Batteries play two key roles in the clean energy revolution: They power electric vehicles, and they can store clean energy so it can be dispatched whenever it’s needed. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is working quickly and strategically to advance batteries’ capabilities, because they are poised to transform both the energy landscape and the transportation sector.

The 2017 launch of the Battery500 Consortium set the country on the fast track to vehicle electrification. Battery500 is a group of national labs and universities—including two Nobel Prize winners who won for inventing lithium-ion batteries—dedicated to making more powerful, less costly EV batteries. A Battery500 goal, and the reason behind the consortium’s name, is to increase lithium battery cell energy to 500 Watt hours per kilogram (Wh/kg) from today’s level of 220 Wh/kg. Increasing cell energy will lower EV battery cost to DOE’s goal of $60/per kilowatt-hour. A more energy-dense battery will require fewer materials to get that amount of energy, so it’s lighter, too.

Battery500 Consortium team

The Battery500 Consortium: VTO director Dave Howell, front row, fourth from left; Nobel Prize winner John Goodenough, second row, second from left; Nobel Prize winner M. Stanley Whittingham, second row, far right.

Advances and Funding

Battery500 has made great strides so far. The consortium has developed new cell design, manufacturing, and testing tools; fabricated high-energy, rechargeable lithium-metal cells with a specific energy over 350 Wh/kg; and enabled 350 Wh/kg battery cells to be fully charged and discharged 600 times—closing in on the goal of 1,000.

Now Battery500 will have an additional $75 million from DOE to work with as it increases collaboration with industry to develop materials and technologies scalable for manufacturing. Led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the consortium comprises three other national labs and nine university research partners. General Motors is also providing funding to build battery prototype cells for evaluation.

Beyond the consortium, DOE awarded $134 million to 25 national lab projects that aim to reduce battery cost and size but also fully charge batteries in less than 15 minutes. And since widespread production and adoption of EV batteries means tens of millions of vehicles across the nation will soon need charging, some of these projects are working to mitigate any impacts the increase in charging might have on the electric grid. Others are working to streamline vehicle-to-vehicle communications and controls.

Supply Chain and Infrastructure

DOE wants to ensure a strong domestic supply chain to create jobs and enable EV battery production in the United States. The public-private partnership Li-Bridge helps bridge gaps in the domestic lithium battery supply chain and works with national labs toward the 2030 goals in the National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries.

As those gaps are bridged, the new Joint Office of Energy and Transportation puts two federal agencies (DOE and the Department of Transportation (DOT)) at the forefront of implementing EV infrastructure nationwide—500,000 charging stations by 2030—to reduce emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. The Joint Office will facilitate:

  • Technical assistance to deploy, operate, and maintain electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) and hydrogen fueling infrastructure, and enable vehicle-to-grid integration
  • Data sharing to inform the build-out of EVSE and hydrogen fueling infrastructure
  • Studies to support grants for community resilience and EV integration
  • New training and certification programs for the workforce that will install, maintain, and repair EVSE
  • Infrastructure that allows two-way electricity distribution, so power flows from vehicles to the grid and from the grid to vehicles, and incorporates right-of-way corridors.

DOE will also work with the DOT, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop a joint strategy to decarbonize transportation and make it affordable and accessible to all Americans.

Learn more about VTO’s Battery500 Consortium.