INL To Build Facility for Battery Work
Idaho Falls Post Register, 11-24-2009
Written by Sven Berg
Idaho Falls, ID: Idaho National Laboratory's battery development and testing facilities, already among the most prestigious in the world, will more than double in size.
A new 10,000 sqaure foot laboratory, known as the High Energy Battery Test Facility, will take up about a quarter of INL's Energy Systems Center, a complex soon to be under construction.
The laboratory, which last week received $5 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will be used for testing new battery technologies for use in cars and probing the obstacles to making cheaper, longer-lived and more powerful batteries.
It will expand INL's current 7,000 square foot battery testing and development facility.
"It's meant to be a long-term, very state-of-the-art facility," said Tim Murphy, INL's manager of energy storage and transportation systems.
With political turmoil common in the world's oil-producing regions and energy costs rising, some experts believe battery-powered cars offer the best chances of cutting U.S. dependence on oil.
"Batteries are by far the most efficient of all the technologies," Murphy said. "If we can push our cars around with electricity, it's by far the most efficient way to do it."
Already, INL is monitoring and analyzing data from more than 200 plug-in electric vehicles in states around the country. The batteries used in those vehicles represent major steps forward for battery performance, Murphy said.
"The reason you're starting to see more hybrid cars emerging on the market is because battery technology has been improving," Murphy said. "We just have a long way to go."
One of the most important limiting factors with batteries today is the cost of producing them. A battery might propel a car for a typical commute to work on a single charge, but if it costs $10,000 and only last a few years, its value to the car buyer slips considerably.