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 research is pointing the way toward affordable, high-performing, long-lasting batteries for the next generation of electric-drive vehicles.
Researcher measures battery voltage in an environmental chamber.
Battery cell connected for evaluation.
NREL R&D explores energy storage solutions at all scales.
Researchers examine battery model visualizations.
NREL researchers conduct energy storage R&D at the materials, cell, battery, pack, and systems levels, with projects including:
- Developing and evaluating materials for use in coatings, electrodes, anodes, and other energy storage components
- Conducting thermal evaluation and characterization of components to enhance performance, lifespan, and safety
- Modeling, simulation, and systems evaluation to assess performance, reliability, lifespan, safety, and economic impacts, and to accelerate battery development and design.
Researchers use a full portfolio of sophisticated evaluation, 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. Learn more about our awards.
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 set 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.
Analytical Tools & Resources
NREL offers multiple tools to improve battery production, performance, and recycling/reuse so Li-ion batteries can be responsibly implemented from start-to-finish, increasing EDV marketplace appeal and benefiting the environment.
- Battery Lifetime Analysis and Simulation Tools (BLAST): This suite of tools pairs NREL's high-fidelity battery degradation model with electrical and thermal performance models specific to batteries and larger systems, with versions for behind-the-meter (BLAST BTM-Lite), vehicle (BLAST-V), and stationary (BLAST-S) applications.
- Computer-Aided Engineering for Batteries (CAEBAT): CAEBAT engineering tools help battery designers, developers, and manufacturers create the advanced battery technologies needed to boost EDV performance. NREL has collaborated with industry, university, and laboratory partners to develop breakthroughs in computer-aided engineering across three phases of the CAEBAT project focusing on modeling, safety, and integration/application.
- Battery Second-Use Repurposing Cost Calculator: Finding new ways to repurpose Li-ion batteries can increase their lifespan and usefulness, with benefits ranging from potential cost savings for consumers to environmental gains. This tool is used to explore the effects of different repurposing strategies and assumptions on the economics of battery second use.
Working with Us
Partnering with industry, government, and universities is key to developing affordable energy storage technology and moving it into the marketplace and the U.S. economy. In collaboration with a variety of partners, NREL uses thermal management, modeling, and analysis from a vehicle systems perspective to improve energy storage devices.
For additional details, see the Vehicles and Fuels Research Work with Us page.
Browse our most recent and popular energy storage publications.
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 Kandler Smith, 303-275-4423, or Shriram Santhanagopalan, 303-275-3944.
- 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 activities, contact Eric Wood, 303-275-3290.
- Battery second-use activities, contact Ahmad Pesaran, 303-275-4441.
- Energy storage material research activities, contact Chunmei Ban, 303-384-6504, or Robert Tenent, 303-384-6775.