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Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

New Arpa-e Projects Could Cut Battery Costs

The latest projects to receive funding might make electric vehicles more affordable.

  • April 30, 2010

The U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy has announced a new round of funded projects, including several companies or researchers we’ve written about before. Among them are Sion Power and ReVolt, which are developing very high capacity batteries, which could make electric vehicles much more practical and affordable (follow the links for our stories about them). Arpa-e is a new agency started to fund high risk research with potentially large payoffs, something like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

A couple of intriguing projects are connected to A123 Systems, a well-known U.S.-based battery company that we’ve covered. One finds a way around the fact that the materials that store the most energy often can’t deliver that energy quickly, making them unuseable in electric vehicles. It involves using a semi-solid electrode that makes extracting power easier, something like what ReVolt is doing. The concept is similar to a fuel cell in some ways, with the key difference being that it’s rechargeable. You can store energy in the battery by plugging into any outlet, so you don’t have to hunt down a hydrogen fueling station. If successful, it could lead to batteries that are a fraction (approximately 1/5th to /10th) of the cost of today’s batteries for electric vehicles.

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