University partners with Department of Energy for battery research

By Andrew Schulman, Daily News Editor
Published December 2, 2012

The University will host an advanced battery laboratory as part of a regional network for battery research, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced Friday.

The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, which will be funded by the U.S. Department of Energy with $120 million over the next five years, will aim to develop batteries with lower energy costs that can make electric vehicles more feasible and affordable. JCESR will be headquartered at the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago and will have two advanced battery hubs in Michigan: one at the University and the other at Michigan State University’s Bio-Economy Institute in Holland.

The University’s will receive $7 million of the grant and more than a dozen University researchers will be involved in the project, the University said.

Chu said in the statement that the project was aimed at keeping manufacturing current with the newest technology available.

“Based on the tremendous advances that have been made in the past few years, there are very good reasons to believe that advanced battery technologies can and will play an increasingly valuable role in strengthening America’s energy and economic security,” Chu said.

University professors and state leaders likewise hailed the project, which includes nearly 40 other labs, universities and businesses nationwide, as a key achievement for the state to maintain its status as a leader in the manufacturing industry.

Mark Barteau, the director of the Michigan Energy Institute and a professor of advanced energy research, said the project will be important in forging advances in energy technology.

“This hub is aimed at breakthroughs in battery technology for energy storage, because step-out advances are needed to reach the energy densities desired for both automotive and grid storage applications,” Barteau said.

According to Barteau’s statement, University researchers will look into building new materials for the project.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D–Mich.) said in a statement that the project presents a good opportunity to grow jobs in the state.

“When we make things here and grow things here, we create jobs here in Michigan,” Stabenow said. “Michigan is leading the country in clean energy innovation and advanced battery technologies, creating jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. These new hubs will bring together Michigan's innovative businesses and universities from across the state to create more breakthroughs in advanced battery technologies right here in Michigan.”

U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) also indicated the project has potential benefits for the state in a statement on Friday, adding that it is a good fit for the University.

“As demand for electric vehicles continues to rise, we need to invest new technologies that can be developed here in Southeast Michigan,” Dingell said. “We must keep fighting to regain our leadership position in the clean energy race and this announcement is a strong step in that direction.”