Argonne goal: Batteries five times more powerful, five times cheaper
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org November 30, 2012 3:23PM
Updated: January 2, 2013 6:10AM
Homes “immune” from blackouts without costly generators. Cell phone batteries that allow you to talk twice as long between charges. Electric cars that cost less to buy and re-charge.
Those are just some of the potential consumer benefits, now that the U.S. Department of Energy has chosen Argonne National Laboratory to keep the U.S. “at the cutting edge of battery technology.”
In exchange for up to $120 million in research grants over the next five years and the potential for a five-year renewal, Argonne and its self-described “dream team” of academic and industry partners have put themselves on the clock.
“We have a very ambitious goal, which is five-five-five...We’re gonna develop batteries that are five times more powerful [and] five times cheaper within five years,” Argonne Director Eric Isaacs told a star-studded news conference Friday at the University of Chicago’s downtown Gleacher Center.
“A factor of two is great. It can be engineered, and we’re gonna work on that. That’ll be the milestones along the way. But really factors of five are what we need to transform both the power grid and transportation.”
If the Joint Center of Energy Storage Research at Argonne — affectionately known as J-CESAR — achieves those “5X” goals, the grant will definitely be renewed, said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
“We looked very carefully at where the price points are, and it actually turns out to be only 4X. But I like five better...If they get to those price points, then kaboom. Whole new industries. That’s why this is so exciting,” he said.
A Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Chu then talked about what “five-times-cheaper, five-times-more-powerful” batteries within five years would mean to consumers.
“They mean you can go to a Costco or Sears...and buy a battery that you can store three or four kilowatts in your home. That battery can be your local source,” Chu said.
“If you want to put solar [panels on your roof], it can be toggling back and forth, time-of-day pricing. It does energy arbitrage for you. It [stores energy] at night and delivers it to you in the expensive air-conditioning times. It takes a big load off the utilities...You would have a much more efficient grid — something much less susceptible to surges and blackouts.”
He added, “I did a little calculation recently during a blackout in my home where, if you have half the number of solar panels on your roof but you have a battery, you could be 80 percent self-sufficient. Blackout immune. And if the prices are less than $10,000 to get that, I would pay for it.”
Chu also talked about cheaper plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles and about longer-lasting cell phone batteries.
“I don’t know if you want to talk twice as much” between chargings, “but that’s another example. Batteries are ubiquitous in your life.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the Argonne center a “game-changer” for consumers and job-seekers.
“Besides obviously, the electric vehicles that [are] promising here, one of the big riddles that has to be solved... is, how do you store the energy that either solar or wind produces for later use at another time?” Emanuel said.
“Once somebody figures that out, then obviously what you do with the renewables is a game-changer. And Chicago and the state of Illinois will be at the epicenter of where that research is going and all the potential companies that will come from that and all the potential investments that will come from that.”