Source: Michigan to host 2 battery centers

Posted on November 30, 2012

Michigan will be home to two of three new federally funded advanced battery centers where researchers will try to speed development of new commercial applications for batteries, a source told the Free Press Thursday.

The Department of Energy is expected to announce today that the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago — which developed the battery technology used in the extended-range Chevy Volt — received the five-year, $120-million award to host the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research. It will locate satellite facilities in Ann Arbor and Holland.

The source, who was familiar with the details of the award, spoke on background because he is not authorized to discuss it publicly.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., proposed the advanced battery hub as part of legislation last year. While that legislation failed, authorization and reference for the hub was included in this year’s congressional appropriations bill.

The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research consortium will include the University of Michigan, Dow Chemical, Johnson Controls and Michigan Technological University.

Additional details on the facilities were not immediately available.

The Energy Department has guaranteed $20 million in overall funding for the first year and $25 million a year for each of the next four years.

While it was not immediately known what the jobs impact might be, the hubs are expected to increase economic activity by advancing new battery technology through expanding research and shortening the time it takes to move new technology from the lab to commercial applications. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has also promised to pitch in $5 million.

In recent years, Michigan has become a center for advanced battery research, with federal stimulus and other funding flowing to various companies looking to capitalize on a move toward electric and hybrid vehicles. Dow Kokam, LG Chem, Johnson Controls and many others have been working on advanced battery technology, though the results have been mixed.

Last month, battery maker A123 Systems, which has plants in Livonia and Romulus, filed for bankruptcy despite having been awarded a $249-million grant in August 2009.

Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press