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USABC awards $2.4M contract to WPI for development of low-cost/fast-charge batteries for EV applications

The United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), a subsidiary of the United States Council for Automotive Research LLC (USCAR), and a collaborative organization of FCA US LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors, has awarded a $2.4-million contract to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) to lead a program to develop low-cost/fast-charge batteries for electric vehicle (EV) applications.

Yan Wang, William Smith Dean’s Professor of Mechanical Engineering at WPI, is principal investigator of the three-year project. Other researchers are Heng Pan, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology; Ming Tang, assistant professor of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice University; and Bryan Yonemoto at Microvast Inc.

The contract award, which includes a 50% cost share, funds a 36-month project that began earlier this year. The program will develop low-cost and fast-charge batteries for EV applications, building on the technology of solvent-free electrode manufacturing.

There are two key issues for electric vehicle batteries: The cost is too high, and charging takes too long. The project goal is to lower the battery cost by 15% and charge the batteries in 15 minutes by manufacturing batteries with an innovative process.

—Yan Wang

Commercial lithium-ion car battery electrodes are typically made by mixing active materials that provide energy, conductive carbon, polymer binders, and solvents to create a thick mixture known as slurry. The slurry gets pasted onto a flat metal substrate, which then moves through a furnace for drying. The solvent is recovered via a complex evaporation-condensation process. Finally, rollers press the coated metal, which can be cut into pieces for assembly into batteries.

The team working on the USABC project will develop a process that sprays dry mixed materials directly onto the substrate, cutting out solvents, drying time, and equipment needed to recover solvents. The process will also tightly pack materials onto substrates, making for energy-dense, faster-charging batteries.

Tang’s Rice lab will perform battery modeling to design new multilayered electrode architecture that significantly improves the rate capability of battery cells and allows them to be charged at higher rates. Microvast will assemble large-format pouch cells using layered electrodes and evaluate the electrochemical performance against the program goals

USABC is a subsidiary of the United States Council for Automotive Research LLC (USCAR). Enabled by a cooperative agreement with the US Department of Energy (DOE), USABC’s mission is to develop electrochemical energy storage technologies that support commercialization of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric and fuel cell vehicles. In support of its mission, USABC has developed mid- and long-term goals to guide its projects and measure its progress.

Founded in 1992, USCAR is the collaborative automotive technology company for FCA US LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors. All USCAR Member companies have joined in becoming signatories of the Responsible Raw Materials Initiative (RRMI, now part of the Responsible Minerals Initiative, RMI) Declaration of Support.

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