Thursday, May 6, 2010

U.S. Allots $34 Million to Research Ways to Improve Electric Car Batteries

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced awards of more than $34 million in research grants aimed at developing better batteries for electric vehicles.

First-generation batteries for electrified cars and trucks are expensive, although prices will decline as manufacturing volume increases.

At recent U.S. prices per kilowatt-hour of energy storage capacity, the battery packs add about $36,000 to the cost of a Tesla Roadster, as much as $16,000 to the price of a Nissan Leaf, and almost $11,000 to the cost of a Chevrolet Volt.

Federal tax credits of $7,500 and local incentives will help make plug-in vehicles more affordable for early adopters, but automakers and battery suppliers are focusing on battery cost and performance as keys to the acceptance of new-energy automobiles.

Officials recently announced that the federal government will pitch in through its Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, funding 10 battery research projects considered to have the potential to dramatically improve upon existing technologies.

"The critical barrier to wider deployment of electric vehicles is the high cost and low energy of today's batteries," the Energy Department said in a news release. "This ARPA-E program seeks to develop a new generation of ultra-high energy density, low-cost battery technologies for long-range plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles."

The two basic characteristics of battery performance, experts say, are power density and energy density. Power density can be thought of as the source of rapid acceleration, while energy density involves how long a battery can operate in charge-depleting mode, or in the case of an electric vehicle, how far it can travel, according to the Electrification Roadmap, published by the Electrification Coalition. The coalition is made up of representatives of companies involved in the transportation, battery-making and electricity industries.

The Energy Department has awarded a total of $34,573,810 for battery research projects in a program called Batteries for Electrical Energy Storage in Transportation, or BEEST.

The award recipients, partner companies or agencies, funding amounts, project locations and project descriptions are as follows:

Sion Power Corp.
Tucson, Ariz.

(BASF, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery: The project seeks to develop an ultra-high-energy Li-S battery that can power electric vehicles for more than 300 miles between charges. The approach uses new manufacturing processes and six physical barrier layers to address cycle life and safety.

ReVolt Technology LLC
Portland, Ore.

Zinc air-flow battery: A large, high-energy zinc air-flow battery will be developed to enable long range plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. Zinc, suspended as a slurry, is stored in a tank and transported through tubes to charge and discharge the battery.

PolyPlus Battery Co.
Berkeley, Calif.
(Corning Inc.)

Lithium-air battery: Rechargeable Li-air batteries for electric vehicle applications will be developed using protected lithium metal cathodes. This approach has a clear path to scaling commercially, and the batteries may rival the energy density of gasoline.

Pellion Technologies Inc.
Menlo Park, Calif.
(Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bar-Ilan University)

Magnesium-ion battery: The project will develop an inexpensive, rechargeable magnesium-ion battery for electric and hybrid-electric vehicle applications. Computational methods and accelerated chemical synthesis will be used to develop new materials and chemistries. If successful, this project will develop the first commercial magnesium-ion battery and establish U.S. technology leadership in a new field.

Applied Materials Inc.
Santa Clara, Calif.
(A123 Systems, Inc., Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

Advanced lithium-ion battery manufacturing: Low-cost, ultra-high-energy lithium-ion batteries will be developed using an innovative manufacturing process. High-energy cathodes will be integrated with new anodes and prototype manufacturing will be demonstrated that could achieve an extremely low cost. If successful, this project will establish U.S. leadership in the manufacturing of high-energy, low-cost advanced lithium-ion batteries.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Mass.

(A123 Systems, Inc., Rutgers University)

Novel semi-solid rechargeable flow battery: This is a new battery concept that combines the best aspects of rechargeable batteries and fuel cells. It could enable batteries for electric vehicles that are much lighter, smaller and cheaper than today's batteries. This flow battery potentially could cost less than one-eighth the price of today's batteries, which could lead to widespread adoption of affordable electric vehicles.

Planar Energy Devices Inc.
Orlando, Fla.

(National Renewable Energy Laboratory, UC San Diego, University of Central Florida, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Florida, University of South Florida)

Solid-state lithium battery: This project seeks to develop an ultra-high-energy, long cycle-life, all solid-state lithium battery that can be manufactured using low-cost techniques. Pilot-scale manufacturing of the batteries will be demonstrated using all inorganic materials and solid-state electrolytes whose properties are similar to existing liquid electrolytes.

Stanford University
Stanford, Calif.

(Honda, Applied Materials Inc.)

Novel all-electron battery: Researchers will seek to develop an "all-electron battery," a completely new class of electrical energy storage devices for electric vehicles. The new battery stores energy by moving electrons rather than ions and uses a novel architecture that has potential for very high energy density.

Recapping Inc.
University Park, Penn.; Menlo Park, Calif.

(Penn State University)

Capacitive storage: The project will develop a novel energy storage device – a high-energy-density capacitor – based on a 3D nano-composite structure. The approach combines the benefits of high cycling ability, high power density and low cost.

Missouri University of Science & Technology
Rolla, Mo.

(Brookhaven National Laboratory, MaxPower Inc., NanoLab Inc.)

Lithium-air battery: A new high-energy air cathode will be created to enable the successful development of ultra-high-energy lithium-air batteries. The project will seek to dramatically improve cathode performance through the development of a new electrode structure and improved catalysts.

source: sunpluggers