Mich to get battery research facilities

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) — Michigan is expected to get two new advanced battery research facilities as part of a five-year, up to $120 million partnership involving the U.S. Department of Energy.

The office of U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan says a conference call is planned Friday afternoon with officials including Energy Secretary Steven Chu to discuss the project. She says one facility is planned for the southwestern Michigan city of Holland and the other is planned for Ann Arbor.

The University of Michigan says it's expected to get $7 million as part of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, which is led by the Argonne National Laboratory.

A statement from Stabenow's office says the centers are "further cementing Michigan's global leadership role in the advanced battery industry."

Michigan State University's Bioeconomy Institute in Holland might become one of he places helping Argonne National Laboratory do the advanced battery research. That's not clear yet.  

But the research director, Dr. Tom Guarr, told 24 Hour News 8 one of the things Argonne wants do is help bring down the cost of making the batteries to make electric cars more attractive to consumers.

"They're very interested in practical applications," Guarr said. "They'll be looking at new materials for lithium batteries electrodes, increase efficiency as well as reduced cost."

Randy Thelen of the Lakeshore Advantage added, "It's a new industry. There's a lot of new applications and a lot of new challenges and that requires research to fix those challenges. And this is a major effort to try to resolve those problems."

Argonne Labs will work with battery builder Johnson Controls and local universities. Nobody knows yet how the actual work will be divided among them or exactly what research projects will be done.  

"When Argonne was looking for partners they recognized this is one of the highest concentrations of battery companies in the world and they wanted to partner and find ways to connect their research to industry problems and industry solutions ultimately," Thelen said.

Both men say the research won't be limited to electric car batteries but will seek other applications and markets for lithium ion technology.

24 Hour News 8's Henry Erb contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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