in which he sought answers to a couple of questions: What impact precisely does scale have on the price of an airplane? And, can that impact be quantified? The result was his eponymous law, which states that when the cumulative production of a given thing doubles, its cost declines by a fixed amount.

Today, Wright’s brainchild, not widely known outside of engineers and consultancies like the Boston Consulting Group, is especially important for EV and battery developers because it explains how they can take on and beat combustion. The law is also a bright oncoming locomotive bearing down on the gasoline-powered vehicle industry. As long as cost parity — expected in 2023 or 2024 — leads to a nascent mass EV market, the embryonic industry will rapidly go on to further price declines as its cumulative production doubles and doubles again. As for the already-humongous conventional auto industry, at current sales rates, it will have to wait about 29 years to double the fleet, according to Sam Korus, an analyst with ARK Invest.

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Steve LeVine
The Mobilist

Editor at Large, Medium, covering the turbulence all around us, electric vehicles, batteries, social trends. Writing The Mobilist. Ex-Axios, Quartz, WSJ, NYT.