GE, Berkeley Lab-EETD Explore Possible Key to Energy Storage for Electric Vehicles

August 2013

From a General Electric press release:

It's a little more complex than making instant oatmeal, but scientists from GE and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) may have just the recipe for next-generation electric vehicle (EV) batteries that achieve desired driving range and cost for consumers.

The GE/Berkeley Lab team is developing a water-based, flow battery capable of more than just traditional, stationary energy storage. Chemistries GE scientists are developing will enable a flow battery that derives its power from a novel electro-chemical reaction that all resides safely in a bath of water. View a short lab video demonstrating how the technology is designed to work.

Grigorii Soloveichik, project leader on the water-based flow battery project at GE Global Research and director of the GE-led Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC), said, "We're excited about the impact this new technology could have on electric vehicles, especially as it relates to cost and the need to recharge. Our flow battery could be just one-fourth the price of car batteries on the market today, while enabling roughly three-times the current driving range. The DOE wants a battery that can power a car for 240 miles; we think we can exceed that."

This Labor Day weekend, AAA estimates 34.1 million drivers will travel 50 miles or more. With a 240 mile driving range, many would be able to drive their entire weekend on a single flow battery charge, saving families money while reducing emissions.

The work on this project will greatly benefit from the skills and knowledge acquired from GE's ongoing leadership in the U.S. Dept. of Energy's EFRC program. GE's EFRC was designed specifically for building a fundamental base for next-generation energy storage technologies. GE scientists will be working closely with team from Berkeley Lab on development of this battery technology.

"The opportunity to expand our collaboration with GE from the EFRC to applied research under ARPA-E is of great interest," said Adam Weber, Berkeley Lab Staff Scientist and PI for this project. "We have had great success in developing high-power traditional flow batteries, and the possibility of using that expertise for a high-energy flow battery is quite compelling."

Aside from offering significant advantages in terms of cost and range, the flow battery GE is researching would offer safety improvements over batteries used in cars today, and could be easily integrated into current car designs; both stated goals of ARPA-E's RANGE program.

The proposed flow battery uses water-based solutions of inorganic chemicals that are capable of transferring more than one electron, providing high-energy density. Discharge and re-charge of such flow batteries occur in electrochemical cells separated from energy storing tanks, which makes them safer.

Over the next year, the GE/Berkeley Lab team will demonstrate feasibility of this new battery concept and develop a working prototype.

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