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Cutaway image of an automobile showing the location of energy storage components (battery and inverter), as well as electric motor, power electronics controller, and heat exchangers. Blowout shows the image of an individual battery pack.

NREL research is pointing the way toward affordable, high-performing, long-lasting batteries for the next generation of electric-drive vehicles.

Researcher holding cables and standing in front of an open equipment chamber.

Researcher measures battery voltage in an environmental chamber.

Photo of a slim metallic battery cell sandwiched between lucite panels at one end and with connection cables at the other end.

Battery cell connected for testing.

Researcher holding a small coin cell battery.

NREL R&D explores energy storage solutions at all scales.

Two men standing in front of six computer monitors showing various images and graphs.

Researchers examine battery model visualizations.

NREL innovations accelerate development of high-performance, cost-effective, and safe energy storage systems to power the next generation of electric-drive vehicles (EDVs). While hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), and all-electric vehicles (EVs) promise to curb greenhouse gas emissions and slash America's need for imported oil, battery price and performance can present considerable challenges. NREL, the country's recognized leader in battery thermal management research and development (R&D), is helping address these issues and put new EDVs on the road.

NREL researchers conduct energy storage R&D at the materials, cell, battery, pack, and systems levels, with projects including:

Researchers use a full portfolio of sophisticated testing, analytical, and modeling tools—including the lab's R&D 100 Award-winning Isothermal Battery Calorimeters—to put batteries and other energy storage components through a comprehensive set of evaluations.

Pursuing Demanding Performance and Cost Targets

Often the most expensive of EDV components, batteries power the motor and other electrical systems, while storing kinetic, regenerative-braking, and grid-fed energy. To make all-electric, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid vehicles more attractive to consumers, the batteries that power those cars need to be affordable, high performing, long lasting, safe, and operate at maximum efficiency in a wide range of driving conditions and climates.

The U.S. Department of Energy's EV Everywhere Grand Challenge sets a target range for the next generation of electric-drive cars of 250–300 miles per charge, placing greater pressure on the vehicles' battery packs. At the same time, battery costs need to be cut from $350–$550 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to $125/kWh, and battery lifespan needs to be extended to 15 years from its current 8 years for EDVs to gain meaningful market share.

Benefiting Consumers, Industry, and the Environment

As manufacturers develop new electric-drive vehicles, NREL acts as a go-to resource in boosting efficiency and troubleshooting deficiencies in energy storage systems, ultimately helping automakers and battery companies design better vehicles and meet challenging cost and performance targets. NREL experts work closely with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC), and industry partners to develop battery solutions tailored to the realities of the environment, supply chain, manufacturing, and the marketplace.

Pioneering New Battery Technologies

Many automakers have adopted lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries as the preferred EDV energy storage option, capable of delivering the required energy and power density in a relatively small, lightweight package. Although much of NREL's energy storage R&D is dedicated to perfecting Li-ion technology (i.e., enhancing cyclability of silicon anodes and atomic layer depositions coatings to increase longevity and safety), researchers recognize the importance of constant innovation and continue to explore new options, including organic liquid, solid-state, lithium-air, and magnesium-ion technologies.

By addressing energy storage issues in the R&D stages, before EDVs hit the roadways, NREL helps carmakers offer consumers affordable, high-performance alternatives to gasoline-powered automobiles.

Contacts

For more information on NREL's:

  • Overall vehicle energy storage activities, contact Ahmad Pesaran, 303-275-4441.
  • Energy storage thermal management activities, contact Matthew Keyser, 303-275-3876.
  • MSMD and CAEBAT activities, contact Gi-Heon Kim, 303-275-4437.
  • Energy storage lifespan modeling and control algorithm activities, contact Kandler Smith, 303-275-4423.
  • Safety modeling activities, contact Shriram Santhanagopalan, 303-275-3944.
  • Battery ownership and second-use activities, contact Jeremy Neubauer, 303-275-3084.
  • Energy storage material research activities, contact Chunmei Ban, 303-384-6504, or Robert Tenent, 303-384-6775.

NREL's Energy Storage research supports the U.S. Department of Energy's Vehicle Technologies Office.

Find what you needed?
Sustainable Transportation Basics: Learn more about electric-drive vehicles, energy storage systems, and battery technologies.