Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and CalCEF have joined forces to launch the first ever public-private consortium designed to leapfrog current energy storage technology and develop advanced battery systems.
The partnership, named CalCharge, will convene dozens of start-ups and established companies under one roof to share best practices and world-class scientific facilities and personnel, and develop a Bay Area “regional ecosystem” to jumpstart new technologies and boost American success in global markets.
Advanced batteries could hold the key to a clean energy future – imagine if electric vehicle range anxiety was a distant memory and renewable energy could easily be stored on the grid for peak demand. In addition, international competition in the advanced battery market is bristling, and as in many other clean energy fields, the U.S. could quickly find itself losing business to other nations.
CalCharge will provide technology assistance, workforce training, and market education to participating companies in order to speed up energy storage commercialization and market adoption. Members will have access to Berkeley laboratories, testing facilities, technical resources, and diagnostic equipment through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements – assets they may not be able to afford on their own.
In exchange, the clean tech market may get next-generation battery technology and California may get an economic boost. 30 battery companies of all sizes are located in the Bay Area, and the state has seen 258 battery technology patent registrations from 2008-2010 – more than the next three states combined.
California also leads the nation in clean tech venture capital investment, and energy storage made up 11 percent of all VC investment, so opportunity abounds for the right breakthroughs. “There’s a lot of battery know-how in California, specifically the Bay Area, but technology startups need an ecosystem to survive,” said Venkat Srinivasan, head of Berkeley Lab’s energy storage research program.
While the setting may be right, stakes for success are high, and timing is tight. “The next decade will be critical for this industry and this region,” said Paul Alivisatos, director of Berkeley Lab. Batteries are the most expensive component of electric vehicles, a major barrier to market-wide consumer adoption, and still top out around 100 miles of range. Recently, a Department of Energy researcher predicted the next generation of usable battery technology to be around ten years away.
CalCharge aims to create breakthroughs in consumer electronics, electric/hybrid vehicles, and the electric grid. By joining the companies trying to unlock the potential of energy storage, potential customers in a business community that can commercialize new technology, and one of the most advanced energy research institutions in the world, it may just succeed.
Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy public relations company based in Washington, D.C.