News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Greater Akron Chamber

Knight Foundation

Northeast Ohio Medical University


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Science and Technology




Exploradio: Building a better battery
German chemical giant BASF opens a plant in Elyria to produce the next generation of battery materials developed by its R&D lab in Beachwood
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
The Chevy Spark EV is an all electric plug-in car with a range of about 70 miles per charge. A new generation of batteries powers the Spark and other electric cars, but new battery materials manufactured by BASF in Northeast Ohio are part of the push for cheaper and better batteries in the near future.
Courtesy of General Motors Corp.
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

GM rolled out its new all-electric car, the Spark EV, this weekend at the L.A. auto show.  Ford and more than a dozen other auto makers already have fully electric cars on the market, with the Nissan Leaf leading the pack. 

But in order for the market to grow, the cars’ batteries need to get cheaper and go further.

In this week’s Exploradio, WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair looks at how Northeast Ohio is part of a push to build better batteries for the electric-car industry.  

 

Exploradio: Building a better battery

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (3:21)


(Click image for larger view.)

A new cathode factory in Elyria

We’re inside a brand new factory at the 120 year-old site of former Harshaw Chemicals in downtown Elyria.  German chemical giant B-A-S-F opened the $50 million facility last month to produce a special mixture of metals that will power the next generation of electric-car batteries.    

Operations Manager Gary Yacobian points to a ceramic tray moving through an enclosed conveyor.  It contains a tiny mountain of black powder headed for a 50 meter computer controlled kiln where it will be heated and cured.

As a final step before shipping, a magnetic separator checks for any stray contaminants in the powder. Workers dressed in spacesuit-like protective gear package the powder into blue plastic barrels to be shipped to battery manufacturers around the world.  The powder is a high-tech mixture of metals that will become an electric car battery cathode.

The Elyria plant can crank out 25 metric tons per year, and plans are under way to double that capacity.

Developing a bettery battery

Forty miles east, at BASF’s research lab in Beachwood, Stephen Sheargold holds up a jar of the stuff.  He notes that althouhg it's, "just a fine black powder," the material is the result of years of research and $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funds, which included $24.6 milllion toward the Elyria factory.  The material was invented at the Argonne National Lab, licensed to BASF for refinement, and then scaled up for production under Sheargold’s direction in Beachwood.  A Michigan company also holds a Department of Energy license to produce the powder.

Batteries are nothing new.  Benjamin Franklin experimented with them.  The lead-acid battery that starts your car was invented in the 1850’s.

But powering an all-electric car with lead is… heavy.  Today’s electric cars run on lighter and more powerful lithium-ion batteries.  Problem is they’re expensive. That’s because of the key ingredient, cobalt oxide.

And that’s where Sheargold’s black powder comes in. This tweaking of the  chemical recipe inside the battery improves performance.  He says in order to go the next step, "you want a battery that’s equal or better than lithium cobalt oxide but a lot cheaper. And that’s where manganese and nickel can replace a large part of that cobalt and give you similar properties.”

The best formula for the next generation

The new battery contains varying portions of lithium, nickel, manganese, and cobalt.  It’s the high water mark of battery materials because it provides a lot of juice per pound and be quickly recharged.  Sheargold says that’s why BASF is putting its weight behind that combination to power the electric cars of the future.

“You can put your foot down and you can accelerate because you’re discharging when you accelerate, you’re going faster.  Then you want to charge up and you want to charge up fast, too.  This ability to charge and discharge fairly rapidly is important.”

We likely won’t see the new battery-powered cars in the showroom for another five years.  By then, BASF estimates the all-electric car market will be worth $5 billion.  Its goal is a modest 10 percent of those sales, or 500 million dollars with material produced and tested in Northeast Ohio.

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook



Support for Exploradio
provided by:








Stories with Recent Comments

Western Stark Free Clinic is set to close but to continue its role
WHAT OTHER DENTAL CLINICS AND MEDICAL CLINICS ARE IN THE CANTON AND MASSILLON, OHIO AREAS?

Three exonerated of murder convictions from 18 years ago
Thanks heavens that none of them have been condemned to death. This alons should convince the USA to join the civilized world by abolishing the death penalty. E...

Kombucha: a sweet business brewed with fermented tea
Stevia is not an artificial sweetener. It is a plant. I have one growing in my sunroom. The leaves are dried and added to teas. It's harvested commercially and...

Bringing back ballet in Cleveland
I do think Ballet in Cleveland is doing good things, but the fact that director says "When we have flourishing companies like the New York City Ballet and the A...

Report confirms some Vietnam veterans may have been exposed to Agent Orange
was in nam 1969 exposed va stated lost medical records was in lawsuit from 197? till settled 0 $ 2010 ? said all nam vets will get back disability till 198? jus...

Mentorship grant program redefines "faith-based" provision
Can't anyone have values, beliefs, and morals anymore? How is it anymore unconstitutional for a school partner with a "faith-based" organization than any other ...

Exploradio: The challenge of finding a healthy balance with technology
Thank you, Jeff, for another well done Exploradio. I always learn something interesting about what is happening in NE Ohio.

Northeast Ohio's transgender community rallies around restroom issue
A good first step would be for Cleveland to require restaurants to have a public restroom. Cleveland is the only city I've ever been in where restaurants somet...

Vapor shops say tobacco tax hikes could hit them hard
Maybe you should be DOING a study, since every time you've tried to villianize them all that's happened was the opposite. I'm not a fan of alcohol that's flavor...

New law gives access to birth records to Ohio adoptees
Can siblings also look for their missing brother or sister? And how do we go about it?

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University