Berkeley Lab secures $13m to research advanced EV batteries and charging

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The US Department of Energy (DoE) issued $13 million in funding to accelerate the development of advanced lithium batteries and the use of electric vehicles (EVs)

Berkeley Lab will use the funding from the DoE’s Vehicle Technologies Office to implement five research and development programmes.

Three of the programmes that are part of the five-year study will focus on making solid-state lithium batteries that are safer, lighter and have a higher density than products that are on the market.

Such batteries will help the industry address challenges such as range anxiety which is crippling the EV market, according to a statement.

Gerbrand Ceder, the lead scientist on one of the projects, said: “This is very promising. It’s an enormously important path for the energy storage industry because solid-state batteries are both safer – they don’t have highly flammable liquid electrolytes, like today’s lithium-ion batteries do – and will lead to higher energy density.

“With conventional lithium-ion batteries, we don’t have much of a path left to higher energy density because it’s already almost fully optimised.”

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The news follows researchers at the DoE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory announcing that they have developed a new lithium-metal that increases both the lifespan and density of EV batteries to record level.

In addition to increasing the density and lifespan of batteries, Berkeley Lab will also investigate new ways to manufacture batteries and ensure sustainable practices are incorporated along with the manufacturing processes.

Battery manufacturers are focusing on finding new ways and materials that can reduce the environmental impact of the industry. ESS claims it is now producing iron flow long-duration energy storage systems using iron, salt, and water thereby reducing the need for heavy metals in its manufacturing process.

The DoE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has also developed a new system to automate and increase the speed at which batteries from EVs are recycled.

“Making solid-state batteries is considerably different from the way lithium-ion batteries are made today,” Ceder said.

The other two projects focus on rapid charging and optimising cooperative driving automation. 

Tom Kirchstetter, director of Berkeley Lab’s Energy Analysis & Environmental Impacts Division, said: “This funding will continue our groundbreaking research on cooperative driving, which develops automated vehicle technologies and operational strategies to minimize energy use and decrease traffic congestion on our roadways.”

The studies are expected to help the DoE to achieve its target of fully charging an EV in less than five minutes to be competitive with fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

The study will also focus on improving cooperative vehicle-to-vehicle communications and controls that reduce the overall energy use and emissions in transportation.