How Batteries Could Impact Energy Storage, Electric Cars

Editor’s Note: EarthTechling is proud to repost this article courtesy of EarthFix. Author credit goes to Courtney Flatt.

High-tech batteries could be a solution to storing renewable energy. They will also help electric cars drive farther before recharging. The U.S. Department of Energy also says better performing batteries will reduce dependence on foreign oil.

That’s why the department is funding a five-year, national research and development hub that will look at advancing battery performance. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., will receive $15 million as a part of the research team. The entire hub will receive $120 million over five years.

PNNL battery research

Research at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) includes development of materials and batteries for stationary energy storage applications, as well battery testing. (image via Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

The Joint Center for Energy Storage will be based at the Argonne National Laboratory outside of Chicago. And it has an ambitious goal:

“We’re gonna develop batteries that are five times cheaper, five times more powerful, within five years,” said Eric Isaacs, Director the Argonne Lab.

As a part of the team, scientists at the lab will research batteries at the molecular level. Scientists say that’s what’s limiting battery technology today.

Jud Virden is the director of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s energy and environment sector. He said batteries are the future of energy.

“The future view for many, especially if you’re going to use large amounts of renewables, which we do in the Northwest, we have an awful lot of wind power … You have to be able to store that electricity produced from renewable generation in real time so that you can save it at one time in the day and use it at another point in the day,” Virden said.

Jun Liu is a battery researcher at the lab. He said there are many challenges researchers will have to overcome. Two in particular: storing more energy in the battery and developing a safe technology. Industry will also have to figure out how to keep costs down.

“Other countries are also making a huge investment in this area,” Liu said. “So it’s very important for the United States to make this kind of investment so that our science and technology stays competitive, also our industry can compete with other countries. … If we don’t do it, other countries will dominate.”

The national hub will combine research from five national laboratories, including Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, five universities and four private firms.

Energy Secretary Stephen Chu says battery technology will strengthen the United States’ energy sector and economy.

“If we achieve these goals, then: kaboom!” Chu said in a press conference.

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