Berkeley Lab receives $13M for electric vehicle battery research

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Lisi Ludwig/File
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory received more than $13 million for research on solid state batteries, connected vehicles and electric battery-powered vehicles.

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Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory were awarded more than $13 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, to fund ongoing research on solid state batteries and connected vehicles with the aim to make an easier switch to electric vehicles.

Berkeley Lab is one of 26 laboratories in the nation selected by the DOE to receive funding, according to a DOE press release.

The funds will be allocated across five different projects, according to a Berkeley Lab press release. Three of these projects will be focused on developing solid state lithium batteries, while the other two will be on high-speed charging and improving collaborative driving automation.

“Solid state batteries are a pretty hot field, no pun intended,” said Gerbrand Ceder, campus professor and co-principal investigator on one of the three battery projects. “It’s one that industry and government and academia care about … Lithium ion is a really powerful energy storage technology and very useful to society, and if we could make it safe, that would tremendously increase its reach.”

Ceder said solid state lithium batteries are significant for two major reasons: increased safety and elevated energy density. Solid state lithium batteries are virtually inflammable, making them much safer than standard lithium ion batteries. In addition, they present the opportunity to have much higher capacities of energy density than lithium ion batteries.

With the new funding, Ceder said his project will focus on enabling the batteries to work with lithium anodes to reach higher energy levels. He added that the project will work toward manufacturing solid state batteries outside of a laboratory setting.

“There’s also an effort to make solid state batteries more manufacturable,” Ceder said. “One of the challenges today is that we can make to some extent solid state batteries in the lab, but we need to work on a scalable manufacturing technology by which they can be made.”

According to the DOE press release, a total of $209 million was awarded to projects involving electric vehicles, connected vehicles and battery research.

The funding announcement by the DOE marks a step toward fulfilling the Biden administration’s goal to transition the United States toward electric vehicles, the press release added.

“With the U.S. falling behind on battery production, one major area where Berkeley Lab is focusing its capabilities and expertise is on leveraging science and technical innovations across materials, supply chains and production processes to revolutionize a domestics battery ecosystem,” said Noël Bakhtian, executive director of the Berkeley Lab Energy Storage Center, in an email.

Contact Amy Zeng at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @amyzengg.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article misquoted Ceder as saying “lithium ion is a really powerful energy source.” In fact, Ceder said “lithium ion is a really powerful energy storage technology.”