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Published on July 23rd, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan


Tesla, IBM, Stanford, & PNNL Lead Obama’s Battery500 EV Battery Initiative

July 23rd, 2016 by  

As I’ve written many times, I think the #1 barrier to quicker electric car (and electric bus) adoption is simply lack of awareness / lack of experience. That said, despite the many technological, societal, and consumer benefits of electric cars, there are two remaining technological hurdles that can limit adoption for a significant number of people.

The first regards charging speed, and that is being tackled by the White House with its target to achieve 350 kW, 10-minute EV fast charging; its workplace charging initiative; its $4.5 billion for EV charging loan guarantees; its “FAST Act process” to identify and streamline development of EV charging corridors across the United States; and other initiatives.

On the battery front, the US Department of Energy (DOE) has been working to bring down battery costs for the past few years, and the press release notes that EV battery prices dropped 70% in the past 8 years, but the aim is to put the price drop into ludicrous mode (okay, maybe not ludicrous mode, but the White House is certainly stepping on the pedal). The aim is to get below $100/kWh soon in order to really accelerate the clean transport rEVolution.

Here are the specific targets of the new White House / Department of Energy initiative:

“The Battery500 Consortium aims to triple the specific energy (to 500 WH/kg) relative to today’s battery technology while achieving 1,000 electric vehicles cycles. This will result in a significantly smaller, lighter weight, less expensive battery pack (below $100/kWh) and more affordable EVs.”

4 DOE National Laboratories and 5 universities are involved in Battery500, but I found it particularly interesting that the advisory board consists of Tesla and IBM, as well as Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Stanford University, which are both research partners as well.

The other partner labs and universities (not on the advisory board) are:

  • Brookhaven National Laboratory
  • Idaho National Laboratory
  • SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
  • Binghamton University (State University of New York)
  • University of California, San Diego
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • University of Washington

The team as a whole will receive up to $10 million a year for 5 years.

Not too shabby. And I think it’s promising that Tesla is on the advisory board, since the Silicon Valley company is leading the industry in the EV battery space, now has Jeff Dahn on board, and is obviously very keen to see research feed into practical solutions and real-world improvements in battery technology.

I’m also curious how it is IBM is on the advisory board. Beyond the simple fact that IBM has plenty of products using batteries, do you have any thoughts on its involvement here? IBM, as we reported in 2012 (and I’m sure I edited the article) has been working on a long-range lithium-air battery. I imagine it would like to be able to commercialize that one day. More info on IBM’s previously launched Battery 500 program can be found here (thanks to “mikgigs” for the link), and in this March 2016 article (thanks to “Alex_GuangTou” for the link).

Coming back to historical battery prices and how they’ve dropped in recent years, below is a graph I love (from our “Electric Car Answers” page). It was originally published in 2015 as part of a study of battery price trends up through 2014 (the stidy was published in the journal Nature Climate Change), and revised it slightly in May 2016.


Cost estimates and future projections for electric vehicle battery packs, measured in $US per kilowatt hour of capacity. Each mark on the chart represents a documented estimate reviewed by the study. But I added the last circle regarding Tesla’s most recent statement. Source: Nykvist et al. (2015).


Could we get to $100/kWh EV batteries by 2020?



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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in NIO [NIO], Tesla [TSLA], and Xpeng [XPEV]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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