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.

Don Drumm Studios

Akron General

NOCHE


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

Ohio Supreme Court hears arguments on who should be paid minimum wage
Just a correction for your story: The trial court sided with the owners. The court of appeals sided with the sales reps.

Husted defends the use of "monopoly" in the wording of Issue 3
Jon, Give me a break. Why don't you concentrate your efforts on other issues to make Ohio a better place to live. Your comments about monopolizing the marijuana...

The Sierra Club is launching ads against Ohio's U.S. Sen. Rob Portman
“'I don’t know what the ad’s going to say. But I hope it’s truthful,' said Portman." This from a man who voted "no" last winter on a Senate resolution s...

Ohio Republicans protest the loss of Mt. McKinley
I believe the U.S.gov't. was overstepping its bounds by renaming a mountain that belongs to Alaska. How would we like it if Alaska (or any other state) telling ...

Pluto: University of Akron cuts baseball - should football be next?
remember when akron and Youngstown state were both in the ovc. As a Morehead State fan, made trips to both schools and had a wonderful experience. Played Akron ...

Ohio to aid young adults who age out of foster care
I think it's a great idea. I worked for an at risk high school and it was really sad to see the amount of kids who had no where to go because they had aged out...

Could University Circle developments ripple into East Cleveland?
Outsiders are so far off the beaten path and you all need to attend the meeting being held today 8/31/15 Cleveland Public Library, 1:00 PM. http://44112news.co...

ResponsibleOhio leader says the state is trying to set Issue 3 up for failure
Ohio suppose to believe that a group of investors were united under one cause to legalize marijuana.Once legal they all of sudden turn into 10 different compani...

Terry Pluto: U of A's new athletic director has the toughest job in town
It is a hard sell. The Students do not want to go to the football games and they do not want to pay for the program. They have a lot of student loan debt and t...

Akron considering the future of the B.F. Goodrich smokestacks
This BFGoodrich alumna says, "Thank you, Dave Lieberth!"

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