DoE's Battery Research Center Seeks 5X Improvement In 5 Years

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Lithium-ion battery pack for 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV electric car

Lithium-ion battery pack for 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV electric car

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If you want to know how advanced cars might be in the next hundred years, just take a look at how far the car has come along in the last hundred.

Unfortunately, electric cars missed out on decades of development over the last century. Battery technology in particular still suffers many of the issues it always has.

In an effort to speed up development, the U.S. Department of Energy has set a goal to improve battery and energy storage technologies by five times that of today--in the next five years.

For technology which is often seemingly a decade away, that's quite a goal.

That's why, says Computerworld, the DoE has created the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, at a cost of $120 million over five years.

The idea is to replicate the kind of environment that spurred on other technical revolutions of the last century--such as the Manhattan Project in World War II.

While this resulted in something far more sinister than an electric car battery--the atomic bomb--the concept is sound: Put the best scientists and engineers in the same room, and free their creativity.

Those scientists and engineers will hail from six national laboratories and five universities, most of which are based in Illinois and Michigan. The Center itself will be based at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago.

Private firms, including Dow Chemical, Applied Materials, Johnson Controls (potential bidders on banrupt battery firm, A123) and the Clean Energy Trust, are also contributing to the goal.

Ultimately, the aim is to develop batteries which are better and more affordable--through a process of new ideas and experimental processes, rather than incremental improvements to existing technology. The DoE says that current research focuses too much on solving one particular problem, rather than taking a holistic approach.

Is such an approach just what the battery industry needs? We'll let you know in five years...


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Comments (8)
  1. I see this as a method to fast track graphene's integration into batteries, possibly in multiple ways at the same time.

  2. I think there are very small chance they come up with a idea that improves batteries by 50%. But even 5% improvement will justify $120 million spent.

  3. Umm, considering Li Ion batteries are said to have improved about 8%, a year, for the past 20 years, I think it will take more than that. Could have a lot of success if they can get most of the most innovative ideas into the fold.

    Universities not mentioned including Univ of Arizona, Stanford and McGill. The four or five private battery ventures that seem promising, well funded and not mentioned in the article would be good additions also. Time to get on board or get left behind folks.

  4. This is the sort of thing we need to advance the storage battery. I am hopeful that the higher ups see better batteries as the answer to many problems and if the goal is achieved, the new tech will put us in the cat bird seat in many green fields.

  5. The private companies are Dow;good!(MI based), JCI;good!(IL based), Applied Materials, a strong Obama supporter in solar panels; not batteries??? (CA-based) & Clean Energy Trust; non-profit Chicago based start-up incubator.

    This is more a political pay-back than to move battery technology forward.

    Missing are auto companies or electric utilites to explain their needs! SAE should be involved in standards for batteries & testing. University partners: Northwestern U. (IL), U. of Chicago, U. of IL-Chicago, U.of IL-Urbana Champaign, & U. of MI. Political payback!! Argonne Labs is in IL, too.
    No university or gov't lab should work on anything without corporate sponsor w/ skin in the game! This insures work on things that will be commercializ

  6. A great idea! If financial incentives are tied to real world improvements then realistic goals will no doubt be met. Financial gain drives technology improvements. The good that comes out of this program must be turned over to the corporate machine.

  7. I notice that Dow Chemical, Applied Materials and Johnson Controls are involved, however the author fails to mention Clean Energy Trust.He also doesn't mention that all but one of the universities involved are all in Illinois.

    The omission of Clean Energy Trust is understandable because then it would draw scrutiny towards this dubious plan and Board Member Paula Crown who is more famous for throwing campaign galas for Obama.
    This is nothing more than Chu paying off Illinois for Obama's re-election. $120M over 5 years is not going to achieve much, but may pave the way for an emirates position for Chu and his cronies.

  8. @Joe: Actually, the author mentions Clean Energy Trust. Look again at the article.

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