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DOE to award $120M to team led by Argonne National Lab for joint research hub on batteries and energy storage; 5-5-5 goal

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected a multi-partner team led by Argonne National Laboratory for an award of up to $120 million over five years to establish a new Batteries and Energy Storage Hub. (Earlier post.) The award, based on results, is renewable for another 5 years.

The Hub, to be known as the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), will combine the R&D capabilities of five DOE national laboratories, five universities, and four private firms in an effort aimed at achieving revolutionary advances in battery performance, targeting electric and hybrid cars and the electricity grid. The goal, said Eric Isaacs, Director of Argonne National Laboratory, is “5-5-5. We will develop batteries that are five times more powerful and five times cheaper within 5 years. Factors of five are what we need to transform transportation and the power grid.

We will invent at the molecular scale new complex materials and design transformational prototype battery systems that can be engineered for manufacturing.

—Eric Issacs

When you have to deliver the goods very very quickly, you need to put the best scientists next to the best engineers across disciplines to get very focused on solving the problem.

—Energy Secretary Steven Chu

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.

JCESR (pronounced “J-Caesar”) will be directed by George W. Crabtree, Argonne Senior Scientist, Distinguished Fellow and Associate Division Director; Distinguished Professor of Physics, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, University of Illinois at Chicago; and an internationally recognized leader in energy research.

The Hub will bring together some of the most advanced energy storage research programs in the US today. Other national labs partnering with Argonne include Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Sandia National Laboratories; and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

University partners include Northwestern University; University of Chicago; University of Illinois-Chicago; University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign; and University of Michigan.

Four industrial partners have also joined to help clear a path to the marketplace for the advances developed at JCESR, including Dow Chemical Company; Applied Materials, Inc.; Johnson Controls, Inc.; and Clean Energy Trust.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is providing $5 million through his Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction plan to help build the state-of-the-art JCESR facility, which will be located on the Argonne National Laboratory campus in suburban Chicago. Additionally, the Governor has committed to working with the General Assembly to provide an additional $30 million in future capital funding for the building, which will serve as a nationwide center for energy storage research and is a key part of the governor’s plan to create jobs and grow Illinois’ economy through cutting-edge innovation.

Selected through an open national competition with a rigorous merit review process that relied on outside expert reviewers, JCESR is the fourth Energy Innovation Hub established by the Energy Department since 2010. Other Hubs are devoted to modeling and simulation of nuclear reactors, achieving major improvements in the energy efficiency of buildings, and developing fuels from sunlight. A fifth Hub focused on critical materials research was announced earlier this year and is still in the application process.

Energy Innovation Hubs are major integrated research centers with researchers from many different institutions and technical backgrounds that combine basic and applied research with engineering to accelerate scientific discovery in critical energy areas. They are modeled 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.

Over the decades, DOE national laboratories and DOE-funded university research programs have been responsible for some of the most important advances in battery technology. For example, key battery improvements developed at Argonne helped make the Chevy Volt battery possible.



If the 5-5-5 goals are reached, the car industry will have the high performance, lower cost batteries required for affordable highway BEVs in late 2017?

It is a strong possibility that others will also reach those goals. That would be worthwhile for 2018 EV buyers.


"...5 times more powerful..."

Do they mean 5 times the energy density? We have batteries with enough power to shred the rubber off the tires now.
Of course, the upside of more power is they fast charge better and usually have better cycle life.

Hell, I would have been really happy with 2-2-2-5: 2 times more powerful, 2 times more energy density, 2 times cheaper within 5 years. LOL

We're closer than people think. These people asking for 500-1,000 mile range on EVs are wasting our time. Not needed and getting people into that mind set is the problem.
A 200 mile range with 10 minute fast chargers would be good enough for easily 95% of the population if they were being honest with themselves.

Anthony F

This is good, but it appears the goal is to produce prototype batteries in that 5 year time frame. Good sure, but then you'll still need 3 years for production ramp-up, testing and qualification. I wouldn't expect these in 2017, but in the cars of 2020. That said, 5x capacity is 1000Wh/kg (vs 200 for today's modern 18650 cells), and 5x cheaper is around $80/kWh (good luck hitting that price). If they can hit these targets we'll be in EV heaven!


Do they know something real about these goals?

The five prior DECADES didn't gain fives X power X 1/5th cost, did they?


A.F. agree with you that another 3+ years will be required for worldwide distribution in (very low cost) mass production places.


The problem they should be pushing is how to test, to prove and to scale up current lab batteries to production level and to do so ASAP. This will accelerate acceptance of EVs greatly. Didn't anyone at DOE get the message from Tesla? Increase the range of EVs and the drivers will buy. If Tesla had a $25,000, 200 mile EV that could keep up with freeway traffic, they could sell a million a year.

There are companies with completed-research, working, near-production, prototype batteries right now. In fact Dow has a battery ready for production that is a 15% increase in density over current batteries. Nissan has announce a 15% increase in the range of their 2013 Leaf mostly because of a more dense battery. We don't need another research fund, We need to bring current improved batteries to market.


They seem a bit optimistic


Goals easily set; are not easily met.

"The five prior DECADES didn't gain fives X power X 1/5th cost, did they?" [kelly]

Nope, neither one.

More like 5-5-5-$120M.

But hey, if they get either of the 1st 2 5s, we will all be ahead.



That was a wonderful understatement. I LIKE it!


It only takes one advance going into production to put batteries over the performance threshold to be ICE-killers.  The silicon-graphene-amylopectin advance appears to be such.  That battery would make hybridization a no-brainer, and being able to charge at 30 C would allow a sub-5-minute recharge after 2 hours of driving.

Reducing cost is good, but not essential; if performance goes up far enough, the battery becomes cost-effective at the same price per kWh.


To hit the lower price point will require a whole new battery chemistry. Lithium ion will be abandoned.


Interesting years ahead for long range electrified vehicles.

I agree with E-P, if one or more of the latest battery technologies is mass produced in 5 years time, we will have practical affordable long range EVs by 2020 or so.

By the way, that's what I maintained for the last 2 or 3 years?

Note: By making those future much higher performance batteries 'modular plug-ins' , EV owners could select the e-range at will and/or add extra modules latter for longer e-range, if really required. By starting with less modules, the initial EV cost would be much lower. Total car weight would also be lower for more Km per charge etc.


If they accomplish this, (5x the energy density) they will have reached (in 5 short years) the practical theoretical limits of electrochemical storage. (practical means, rechargeable, producible and long lived)

Sorry, but I've been reading such predictions for years and I won't fall for it. Call me when you've done it. Otherwise, promise nothing. I'm tired of it.

Bob Wallace

CalBattery has a graphite anode with embedded nano-silicon that stores 525 Wh/Kg in lithium-ion batteries. It came out of the Argonne lab.

Envia has a cathode that stores 400 Wh/kg in lithium-ion batteries. This has been confirmed by the Electrochemical Power Systems Department at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

400 Wh/kg is more than 3x better than what is in the Nissan Leaf. A very solid 200 mile range is fine for almost anyone as long as they have access to Level 3 chargers on long trips.

Cost is simply a matter of scale. The materials, purchased in bulk, are not expensive. Lithium, high-purity, battery-grade lithium hydroxide range from $6,000 to $7,000 per tonne. The Nissan Leaf battery pack uses 4kg, <$30 of lithium. Manufacturing, large scale, can be largely automated thus minimizing labor costs.

Seems to me we could get to where we need to be in less than five years.


I'm telling you, we don't need 5-5-5. Hell, a doubling of ANY of them will be a breakthrough that makes EV's viable.

A doubling of any TWO of them will be a killer for ICE and be a clear inflection point for EVs.


Really, all we ever needed was a big market for traction batteries without a lot of nonsense legal requirements.  We could have had PHEVs in the 1970's or even 1960's with brush-type motor-generators if the regulators hadn't been fixated on ICEVs and considered traction batteries a "pollution control device" requiring a 10-year warranty.  It wouldn't have mattered if they only lasted 3 years if they were cheap enough to replace.

Once a billion-dollar-a-year traction battery market existed, the relentless forces of applied R&D would have done the rest.  We're getting to it about 30-40 years late.



5 minutes recharge for LDV and 200 miles AER gives us need of 55 kWh/5min or 660 kW (0,66 MW) capacity charger for single car. They are not existing but if existing they would require enormous investment into infrustructure and power price for such charging would be ten fold. It would be more crasy project than hydrogen highway.
I am strong proponent of PHEV (EREV) with available slow night time charging. Range extender could be based on any synthetic fuel and super LDV ICE application.


"Under my plan energy prices would necessarily skyrocket." I hope that's not a blanket statement.

Patrick Free

This is inspiring and worth investing for in my view, for future long term leadership. But shorter term I would be very happy next year if one of my preffered German car vendors, instead of kidding us with iStupidities, could just take same 85KWH top battery used in Tesla Model S, cut its cost by 2x, and put that in an decent SUV with an ICE range exterder optimized for non-tracting pure-generator and very few usages per year. With its >300M pure EV range and its far greater instant power allowing to move to a drive train exclusively on electric motors, that existing game changer battery would allow a comfortable # 1 x charge per week for my usual dayly commutes, plus # 1 charge per average week end away from home, all on slow charging plugs at home or work, ZERO Petrol for 90% of my milleage.... But then since I can only have one real car at home, and want to remain free to leave at any time and do >800M per day for long trips or vacations, to places where fast charging will not be readily available in the next 20 years, I want a Range Extender, period. Just a Tesla Model x with a Range Exterder, and <60K Euros and I jump in the PHEV wagon...


By 2020 or so, many ICEVs will do 50 mpg, many HEVs will do close to 70 mpge and many PHEVs will do 125 mpge with much lighter more aerodynamic bodies and more efficient drive trains.

By 2020 or so, new updated BEVs with next generation energy storage units and light weight bodies will do 10+ Km/kWh and handle 800+ Km per quick charge and/or slow overnight charge.

The current decade will be difficult because the essential high performance storage units and light materials may not be mass produced at an affordable price before 2020 or so. However, during the next decade 2020-2030, we will see BEVs competing (successfully) with ICEVs, HEVs and PHEVs most everywhere.

Till then, lower price (50 to 70 mph) HEVs may be acceptable interim solutions?

5 minutes recharge for LDV and 200 miles AER gives us need of 55 kWh/5min or 660 kW (0,66 MW) capacity charger for single car. They are not existing but if existing they would require enormous investment into infrustructure and power price for such charging would be ten fold.
You can do that pretty easily with local flywheel storage as a buffer.  Feed in 13.2 kV @ 20 A and you can spin the flywheels back up in 12.5 minutes for a capacity of roughly 5 vehicles per hour.

Flywheel storage can also be used for grid regulation and other purposes; there are a number of different revenue streams which could help amortize such an investment.


BTW, Beacon Power (now bankrupt) had a baseline flywheel unit size of 25 kWh, so it would only take a couple of them to fully buffer a charging station able to deliver 55 kWh in 5 minutes.

Bob Wallace

Beacon has been bought out and the new company is going forward with flywheel development. Rockland Capital is working on a 20-megawatt flywheel project in Pennsylvania.


How big was that Beacon 25kWh flywheel?.. probably scary big.


Herm, I didn't find the exact weight of the unit, but the 25kWh version has a rotor that weighs 2,500lbs and the new 100kWh version will have a 4,000lb rotor.

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