This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

November 25, 2009

DOE Awards $104 Million for Efficiency-Related Facilities at National Labs

DOE announced on November 18 its selection of eight new and improved energy efficiency test facilities to be built at seven of its national laboratories with the help of $104.7 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. The projects will support the development and improvement of energy efficiency technologies of strategic national interest. Specifically, the funding will go toward reducing the production cost of carbon fiber manufacturing, to help in reducing the weight of vehicles; improving the efficiency and lowering the costs for car batteries; and exploring advanced technologies for net-zero-energy buildings. This effort will leverage the combined intellectual and technical resources of DOE's national laboratories to support technologies that will help transform the economy and create jobs, while decreasing carbon emissions. The eight national laboratories are located in California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, New Mexico, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Photo of the Tesla Roadster, a sleek open-roof roadster with a high tail and a low, short front end.

The all-electric Tesla Roadster, priced at greater than $100,000, is one example of a premium vehicle that features body panels made of carbon fiber composites.
Credit: Tesla Motors

Fuel efficient, advanced vehicles will benefit from both the carbon fiber and battery projects. Carbon fiber composites are extremely strong and lightweight and have the potential to increase fuel economy by drastically lowering the weight of vehicles. Though frequently employed in race cars and high-performance "supercars," carbon fiber composites are currently too expensive for more affordable vehicles. To address that problem, the new Carbon Fiber Technology Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee will investigate novel manufacturing processes and alternative feedstocks in order to lower the cost of carbon fiber from the current $10-$20 per pound to less than $5 per pound.

For vehicle batteries, Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois will construct three battery research and development facilities: one for fabricating prototype battery cells, one for scaling up the production of battery-related materials, and one for analyzing batteries after they've been subjected to performance tests. In addition, the Idaho National Laboratory will establish a High Energy Battery Test Facility, while New Mexico's Sandia National Laboratories will modify and enhance its Battery Abuse Testing Laboratory, which subjects batteries to such conditions as overcharging, deep discharge, short circuits, fire, and heat. And to help keep batteries from being exposed to excessive heat, Colorado's National Renewable Energy Laboratory will establish the Battery Thermal and Life Test Facility, which will enable researchers to develop lower cost, more robust thermal management systems and designs for batteries.

Three projects relate to the technologies needed to build net-zero-energy buildings, which employ renewable energy systems to produce as much energy over the course of a year as they consume. Oak Ridge National Laboratory will develop the Integrated Net-Zero Energy Buildings Research Laboratory, which will include a research platform for commercial buildings; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California will build and operate the National User Facility for Net-Zero Energy Buildings Research, which will allow for the integrated testing of building technologies; and the National Energy Technology Laboratory will build a 35,000-square-foot Performance Verification Laboratory to perform nearly 17,000 verifications tests per year on a broad range of residential and commercial appliances. See the DOE press release.