U.S. car makers are in a race to develop electric and hybrid vehicles that use less energy. The key to making those cars affordable is in making better batteries.
A new Oak Ridge National Lab facility is working on making those batteries of the future and grow American jobs.
Electric and hybrid cars are rolling off the assembly lines in America, but the batteries that power those vehicles are imported.
"About 97 percent of all rechargeable batteries are made in Japan, Korea and China," said Claus Daniel, deputy director of the ORNL sustainable transportation program.
The $3 million lab at the National Transportation Research Center in West Knox County is gearing up to build better batteries that are made in America.
"We're trying to help the battery manufacturing industry become competitive in the marketplace," explained Daniel.
Those companies and materials suppliers can test their ideas in a chamber before they go to full-scale manufacturing. The lab makes batteries one at a time.
Batteries are formed out of layers of experimental compounds when a liquid electrolyte is added. The materials are sealed in a pouch, and the small but powerful battery is finished. The batteries are then charged and tested.
"Currently batteries are the bottleneck for applications like electric vehicles. We have a very limited range. We need to improve the range those vehicles can drive by better batteries as well as reduce the cost of those batteries by about threefold," said Daniel.
Department of Energy leaders hope this East Tennessee investment will pay of big.
vehicles can drive by better batteries as swell as reduce the cost of those batteries by about threefold."
"Successful battery manufacturing in this country will enable us to create jobs to make U.S. competitive-- even exporting materials from here and creating jobs that way," said Daniel
Those companies could also help achieve the goal of ending our dependence on imported oil.
"We believe we will be a key partner for the battery industry to develop to a stage where they are competitive as well as we are able to produce low-cost reliable solutions for electric vehicles as well as other applications," Daniel said.
The DOE is working with eight different U.S. battery and materials suppliers to test their ideas.