The US Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-e) agency is shooting for some sort of electric-vehicle battery nirvana with a plan/wish/dream to develop safer, cheaper batteries that not only offer a longer single-charge range but that can also double as crumple zones. What's next, peace in the Middle East?
In all seriousness, the Illinois Institute of Technology and Argonne National Laboratory are working on a $37-million program dubbed RANGE (Robust, Affordable, Next-Generation Energy Storage systems) that, among other things, would have batteries serving double duty by being packed into door panels, load-bearing components and, yes, crumple zones. The program is laid out in a recent journal published by SAE International. You can find the article here.
And before anyone gets all negative and mentions a Tesla Car-B-Cue, there is a plan to move away from the lithium-ion batteries that are de rigueur for today's electric vehicles towards something potentially safer. General Electric and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories are working on water-based polymer electrolytes that would essentially make batteries non-flammable. There's also work being done on solid electrolytes produced from ceramics, all in the name of safety. If it works, the program could eventually develop a battery that provides a 240-mile single-charge range while costing about 30 percent less than EV batteries do today. We can't wait to drive an EV with that pack through the unoccupied territories.