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NREL battery testing labs get a boost

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is looking to help the battery industry with a simple goal — to mass produce better batteries domestically while addressing safety, affordability, life and performance.

As a result of the DOE’s support, more work and funding for battery research is coming to the National Renewable Energy Lab via both indirect and direct avenues thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Via press release from NREL, $1.5 billion in federal funding for manufacturing advanced batteries and related drive components will go towards faster development of batteries for cars with electric powertrains, including hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, all-electric and fuel-cell vehicles. $2 million will go to the Battery Thermal and Life Test Facility. According to NREL researchers, battery thermal management is crucial in optimizing the performance and reducing the life-cycle costs for these types of batteries. Once manufacturers start producing new and more efficient prototypes, they’ll turn to NREL for thermal testing and validation.

NREL researchers seek to improve the thermal performance of batteries by studying how heat affects the performance and life of batteries. NREL experts analyze fluid flow (liquid or air) through different types of battery packs to determine how the flow affects the pack’s performance and life-cycle costs. Researchers measure and analyze the heat generation, efficiency, and specific heat of battery modules under specified charge/discharge cycles using the state-of-the-art calorimeters in NREL’s energy storage laboratory. Incorporating thermal imaging (still and time-lapse video) helps researchers determine temperature distributions and identify potential hot spots in battery modules and packs.

The battery research team will also spend time generating data to be used for validating battery thermal and electrochemical models. Modeling and simulating advanced energy storage systems in vehicles will help designers and researchers accelerate finding solutions for innovative battery designs and best ways to enhance overall vehicle performance.