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.

Akron General

Genie of Fairview Door Company

Akron Children's Hospital


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

A small group of tea party and Democrats protest at Kasich campaign stop
Enjoyed your excellent coverage of the statehouse for sometime now, never dreamed I'd be on. The feedback from people has been great. Thank you. Doris Adams

Top staffers are leaving the FitzGerald gubernatorial campaign
I's too bad that the dirt on Fitzgerald dug up by Kasich's operatives and publicized heavily by the Yellow Plain Dealer has caused the weak staffers of the Fitz...

Churches come together to welcome and include Gay Games athletes
Nicely done!!! A little known fact about the El Salvadoran and Columbian scholarships.. A big thank you to the Faith Community for their support of Gay Games 9....

What do Ohio farmers need to do to control Lake Erie problems?
This was a great article, thank you, Karen Schaefer. There was an error- Roger Wise is the past president of the Ohio Farmer's Union; not the Ohio Farm Bureau ...

Registration for the 2014 Gay Games ends Monday at midnight
Judy Benson and Sally Tatnall are loved and appreciated by all in our community and throughout the US for their untiring work for OLOC and for educating the com...

Like any family, the Gay Games has its generation gaps
Great article ... important perspective.

Gay Games rodeo: Changing stereotypes
Robin, Thank you for a fine piece of recorded history. This is history in the making; a gay, Asian man, one of the last bronc riders in IGRA, and Rodeo at Gay G...

Ohio lawmakers hold hearing on prison food problems
So you fine them..this has been going onand the law makers are aware of this issue.I have been told by many about the maggots and rotten food not fit for a dog ...

Interview with early Beatle Pete Best
"the Leshdu (?) Quartet.." Actually that's the Les Stewart Quartet. George Harrison was in that band at the same time as the Quarry Men.

Copyright © 2014 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