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Creating Next Generation Electric Vehicle Batteries

August 27, 2013 in Battery Energy Storage, Electric Vehicles, EV News

Dr. Cheryl Martin, ARPA-E Deputy Director Photo courtesy of DOE

Dr. Cheryl Martin, ARPA-E Deputy Director
Photo courtesy of DOE

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Two research teams from the University of Maryland Energy Research Center (UMERC) were awarded research grants from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to develop transformational electric vehicle (EV) energy storage systems using innovative chemistries, architectures and designs.

The two UMD projects were among 22 selected nationwide that received a total of $36 million in research funding from ARPA-E’s new program, Robust Affordable Next Generation Energy Storage Systems (RANGE). ARPA-E’s RANGE program aims to accelerate widespread EV adoption by dramatically improving driving range and reliability, and by providing low-cost, low-carbon alternatives to today’s vehicles.

Multiple-Electron Aqueous Battery

Lithium-ion batteries have not been extensively adopted in electric vehicles due to short driving range, high cost, and low safety and reliability, which can increase the cost and reduce energy density. Researchers at UMD and the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) will develop a new battery—a hybridized ions aqueous battery—by doubling the cell voltage and capacity, which could cut the lithium-ion battery system cost in half and would enable an EV to travel two times as long per charge.

Washington Auto Show Photo courtesy of DOE

Washington Auto Show
Photo courtesy of DOE

The new battery could significantly reduce the cost of battery management, improve the reliability, and operate in a wide temperature range. If successful, UMD’s battery would make EVs cost/safety-competitive and travel 300 miles on a single charge, contributing to the widespread public acceptance of EVs. Increased use of EVs would decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and reduce CO2 emissions from burning the gasoline, which accounts for 28 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions.

Led by professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering Chunseng Wang, in partnership with Kan Xu at ARL, the “Multiple-Electron Aqueous Battery” project was awarded $405,000.

Solid-State Lithium-Ion Battery with Ceramic Electrolyte

A second group of UMD researchers will develop ceramic materials and processing methods to enable high-power, solid-state, lithium-ion batteries. While most lithium-ion batteries are liquid based, solid-state batteries have a greater abuse tolerance that reduces the need for heavy protective components. UMD will leverage multi-layer ceramics processing methods to produce a solid-state battery pack with lower weight and longer life. The team will develop intrinsically safe, robust, low-cost, high-energy-density all-solid-state lithium-ion batteries.

“Due to their all solid state construction, these lithium-ion batteries are non-flammable and intrinsically safe. Moreover, their novel highly conductivity materials and fabrication methods will exceed current goals for electric vehicle range, acceleration, and cost,” says UMERC director and professor of materials science and engineering Eric Wachsman, the lead on the project, which was awarded $574,275.

In addition to Wachsman, UMD professor Liangbing Hu and University of Calgary professor Venkataraman Thangadurai are team members on the project.

This article is a repost (press release 8-23-13), credit: University of Maryland,

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Thermal management technologies increase vehicle energy efficiency and performance while reducing costs. Source: NREL

August 21, 2013 in Battery Energy Storage, Electric Vehicles, EV News, Research

By Anya Breitenbach

In NREL's Advanced Power Electronics Lab, liquid cooling equipment is used to evaluate heat transfer in vehicle components.  Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL Courtesy of NREL

In NREL’s Advanced Power Electronics Lab, liquid cooling equipment is used to evaluate heat transfer in vehicle components.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL
Courtesy of NREL

Mythological character Icarus’ melted wings sent him plummeting to earth when he ignored his father’s advice and flew too close to the sun. Heat was Icarus’ undoing. Today’s real-world electric-drive vehicles (EDVs) also require diligent attention to temperature. The battery, power electronic system, electric motor operating temperatures, and climate control all factor into an EDV’s performance, range, lifespan, affordability, and—most  importantly—driver acceptance.

Last year, U.S consumers drove more than 487,000 EDVs (hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric vehicles) off dealers’ lots. But most of these vehicles still can’t match the price, driving range, and refueling speed Americans have come to expect from gas-powered automobiles. Issues with thermal management cause some of these limitations.

At the same time, as the U.S. auto industry grapples to meet ambitious new government fuel economy regulations, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the cross-agency EV Everywhere Grand Challenge initiative have set goals for EDVs that more  than double driving range, cut battery and electric drive system costs by 75%, and use less energy to achieve the same level of climate control.

Heavy-duty vehicles account for 26% of national transportation sector petroleum consumption. Manufacturers and operators alike are looking to new thermal management strategies to cut fuel use, lower costs, and meet regulatory requirements.

Experts at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are working closely with industry partners to address these thermal management challenges, spark greater consumer interest in EDVs, and put more fuel-efficient trucks on the road. Their research focuses on dramatically increasing energy efficiency, improving reliability, and decreasing emissions and cost, while maximizing vehicles’ appeal to consumers.

“We can only meet new fuel-economy standards of 54.5 mpg by 2025 if we use a wide range of strategies, including broader deployment of electric vehicles,” says Chris Gearhart, director of NREL’s Transportation and Hydrogen Systems Center. “And we’ll only be able to get drivers in those cars if we solve the temperature puzzle.”

Batteries: Longer Range at a Lower Cost

NREL researchers use thermal imaging to evaluate thermal properties of a lithium-ion battery pack.  Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL Courtesy of NREL

NREL researchers use thermal imaging to evaluate thermal properties of a lithium-ion battery pack.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL
Courtesy of NREL

Often the most expensive of EDV components, batteries need to be affordable, high-performing, and long-lasting to make these vehicles attractive to more consumers. According to EV Everywhere, if EDVs are to gain market share, batteries will have to cost less by a factor of 4 but take drivers twice the distance on a single charge. Understanding thermal characteristics is crucial to meeting these goals.

NREL, as a recognized leader in battery thermal management research and development (R&D), evaluates battery cells, modules, and packs. The lab’s thermal behavior, capacity, conductivity, lifespan, and overall performance assessments factor in the impacts of full-system integration.

“The industry, with support of NREL and DOE, has made incredible progress—10 years ago these batteries were almost triple the cost and three times the size, but could only move a car half the distance,” says NREL Energy Storage (ES) Group Manager Ahmad Pesaran. “That said, we still have a long way to go.”

The laboratory’s tests for the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium show that optimized thermal management can increase battery power by more than 20%. Without proper thermal management, an EDV battery that can last almost 15 years in a temperate climate, like in Minnesota, lasts only seven years in a hot climate, such as in Arizona. In extreme instances, battery overheating can lead to issues such as those that have plagued the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, resulting in fire and, in rare cases, explosion of the battery material.

NREL’s breakthrough research is focused on reducing thermal resistance of components to achieve more uniform temperatures. NREL uses its R&D 100 Award-winning Isothermal Battery Calorimeters, the only instruments in the world capable of such precise thermal measurements, for much of this research. NREL is also working with industry to develop computer-aided engineering software tools to optimize thermal management of batteries.

Power Electronics and Motors: Reduced Size, Weight, and Cost

Researcher Sreekant Narumanchi examines the performance of a cooling loop in NREL's Advanced Power Electronics Lab.  Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL Courtesy of NREL

Researcher Sreekant Narumanchi examines the performance of a cooling loop in NREL’s Advanced Power Electronics Lab.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL
Courtesy of NREL

Power electronics, which run a wide range of systems in conventional automobiles, are essential to EDV performance. Unfortunately, technology has yet to meet the demands of a mass-market audience.

Dramatic advances in power electronics and electric motors (PEEM) will be required to meet the EV Everywhere initiative’s affordability and performance targets. Boosting electric-drive system efficiency, while reducing cost by 75%, and size and weight by more than 35%, will rely heavily on improved thermal management.

In EDVs, power electronics control the flow of electricity between the battery, the motor, and other powertrain components. The PEEM team improves thermal performance of components and systems through modeling, testing, and analysis. This leads to cooling systems and packaging materials that meet energy efficiency, performance, and reliability targets.

“Some of this technology has already been applied to commercially available components,” says Advanced Power Electronics and Electric Motors Task Lead Sreekant Narumanchi. “We continue to work with partners in helping make PEEM components lighter, smaller, and less expensive, eventually helping make EDVs more competitive in the marketplace.”

Climate Control: Improved Range and Thermal Comfort

A vehicle undergoes thermal testing on NREL's VTIF test pad.  Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL Courtesy of NREL

A vehicle undergoes thermal testing on NREL’s VTIF test pad.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL
Courtesy of NREL

Climate control systems such as air conditioners and heaters make both conventional vehicles and EDVs more comfortable. At the same time, electrical energy consumed for climate control can significantly reduce EDV range—in some cases by as much as 68%.

Conventional vehicles heat cabins with engine waste heat, but EDVs do not have an engine, which presents climate control challenges for automobile manufacturers. Using the battery for cabin heating takes valuable energy away from propulsion.

By improving thermal management, NREL researchers believe they can increase EDV range by 10% during operation of the climate control system. In collaboration with the automotive industry, the lab is exploring thermal load reduction technologies and improving efficiency while maintaining the thermal comfort that drivers expect. Strategies include:

  • Zone-based cabin temperature controls
  • Advanced heating and air conditioning controls
  • Seat-based climate control
  • Thermal load reduction
  • Thermal preconditioning.

“The impact of climate control on an electric vehicle can be significant depending on the temperature and driving conditions,” says John Rugh, task leader for Vehicle Thermal Management. “Our work with industry partners aims to minimize energy for climate control so the battery can be used to power the wheels.”

Integrated Thermal Management: Closing the Loop

NREL's Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility test pad features an on-site weather station to provide accurate data on local meteorological conditions.  Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL Courtesy of NREL

NREL’s Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility test pad features an on-site weather station to provide accurate data on local meteorological conditions.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL
Courtesy of NREL

By working to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of EDV cooling systems, NREL is helping the automotive industry move closer toward the goals of extending battery life and driving range between charges, while improving safety, reliability, and comfort.

Vehicles with internal combustion engines use radiators and oil coolers to remove heat from the engine and transmission. EDVs, however, require more complicated systems to meet the additional thermal demands of power electronics and energy storage systems.

Using thermal testing and analysis, NREL is evaluating the potential benefits of combining the PEEM and ES cooling loops with the engine cooling and passenger compartment climate control systems. Reducing the number of cooling systems and related components can translate into lower component and maintenance costs, less weight, reduced aerodynamic drag, and ultimately better fuel economy and range.

NREL’s thermal model of a compact-sized EDV has reduced total vehicle thermal management power consumption by combining cooling loops and using waste heat from PEEM components. Combined cooling loops use refrigerant-to-liquid heat exchangers, creating a more efficient system with improved heat transfer, as well as providing liquid to cool PEEM and ES systems.

Heavy-Duty Vehicles: Decreased Energy Loads

Truck cab models drawn from CAD geometry using CoolCalc (left and center), and a model with overlay of computational fluid dynamics flow (right) indicate areas of heat absorption and loss.  Illustrations by Jason Lustbader, Matt Jeffers, and Larry Chaney, NREL Courtesy of NREL

Truck cab models drawn from CAD geometry using CoolCalc (left and center), and a model with overlay of computational fluid dynamics flow (right) indicate areas of heat absorption and loss.
Illustrations by Jason Lustbader, Matt Jeffers, and Larry Chaney, NREL
Courtesy of NREL

Light-duty EDVs are not the only vehicles that can benefit from improved thermal management. According to an Argonne National Laboratory report, each year in the United States, long-haul trucks consume approximately 838 million gallons of diesel fuel for rest-period idling, much of which is used for heating and air conditioning. DOE’s SuperTruck program has set a goal to improve heavy-duty vehicle fuel economy 50% by 2015, and addressing thermal management and climate control loads will be essential in achieving this. Working closely with industry partners, NREL’s CoolCab program has shown that improved cab thermal management can reduce climate control loads and associated costs. This could cut fuel consumption, emissions, and operating costs.

“If we can demonstrate a three-year or better payback period with relatively low risk on these technology investments, truck operators will be economically motivated to adopt the technologies,” says Jason Lustbader, CoolCab task leader. “Our goal is to bring down climate control loads by at least 30%.”

Using truck cabs located on the Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility (VTIF) test pad, researchers investigate a wide variety of cabin thermal management technologies. Engineers quantify the impacts of different materials and equipment—films, paints, radiant barriers, and idle reduction technologies—on climate control loads.

As anyone who has been in a car on a sunny day can attest, dark paint colors absorb heat. The large painted surfaces of heavy-duty trucks further increase this effect. NREL researchers measured a 20% decrease in daily electrical air-conditioning system energy consumption after switching a truck’s color from black to white.  Engineers are also investigating advanced paints that look like darker colors, but thermally behave like lighter colors, giving truck fleets greater flexibility in selecting paint colors without sacrificing efficiency. Insulation is a factor as well. NREL tests have shown a 34% reduction in truck sleeper climate control loads using advanced methods of insulation.

Researchers and outside partners use NREL’s CoolCalc and CoolSim modeling tools to simulate energy used for climate control in truck cabs and calculate the potential benefits of thermal load reduction options in a range of use and weather scenarios. The tools make it possible to rapidly evaluate the impact of factors such as insulation thickness, material properties, and geometries on climate control loads over the wide range of weather conditions experienced in real-world operation and identify the most promising solutions.

Turning Widespread EDV Adoption from Myth into Reality

NREL researchers are working to turn widespread adoption of energy-efficient vehicles from a myth into reality. Improving thermal management will result in the enhanced performance and reduced costs needed to motivate more drivers and operators to adopt EDVs and energy-efficient trucks. And that is likely to lead to a happy ending for consumers, the economy, and the environment.

This article is a repost, credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Anya Breitenbach,

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New rechargeable flow battery enables cheaper, large-scale energy storage

August 18, 2013 in EV News, Greentech, Large Energy Storage, Solar, Wind

Design may support widespread use of solar and wind energy.

Image credit: Felice Frankel  Courtesy of MIT

Image credit: Felice Frankel
Courtesy of MIT

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — MIT researchers have engineered a new rechargeable flow battery that doesn’t rely on expensive membranes to generate and store electricity. The device, they say, may one day enable cheaper, large-scale energy storage. The palm-sized prototype generates three times as much power per square centimeter as other membraneless systems — a power density that is an order of magnitude higher than that of many lithium-ion batteries and other commercial and experimental energy-storage systems.

The device stores and releases energy in a device that relies on a phenomenon called laminar flow: Two liquids are pumped through a channel, undergoing electrochemical reactions between two electrodes to store or release energy. Under the right conditions, the solutions stream through in parallel, with very little mixing. The flow naturally separates the liquids, without requiring a costly membrane.

The reactants in the battery consist of a liquid bromine solution and hydrogen fuel. The group chose to work with bromine because the chemical is relatively inexpensive and available in large quantities, with more than 243,000 tons produced each year in the United States. In addition to bromine’s low cost and abundance, the chemical reaction between hydrogen and bromine holds great potential for energy storage. But fuel-cell designs based on hydrogen and bromine have largely had mixed results: Hydrobromic acid tends to eat away at a battery’s membrane, effectively slowing the energy-storing reaction and reducing the battery’s lifetime. To circumvent these issues, the team landed on a simple solution: Take out the membrane.

“This technology has as much promise as anything else being explored for storage, if not more,” says Cullen Buie, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. “Contrary to previous opinions that membraneless systems are purely academic, this system could potentially have a large practical impact.” Buie, along with Martin Bazant, a professor of chemical engineering, and William Braff, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, have published their results this week in Nature Communications.

“Here, we have a system where performance is just as good as previous systems, and now we don’t have to worry about issues of the membrane,” Bazant says. “This is something that can be a quantum leap in energy-storage technology.”

Possible boost for solar and wind energy

Low-cost energy storage has the potential to foster widespread use of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. To date, such energy sources have been unreliable: Winds can be capricious, and cloudless days are never guaranteed. With cheap energy-storage technologies, renewable energy might be stored and then distributed via the electric grid at times of peak power demand.

“Energy storage is the key enabling technology for renewables,” Buie says. “Until you can make [energy storage] reliable and affordable, it doesn’t matter how cheap and efficient you can make wind and solar, because our grid can’t handle the intermittency of those renewable technologies.” By designing a flow battery without a membrane, Buie says the group was able to remove two large barriers to energy storage: cost and performance. Membranes are often the most costly component of a battery, and the most unreliable, as they can corrode with repeated exposure to certain reactants.

Braff built a prototype of a flow battery with a small channel between two electrodes. Through the channel, the group pumped liquid bromine over a graphite cathode and hydrobromic acid under a porous anode. At the same time, the researchers flowed hydrogen gas across the anode. The resulting reactions between hydrogen and bromine produced energy in the form of free electrons that can be discharged or released.

The researchers were also able to reverse the chemical reaction within the channel to capture electrons and store energy — a first for any membraneless design. In experiments, Braff and his colleagues operated the flow battery at room temperature over a range of flow rates and reactant concentrations. They found that the battery produced a maximum power density of 0.795 watts of stored energy per square centimeter.

More storage, less cost

In addition to conducting experiments, the researchers drew up a mathematical model to describe the chemical reactions in a hydrogen-bromine system. Their predictions from the model agreed with their experimental results — an outcome that Bazant sees as promising for the design of future iterations. “We have a design tool now that gives us confidence that as we try to scale up this system, we can make rational decisions about what the optimal system dimensions should be,” Bazant says. “We believe we can break records of power density with more engineering guided by the model.”

According to preliminary projections, Braff and his colleagues estimate that the membraneless flow battery may produce energy costing as little as $100 per kilowatt-hour — a goal that the U.S. Department of Energy has estimated would be economically attractive to utility companies. “You can do so much to make the grid more efficient if you can get to a cost point like that,” Braff says. “Most systems are easily an order of magnitude higher, and no one’s ever built anything at that price.”

This article is a repost, credit: Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office,

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Energy Storage Systems for Solar and Wind Power Integration Will Total Nearly 22 Gigawatts of Installed Capacity from 2013 to 2023

June 26, 2013 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Research, Solar, Wind

More than 1,300 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar power generation capacity are expected to come online in the next 10 years, creating an unprecedented amount of instability on the grid—particularly in key markets within North America, Western Europe, and Asia Pacific.  As grid operators adapt to increasing levels of variable generation on their systems, energy storage systems (ESSs) will become an integral element of their overall strategies.  According to a new report from Navigant Research, the installed capacity of energy storage systems for solar and wind power integration will total 21.8 GW from 2013 to 2023.

“Several of the major markets for renewables, including Germany, Japan, and the United States, have enacted rules or legislation encouraging the adoption of energy storage systems for the purpose of integrating variable energy sources onto the grid,” says Anissa Dehamna, senior research analyst with Navigant Research.  “These market incentives come in various forms, including outright subsidies for ESS adoption, reforms that change how variable generation is compensated, and adjustments to connection requirements for variable power plants.”

In particular, changes to the compensation arrangements for variable power generation will have significant influence on the market for ESSs for solar and wind.  Compensation mechanisms have changed drastically over the past 10 years, according to the report, and many compensation schemes have grandfather clauses—meaning that older wind and solar systems have much different compensation rates and structures than newer systems coming online.

The report, “Energy Storage for Wind and Solar Integration”, analyzes the global market opportunity for energy storage for wind and solar integration across three key application segments: wind, non-distributed solar photovoltaics (PV), and distributed solar PV.  The report provides a comprehensive assessment of the demand drivers, policy factors, and technology issues associated with the market for energy storage in these growing applications. Key industry players are profiled and worldwide revenue and capacity forecasts, segmented by application, technology and region, extend through 2023. A business case analysis including global estimates of curtailed renewable energy and the market value of this energy is also included.  An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.

This article is a repost, credit: Navigant Research,

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BYD DESS’s Trip to Italy

May 28, 2013 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Large Energy Storage

In May, BYD energy storage products once again head for Italy. With the help of Enerpoint, a top player among European new energy products distributors, BYD Distributed Energy Storage System successfully finished its road show in Italy. Once again BYD DESS, which adopts BYD core Fe battery technology, was proved to be a superstar and the crowded audience has been undoubtedly the greatest recognition of it.

Photo courtesy of BYD

Photo courtesy of BYD

The Road show was successively held in Milan, Rome and Bari, covering North, Centre and South of Italy where Enerpoint’s distribution channel is active, with a total number of 143 installers. Enerpoint is one of the best new energy products distributors in Italy, and has vast experience in promoting green products with large clients resource, while BYD owns the world leading energy storage battery technology. With this golden combination, they are bringing high-tech energy storage systems to installers and local customers.

Italy, for a long time, mainly imported electricity from its neighbor countries and the in-house energy mainly came from oil-fired and gas power generation. In order to reduce the dependence on oil, the government encouraged the expansion of renewable energy like wind power, water power, solar power which had been well developed in the last years. Nevertheless, renewable power generation has insurmountable problems like unpredictability, fluctuations and instability. In addition, the lack of storage technology restricted the development of new energy as well.

Photo courtesy of BYD

Photo courtesy of BYD

Starting in 1995 with battery business, BYD has the world class battery technology, and successfully launched its core battery technology, Fe battery, as the best solution for energy storage systems. Fe battery features with high energy density, high safety and very long service life.

Energy storage systems can efficiently solve the fluctuations and instability of the electricity generated by renewable energy. With the application of energy storage system, on one hand the electricity generated by wind, solar or water could be stored, especially when the production is far beyond the consumption and then released to the loads when peak time. On the other hand, battery energy storage system could smooth the oscillations and make the output stable.

The CEO of Enerpoint, Mr. Paolo Rocco Viscontini stated: “We are pleased to have BYD advanced DESS here in Italy. We are confident in BYD, BYD products and our cooperation. Even though the market is not that open at this stage, with our great effort we will succeed.” BYD Deputy General Manager, Julia Chen, expressed her hope that BYD technology and its products can really bring benefits and convenience to the area. Meanwhile, she was satisfied of the renewed cooperation and wish to work more closely to achieve a win-win situation.

This article is a repost, credit: BYD,