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Sierra Daily

Nov 30, 2012

A Boost For Batteries

Ev batteries iStock_000018976864XSmallWhat’s keeping quiet, non-polluting electric cars from taking over the automotive world? The cost of batteries. To keep the sticker price of electric vehicles from skyrocketing beyond the $30,000 average an American pays for a new car, most EVs available today have a range of around 100 miles. Only the $100,000 Tesla S has the 250-plus-mile range that some consumers consider a benchmark. 

But we may not have to wait long for Tesla-esque range to sweep the EV market. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it is investing $120 million in the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR, or "J-Caesar"), a new research lab whose goal is to develop batteries that are five times more powerful and five times cheaper within five years.

"Factors of five are what we need to transform both the power grid and transportation," said Eric D. Isaacs, director of Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, where the facility will be based. (The state of Illinois is kicking in another $5 million.) The efforts of five national labs, five universities, and four private companies will be combined at JCESR, whose researchers will work on batteries and energy storage that can be applied to everything from smartphones to electric cars to the utility grid.

The lab is one of five "innovation hubs" that Congress has approved. Three are up and running: an energy-efficient-building design lab in Philadephia; a solar fuels research center in California; and a “hub” working to improved nuclear reactors at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Image of an array of EV batteries by iStock/magnetcreative.

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

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