College Gets $10M Donation For Cleantech

One suspects that Winston Chung would not only be elected mayor of Riverside, Calif., were he to seek the office, but would probably be given a crown and scepter and declared lord of the realm. The Chinese battery technology scientist and industrialist, who is pumping life into the abandoned Fleetwood recreational vehicle factory in town, will also give $10 million to the University of California at Riverside to support clean battery power, solar energy and sustainable transportation research at the Bourns College of Engineering.

The university and Chung announced the gift just days after MVP RV, with a $310 million infusion from Winston Global Energy Ltd., said it would build some 30,000 recreational vehicles – valued at $5 billion – for export to China in the next three or four years. That expansion will take MVP’s workforce from its current 150 to upwards of 1,400.

Winston Chung, $10 million donation, UC Riverside

image via UC Riverside

The RVs for export in the immediate future will be diesel-powered, but Chung, inventor of the rare earth lithium yttrium battery, has designs on electrifying the category. According to UC Riverside, Winston Battery and Balqon Corporation, a California developer and manufacturer of zero-emission heavy-duty electric vehicles and drive systems, recently demonstrated the world’s first all-electric recreational vehicle – a 45-foot RV with a range of 120 miles that can be charged in 20 minutes.

The $10 million gift is the largest ever from a private donor to the UC Riverside campus, where Engineering Building II will become known as Winston Chung Hall. The university said the funds will support two named professorships in the Bourns College of Engineering, and establish the Winston Chung Global Energy Center within the college’s Center for Environmental Research & Technology. The center will focus on Chung’s specialty – rare earth lithium-ion batteries – the university said, along with bio-inspired technology and the development of clean energy and energy storage.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.