Building a Better Battery for Electric Vehicles and the Grid

If you wanted to shorten the path from discovering to commercializing a promising battery technology for electric and hybrid vehicles and the electricity grid, you’d probably want to start an Energy Innovation Hub. That’s exactly what happened today, as Argonne National Lab takes the reins of the newly formed Batteries and Energy Storage Hub.

It’ll be known as the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), pronounced like “J-Caesar,” and it will play a valuable role in advancing battery technology in the United States.

Selected for an award of up to $120 million over five years and directed by George W. Crabtree, Argonne Senior Scientist, the Hub will be the most advanced energy storage research program in the country, providing engineers and manufacturers with the tools, resources and market reach necessary to produce major breakthroughs.

Improved battery storage straddles two important energy sectors: transportation and the grid.

On the transportation side, radical advances in battery technology are needed to build vehicles that go further on a gallon of gas — or on their charge. Through interdisciplinary research and development, the Hub is looking to accelerate the technologies that will increase power capacities and charges, and ways to ramp up manufacturing this technology to full scale quickly.

On the grid, improved storage will be vital to be integrating renewable energy sources, like wind, solar and other intermittent sources, onto the electrical grid. By storing energy, the grid would be able to dispatch electricity at the time when people need it the most increasing flexibility of grid power, and improving energyefficiency.

The new Hub will integrate efforts at several successful independent research programs into a larger, coordinated effort designed to push the limits on battery advances. In all, JCESR will combine the R&D firepower of five DOE national laboratories, five universities and four private firms in an effort aimed at achieving revolutionary advances in battery performance.

The idea behind the Hubs is to rapidly develop technology with the best scientist-leaders managing a team of scientists, engineers and technicians, and then scale their research to commercial deployment. All five Hubs are modeled this way, after the strong scientific management characteristics of the Manhattan Project, Lincoln Lab at MIT that developed radar, AT&T Bell Laboratories that developed the transistor and, more recently, the highly successful Bioenergy Research Centers established during the Bush Administration to pioneer advanced techniques in biotechnology, including biofuels.

Argonne scientists Ira Bloom (front) and Javier Bareño prepare a sample of battery materials for Raman spectroscopy, which is used to gather information regarding the nature of the materials present in the sample. | Photo courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory.

Who will be partners?

  • Labs: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
  • Universities: Northwestern University, University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, University of Chicago and University of Michigan.
  • Industry: Johnson Controls, Dow Chemical Company, Applied Materials and Clean Energy Trust.

By Michael Hess, Digital Communications Specialist, Office of Public Affairs

Learn more about each of the Hub at