A more affordable electric car might be in your future, thanks to research Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland has been picked to lead.
The White House announced recently that the Department of Energy lab in Richland will guide a $50 million effort over the next five years to come up with an improved electric car battery — one that is small, light and powerful.
“Our goal is to extract every available drop of energy from battery materials, while also producing a high-performance battery that is reliable, safe and less expensive,” said Jun Liu, a PNNL materials scientist and director of the PNNL-led consortium.
The Battery500 consortium will work to come up with a battery pack with a specific energy of 500 watt-hours per kilogram. Specific energy is the amount of energy packed into a battery based on its weight.
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Today a typical electric car battery has 170-200 watt hours per kilogram, less than half of what DOE would like.
“This is extremely difficult but extremely worthwhile,” Liu said.
Not only would it have applications for electric car batteries but for better rechargeable batteries for other uses, such as mobile phones and laptops and eventually for storing energy until it is needed on the electric grid.
Battery500 will examine the best options to create the most powerful next-generation lithium batteries for electric cars.
Jun Liu, consortium director
The consortium plans to focus most of its effort on replacing the graphite used on the negative electrode in a typical electric vehicle with lithium metal, which can store more energy for the same amount of weight.
However, several problems must be overcome to allow the switch, Liu said. Unwanted side reactions in the battery can weaken the battery’s performance.
The consortium also must find a solution that is economical and practical for manufacturing the batteries to meet President Obama’s goal of making electric vehicles an attractive and affordable option for American families.
Some work is expected to be done at PNNL’s new Advanced Battery Facility, which has the capability to make and test new types of batteries. The specialized scientific equipment at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory on the PNNL campus also could be used to characterize materials.
PNNL’s partners in Battery500 include the University of Washington, Stanford University, among five universities in total; Brookhaven, N.Y, and Idaho National Laboratories; and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
IBM and Tesla will be represented on the advisory board.
The consortium also will welcome ideas for solutions from others. It is setting aside 20 percent of its budget for “seedling projects,” or work based on proposals from throughout the battery research community.