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$36 Million To Banish EV Range Anxiety, Forever

Sequester or no sequester, the Obama Administration has just pledged $36 million to kickstart a new program called RANGE, for Robust Affordable Next Generation Energy Storage Systems. Basically the program aims to wallop the range anxiety issue once and for all, by accelerating the development of advanced, long range EV battery systems while lowering the cost of EV batteries. The funds are being distributed to 22 projects in 15 different states through the Department of Energy’s Advanced Projects Research Agency – Energy (ARPA-E).

As the Energy Department’s counterpart to the legendary DARPA defense research agency, ARPA-E is looking for cutting edge, transformational technologies that will launch the US into a transportation landscape dominated by electric vehicles, sooner rather than later.

22 Pills To Cure Range Anxiety Ills

Along with a number of public and private research universities and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the funding will go to the sustainability heavy-hitter GE,  BASF, and two companies that we’re not familiar with (yet), EnZinc and Cloteam LLC.

We’ve covered GE’s many green tech projects previously, especially its new “brilliant” wind turbine, and the company will get almost $900,000 to develop a water-based flow battery (flow batteries are based, literally, on the interaction of liquid flowing along another liquid or solid).

New ARPA-E RANGE program tackles range anxiety.

RANGE EV battery research funding courtesy of ARPA-E.

BASF has been transitioning to a green chemistry model and was recognized with a Presidential Green Chemistry Award in 2010, so we’re going to be paying a lot more attention to the company from now on. Its ARPA-E funding of $4 million will go to the development of low cost alternatives to the rare earths used in nickel-metal hydride batteries.

EnZinc will work with the Naval Research Laboratory to develop a zinc-air battery under a $450,000 award, and Cloteam is getting $3.5 million to develop a collision-resistant battery pack system.

The complete rundown of projects is available from ARPA-E, including at least two projects that address battery weight by designing the pack as an integrated feature of the vehicle chassis and/or frame, rather than as a separate component.

An EV In Every Pot

The new ARPA-E funding fits snugly into President Obama’s EV Everywhere initiative, which has been pumping millions into research and public-private partnerships to get more affordable EV’s into the hands of consumers. The goal is to make owning an EV just as affordable as owning a gasoline vehicle within the next ten years.

The RANGE program also fits neatly into the Administration’s JCESR advanced energy storage initiative, along with the new critical materials research hub and other foundational research initiatives.

As for EV range anxiety, when you take “EV” out of the equation, all you’re left with is the need for travelers to gauge their distance and fuel availability before setting off, no matter what their means of conveyance — walking, cycling, riding a horse or driving a vehicle.

For that matter, despite generations of familiarity with modern gasoline gauge technology, running out of gas is still a common occurrence, especially when the price of gasoline rises and drivers try to make a tank last until prices fall again. AAA reported a spike in out-of-gas distress calls back in 2011, when its Texas affiliates alone handled more than 1600 calls a month from members stranded with an empty gas tank.

Errr…so there.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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