Batteries DOE launches JCESR battery research initiative

Published on December 1st, 2012 | by Tina Casey


Hail, Caesar! New JCESR Projects Aims For Revolution In EV Battery Research

December 1st, 2012 by  

The Department of Energy has announced a major new initiative designed to rocket the U.S. EV battery industry into global leadership, vastly improving the prospects for average car buyers to wrap their hands around the steering wheels of affordable, long-range EVs some time in the not too distant future. The $120 million, five-year program is called JCESR for Joint Center for Energy Storage Research. It combines the high-tech research “firepower” of fourteen national laboratories, universities, and private companies with no less of a mission than to revolutionize EV battery performance.

DOE launches JCESR battery research initiative

Energy Independence Means Battery Independence

JCESR builds on an 2010 Obama Administration energy storage initiative aimed at supporting a “web” of EV battery manufacturers in the former U.S. Rust Belt, anchored by cities like Holland, Michigan.

Part of the Recovery Act, the battery initiative had two goals. First and foremost was to kickstart job creation in a region reeling from the 2008 financial crisis and long-term economic malaise.

Second, the aim was to build a foundation for long-term sustainability in the domestic vehicle manufacturing sector. As of 2010, the U.S. was providing just 2% of the global automotive battery market. Without a boost for domestic battery manufacturing, future growth in the emerging U.S. EV sector could be hobbled by dependence on overseas battery suppliers.

A Big Boost for EV Battery Research

Spearheaded by Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, the JCESR team will be headquartered in a new facility at the lab’s campus, built with the help of $5 million from the state Illinois Jobs Now! construction fund.

As the nation’s Energy Storage and Research Hub, JCESR will coordinate existing research projects as well as launching new ones.

It’s also possible that JCESR could hook up with research projects at the new Ground Systems Power and Energy Laboratory at TARDEC, the Army’s tank and vehicle research center in Michigan.

Along with EV battery development, research on grid-integrated energy storage is another essential part of the JCESR mission, leading to the introduction of more wind and solar energy into the nation’s mainstream energy supply.

Another interesting trend that could develop out of JCESR is the use of active and spent EV batteries as multi-purpose energy storage devices.

Ford has already launched a pilot project using spent EV batteries in conjunction with a 500kW solar installation at its Michigan Assembly Plant, the Department of Defense is looking into integrating EV batteries into demonstration microgrid projects, and several EV owners reportedly hacked their vehicle batteries to power their homes after Hurricane Sandy took millions of people off the grid last month.


We Built This!

Not to belabor a point from the last election, but what the heck, it’s worth belaboring. The new partnership is yet another demonstration of a core technology that has been developed with a heavy dose of public funding.

Aside from Argonne, the list of JCESR partners includes Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, and University of Michigan.

The four industrial partners are Dow Chemical Company; Applied Materials, Inc.; Johnson Controls, Inc.; and Clean Energy Trust.

That’s just the battery and energy storage hub, by the way. This is the fourth such public-private energy innovation hub supported by the Obama Administration. The other three deal with nuclear reactors, energy efficient buildings, and photosynthetic fuels. A fifth proposed hub will deal with critical materials research.

And don’t even get us started on the President’s public-private Advanced Manufacturing Initiative….

Image: EV parking by Paul Krueger

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Have a question about the future of batteries? Email and Berkeley Lab’s Venkat Srinivasan may answer it in a follow-up video next week. He’s a big part of a new Department of Energy hub tasked with making huge advances in battery performance. If you’re curious about what’s next for EVs, what it’ll take to store electricity from solar panels for use at night, or why your smartphone keeps dying – Venkat’s your guy.

  • Carter Newton

    No matter how you do it, someone, somewhere butned coal to make that electricity happen each time a battery is recharged 75% of the time in the US, and more elsewhere. Feel good in LA but not so good in Virginia with acid rain all over.

    Write about CNG for cars; that is something that makes good sense now; batteries will sometime in the distant future.

    • Your theory is wrong since only 35% of energy came from coal this year. Now most of it did come from natural gas, but just because its not great now doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t start the switch because any battery research helps renewables and if we can lesson our need for oil thats a great first step

    • Bob_Wallace

      That’s just wrong, Carter. Very, very wrong.

      During the first half of 2012 coal provided only 36% of all electricity generated in the US. And that number will continue to decrease, we have around 100 coal plants scheduled to close in the next few years and we are building no new ones.

    • Ronald Brak

      As electric cars are much more efficient than standard internal combustion cars, even in a extremely coal heavy grid overall CO2 emissions are about the same, and very coal heavy grids are quite rare these days. So if you live in Melbourne you might be better off with a fuel efficient hybrid or one of Melbourne’s many LPG vehicles, unless you are a day charger with solar panels. But wind and solar are gradually killing coal plants in Australia and it will take time for electric cars to be seriously marketed here (the Nissin Leaf doesn’t even accept Australian/European power) so it might not be long before electric cars are a clear winner even in dirty, filthy, brown coal Melbourne. (Well, Melbourne itself isn’t dirty and filthy from coal. The coal mutants are mostly confined to the Hunter Valley. Although instead of extra heads the mutations usually just result in, you know, cancer.)

    • Science Guru

      Hard factual statistics prove that just over 98% of all electric car owners have a photovoltaic solar energy system on their roof to power not only the car but all of the electricity that is used in the home. Only a tiny percent of coal, gas or nuclear derived electric power ever goes into charging an electric car.
      Check your facts before posting such nonsense.

      • Bob_Wallace

        98%? I’d sure like to see a link to those numbers.

        It would be great if you’re right, but that seems so high….

        • yes, please, get us a link! 😀

          • Lance Sjogren

            Obviously a statistic that he made up. Actually, it would not speak well for EV owners if they have photovoltaic systems in their homes, since those are decades away from being either economically or environmentally benign.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Hello! It’s now 2013!!

            PV systems are environmentally benign, at least among the most benign of our options to create electricity. They are best in terms of bird/bat kills. Second best in terms of lifetime CO2 output. Tied with wind in terms of pollution during operation.

            And their prices have become extremely sweet.

            Were we installing rooftop at German cost ($2/watt) you could put a solar system on your roof that would power your ride for the next 40+ years and it would cost less than $6k.

            $6k / 40 years / 12 months = a $12.50 monthly “gas” bill.

          • Lance, that’s some claim. As many studies have shown, solar is a key solution to our water, food, and climate crisis:
            Regarding costs: we write on that subject basically every day. have a stroll through our archives.

  • JMin2020

    Thanks for the post Tina. This almost makes me want to pay more taxes. There is a sense of pride that is derived of good advances made via tax dollars well spent on meeting our energy and transportation needs with advanced technologies. I am glad we are making headway and the future is looking brighter in these areas.

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