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Health, Science & Environment

Ohio State receives nearly $4 million federal grant to scale advanced EV battery tech

Ohio State EV battery lab 1.JPG
Matthew Rand
OSU postdoctoral researcher Dr. José L. Lorié López (left) and chemistry professor Dr. Anne Co (right) have been researching advanced battery materials for eventual use in electric vehicles.

Ohio State University has landed a nearly $4 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of an effort to develop the next generation of advanced batteries for electric vehicles.

OSU's project is one of 12 selected across the country to receive a portion of $42 million in funding aimed at developing more affordable and efficient electric vehicle batteries.

“Electric vehicle sales in America have tripled since the start of this administration and by addressing battery efficiency, resiliency and affordability, the projects announced today will make EVs attractive to even more drivers,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “This is a win-win for our efforts to fight climate change and power America’s clean transportation future with technologies produced by researchers and scientists right here at home.”

Ohio State has been working for about 10 years to develop high-power batteries that can charge much faster and last a lot longer than the best Lithium-ion batteries we have today.

"So if you look at all of the battery technologies out there, not every single battery chemistry will allow you to fast charge, there's just a fundamental limitation, you just can't do it," said Anne Co, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State.

Co and her team have been testing out different materials to see which ones will allow them to charge a battery the fastest and also perform well in more extreme environments.

"When it's cold outside, a lot of our current batteries that you can buy will start to degrade, right?" Co said. "These limitations are inherent their fundamental limitations in the materials' chemistry."

Ohio State EV battery lab 2.JPG
Matthew Rand
Test batteries of different sizes being used in the lab at Ohio State (phone for scale). OSU researchers next plan to scale their advanced battery technology for use in electric vehicles.

Co's team is using tiny button batteries like the kind you might find in a watch and calculator. Those would normally take about 10 hours to fully charge, she said, but they've figured out how to do it in just two minutes.

The challenge now is figuring out how to scale up their prototype to something that can power a car. Co said the process from arriving at a brand new battery material to developing it into something that can be used in a vehicle typically takes about 10 years.

"What this grant will allow us to do is to expediate that, because we all feel there's an urgency to get better batteries out there and we want batteries that are affordable for everyone," she said.

The news comes at a time when Ohio seems to be positioning itself to be a major player in the EV sector, with Honda building a multi-billion-dollar battery plant in Fayette County.

Co said battery research is a fast-moving area, and academia plays an important role in ironing out the kinks that can present themselves in new battery tech.

"We know it works, but we also know it dies eventually," Co said. "This battery project is a great example of how academia can directly impact what commercial products we have and that we use in our day-to-day life."

See a full list of grant recipients.

Matthew Rand is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides with Ann Fisher.