DOE Partnership Aims to Realize the EV-to-Grid Dream

Photo credit: A123 Systems, NREL
Photo credit: A123 Systems, NREL

Plugging electric and hybrid electric vehicles into the grid represents the ultimate vision of a distributed, decentralized and flexible electricity grid based on clean, renewable electric power generation. That goal that may be closer to becoming reality than many think.

The Dept. of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) Jan. 16 announced that it’s establishing public-private R&D partnerships with  universities and industry in support of the DOE launching its Advanced Management and Protection of Energy Storage Devices (AMPED) program at a conference in San Francisco.

Funded through the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) the three-year research program entails NREL engineers working with counterparts from Utah State University, Washington University and Eaton Corp. “to optimize utilization, life, and cost of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries for electric-drive vehicles (EDVs) through improved battery management and controls,” according to an NREL press release.

Providing a kick-start for AMPED, the DOE is investing more than $7.4 million to fund three projects via ARPA-E funding:

  • $3 million; Goal: Reduction in battery size, 20 percent longer battery pack lifetime or 20 percent reduction battery pack energy content and 50 percent increase in cold temperature charge rate. Research teams from Utah State University and NREL’s Center for Transportation Technologies and Systems (CTTS) will develop electronic hardware to maximize the lifetime of each cell in a battery pack. The University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado and Ford Motor Co. are also participating.
  • $2 million; Goal: 20 percent utilization of untapped Li-ion battery capacity at the cell level. A Washington University research team will develop a predictive battery management system with innovative control hardware that uses advanced mathematical models to optimize battery performance that’s to include projecting optimal charge and discharge of batteries in real-time.
  • $2.4 million; Goal: 50 percent improvement in fuel economy of heavy-duty HEVs without sacrificing battery life. Eaton and NREL will team up “to develop a power control system to optimize the operation of commercial-scale hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), integrating NREL battery life predictive models with Eaton HEV control algorithms.”

“If successful, the advanced sensing, diagnostic, and control technologies developed under the AMPED program will allow us to unlock enormous untapped potential in the performance, safety and lifetime of today’s commercial battery systems,” ARPA-E Program Director Ilan Gur stated.

“My hope is that these cutting-edge projects will accelerate the impact of vehicle and grid-scale energy storage in reducing our country’s reliance on imported fuels and improving the safety, security and economic efficiency of our electricity grid.”

Looking out over the life of the three-year AMPED project, a total of $30 million in ARPA-E funding is to be invested in 14 research projects “to develop breakthrough energy storage.”

“This latest round of ARPA-E projects seek to address the remaining challenges in energy storage technologies, which could revolutionize the way Americans store and use energy in electric vehicles, the grid and beyond, while also potentially improving the access to energy for the U.S. military at forward operating bases in remote areas,” Secretary of Energy Steven Chu stated while announcing the program in August.

“These cutting-edge projects could transform our energy infrastructure, dramatically reduce our reliance on imported oil and increase American energy security.”

For insight into the NREL’s work on EDV and its R&D facilities check out its Advanced Vehicles & Fuels Research: Energy Storage web page.

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and back home to the Americas. Twitter: @mightysparrow LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email: