U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced on Oct. 30 that a multi-partner team led by Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois has been selected for an award of up to $120 million over five years to establish a new Batteries and Energy Storage Hub.

The Hub, to be known as the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR, pronounced “J-Caesar”), will combine the R&D resources of five Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories, five universities, and four private firms in an effort aimed at achieving revolutionary advances in battery performance for energy storage technologies for electric vehicles (EVs), hybrid cars, and the electricity grid.

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 said he 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.

The DOE announcement noted that key battery improvements developed at Argonne helped make the Chevy Volt battery possible.

Advanced battery technologies are widely seen as necessary for smoother integration of larger amounts of variable renewable generation from wind and solar resources and for popularizing all-electric cars, whose sales have been sluggish. Even though more automakers are introducing electric models, and Tesla’s Model S was named Car & Driver Car of the Year, mounting prices and "range anxiety" are significant deterrents.

Though JCESR is funded over five years, the DOE announcement gave no indication of whether it expected commercially available products to result at the end of those five years.

JCESR 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 other national labs involved with the Hub will be 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 joined the effort: Dow Chemical Company, Applied Materials Inc., Johnson Controls Inc., and Clean Energy Trust.

The DOE says this hub was selected through an open national competition with a rigorous merit review process that relied on outside expert reviewers. It is the fourth Energy Innovation Hub established by the DOE since 2010. Others 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.

Sources: POWER, DOE, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal

—Edited by Gail Reitenbach, PhD, Managing Editor (@POWERmagazine)