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Obama announces $2.4B in stimulus funds for U.S. batteries and EVs: “I don’t want to just reduce our dependence on foreign oil and then end up being dependent on their foreign innovations.”

By Joe Romm on August 5, 2009 at 3:14 pm

"Obama announces $2.4B in stimulus funds for U.S. batteries and EVs: “I don’t want to just reduce our dependence on foreign oil and then end up being dependent on their foreign innovations.”"

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President Obama announced 48 new advanced battery and electric drive projects that will receive $2.4 billion in stimulus funds.  You can read details here.  The awards cover:

  • $1.5 billion in grants to U.S. based manufacturers to produce batteries and their components and to expand battery recycling capacity;
  • $500 million in grants to U.S. based manufacturers to produce electric drive components for vehicles, including electric motors, power electronics, and other drive train components; and
  • $400 million in grants to purchase thousands of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles for test demonstrations in several dozen locations; to deploy them and evaluate their performance; to install electric charging infrastructure; and to provide education and workforce training to support the transition to advanced electric transportation systems.

For a full list of award winners, click HERE.  For a map of their locations, click HERE.

Obama is always at the leading edge of progressive messaging, so I’ll excerpt the energy portion of his remarks in Wakarusa, Indiana today below:

The battle for America’s future will be fought and won in places like Elkhart and Detroit, Goshen and Pittsburgh, South Bend, Youngstown — in cities and towns across Indiana and across the Midwest and across the country that have been the backbone of America.  It will be won by making places like Elkhart what they once were and can be again — and that’s centers of innovation and entrepreneurship and ingenuity and opportunity; the bustling, whirring, humming engines of American prosperity.

For as the world grows more competitive, we can’t afford to run the race at half-strength or half-speed.  If we hope to lead this century like we did the last century, we have to create the conditions and the opportunities for places like Elkhart to succeed.  We have to harness the potential — the innovative and creative spirit — that’s waiting to be awakened all across America.  That’s how we’ll rebuild this economy stronger than before:  strong enough to compete in the global economy; strong enough to avoid the cycles of boom and bust that have wreaked so much havoc on our economy; strong enough to support the jobs of the 21st century; and strong enough to unleash prosperity for everybody, not just some.

But before we can rebuild our economy for tomorrow, we have to rescue it today.  Now, that’s why we passed a Recovery Act less than one month after I took office — and we did so without any of the earmarks or pork-barrel spending that’s so common in Washington, D.C.  And let me just talk about the so-called stimulus package, or the Recovery Act, because there’s been a lot of misinformation out there about the Recovery Act.  Let me tell you what it is and what it’s not….

First half, tax relief.  Second half, support for individuals, small businesses, and states that had fallen on hard times.

The last third of the Recovery Act — and that’s what we’re going to talk about here today — is for investments that are not only putting people back to work in the short term, but laying a new foundation for growth and prosperity in the long run.  These are the jobs of building the future of America:  upgrading our roads and our bridges; renovating schools and hospitals.  The Elkhart area has seen the benefits:  Dozens were employed to resurface the runway at Elkhart Airport; a four-mile stretch of highway is being upgraded on US-33; the Heart City Health Center has received recovery dollars to expand services and hire additional staff.

And as part of the recovery plan, we’re making a historic commitment to innovation.  The Recovery Act creates jobs doubling our capacity to generate renewable energy; building a new smart grid that carry electricity from coast to coast; laying down broadband lines and high-speed rail lines; and providing the largest boost in basic research in history — to ensure that America leads in the breakthrough discoveries of the new century, just as we led in the last.  Because that’s what we do best in America — we turn ideas into inventions, and inventions into industries.

Now, history should be our guide.  The United States led the world’s economies in the 20th century because we led the world in innovation.  Today, the competition is keener; the challenge is tougher; and that’s why innovation is more important than ever.  That’s the key to good, new jobs in the 21st century.  That’s how we will ensure a high quality of life for this generation and future generations.  With these investments, we’re planting the seeds of progress for our country, and good-paying, private-sector jobs for the American people.

So that’s why I’m here today — to announce $2.4 billion in highly competitive grants to develop the next generation of fuel-efficient cars and trucks powered by the next generation of battery technologies all made right here in the U.S. of A.  (Applause.)  Right here in America.  (Applause.)  Made in America.  (Applause.)

For too long, we failed to invest in this kind of innovative work, even as countries like China and Japan were racing ahead.  That’s why this announcement is so important:  This represents the largest investment in this kind of technology in American history.

See, I’m committed to a strategy that ensures America leads in the design and the deployment of the next generation of clean-energy vehicles.  This is not just an investment to produce vehicles today; this is an investment in our capacity to develop new technologies tomorrow.  This is about creating the infrastructure of innovation.

Indiana is the second largest recipient of grant funding, and it’s a perfect example of what this will mean.  You’ve got Purdue University, Notre Dame, Indiana University, and Ivy Tech, and they’re all going to be receiving grant funding to develop degree and training programs for electric vehicles.  That’s number one.  (Applause.)  We’ve got EnerDel, a small business in Indianapolis that will develop batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles.  You’ve got Allison Transmission in Indianapolis, Delphi in Kokomo, Remy in Pendleton, and Magna located in Muncie, all who will help develop electric-drive components for commercial and passenger vehicles.

And right here in Elkhart County, Navistar — which has taken over two Monaco Coach manufacturing facilities — will receive a $39 million grant to build 400 advanced battery electric trucks — (applause) — with a range of a hundred miles, like the trucks here today.  (Applause.)  Just a few months ago, folks thought that these factories might be closed for good.  But now they’re coming back to life.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you!

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re welcome.  (Laughter.)  Thank the American people.  (Applause.)

The company estimates that this investment will help create or save hundreds of jobs in the area.  And already, folks like Herman are being rehired.  So, overall, the companies believe these investments in battery technology will save or create thousands of Hoosier jobs.  And I want to point out these thousands of jobs wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the leaders in Congress who supported the Recovery Act — leaders like Evan Bayh and Joe Donnelly, who’s here today.  (Applause.)   And Andre Carson and Brad Ellsworth and Peter Visclosky.  (Applause.)  And these grants will create tens of thousands of jobs all across America.

In fact, today, Vice President Biden is announcing grant winners in Michigan.  Members of my Cabinet are fanning out across the country announcing recipients elsewhere.  We’re providing the incentives to those businesses — large and small — that stand ready to help us lead a new clean-energy economy by developing new technologies for new kinds of vehicles.

See, I don’t want to just reduce our dependence on foreign oil and then end up being dependent on their foreign innovations.  I don’t want to have to import a hybrid car — I want to be able to build a hybrid car here.  (Applause.)  I don’t want to have to import a hybrid truck — I want to build a hybrid truck here.  (Applause.)  I don’t want to have to import a windmill from someplace else — I want to build a windmill right here in Indiana.  (Applause.)  I want the cars of the future and the technologies that power them to be developed and deployed right here, in America.

And that’s just the beginning.  In no area will innovation be more important than in the development of new ways to produce, use, and save energy.  So we’re not only doubling our capacity to generate renewable energy and building a stronger and smarter electric grid.  We’ve helped reach an agreement to raise fuel economy standards.  And for the first time in history, we passed a bill to create a system of clean energy incentives which will help make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America — while helping to end our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet for future generations.

The bill passed the House; we’re now working to pass legislation through the Senate.  Because we know that real innovation depends not on government, but on the generative potential of the American people.  If the American people get a clear set of rules, if they know what’s needed, what challenges we’ve got to meet, they’ll figure out how to do it.

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13 Responses to Obama announces $2.4B in stimulus funds for U.S. batteries and EVs: “I don’t want to just reduce our dependence on foreign oil and then end up being dependent on their foreign innovations.”

  1. paulm says:

    That guy is smart.

  2. paulm says:

    The writings on the wall for short-haul flying even before fuel prices cripple this very un-green pass time. Not long before the US follows…

    Adonis defends high-speed rail plan
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/aug/05/high-speed-rail-airline-flights
    Government’s aim for 250mph train network to replace short-haul flights was condemned as ‘insane’ by Ryanair boss

  3. Mike#22 says:

    (from DOE award winners link above)

    “Two companies, A123 and Johnson Controls, will receive a total of approximately $550 million to establish a manufacturing base in the state for advanced batteries, and two others, Compact Power and Dow Kokam, will receive a total of over $300 million for manufacturing battery cells and materials.”

    A123 represents both what is right and what is wrong about America’s technology. Often, we create the best, and then the manufacturing moves offshore. A123 has an incredible battery. Here is a DOE Merit Review of A123′s vehicle battery. Amazing stuff: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/pdfs/merit_review_2009/energy_storage/es_04_fulop.pdf

    Yeah, Obama and team are smart. Build these batteries in this country. Grinning from ear to ear.

  4. Leland Palmer says:

    Interesting list, but I didn’t see any mention of nickel metal hydride batteries.

    Nickel metal hydride batteries are a 1990′s technology, used by GM in their Impulse EVs. Toyota seems to be able to produce a couple of million such batteries for their Prius hybrid cars. Toyota has no plans, so far as I know, to switch to lithium ion batteries or any of the newer technologies on the grant list.

    Nickel metal hydride batteries were supposedly a success when used in the GM Impulse EV, and may have been deliberately suppressed, as alleged in the film “Who Killed the Electric Car”.

    Why can Toyota produce such batteries, but GM can’t?

    We ought to have “eminent domain” laws for technology, IMO, and we need to nationalize some of this stuff and make it freely available. Energy density on NMH batteries is not as good as some of the newer ideas, but it is better than lead-acid.

    I also didn’t see any mention of flywheel electric storage, which is a potential breakthrough technology for electric cars.

    Another breakthrough technology that is being neglected, IMO, is the Stirling engine,especially of the free piston type produced by Sunpower, Inc. These are capable of producing electricity from any type of waste heat, from any source, and could be a game changing technology. The silence from this quarter seems kind of deafening, and I wonder why. The silence seems so great I wonder if Sunpower is being paid not to produce their engines, which have disappeared from their website in the last couple of years.

    Anyway, good for the Obama Administration, which does appear to be both serious about stuff like this and capable.

    Very impressive, IMO.

  5. Rick Covert says:

    I saw ABC news cover this and they had a news piece on the lithium deposits in Uyuni, Bolivia but they mistakenly stated that the main chemical ingredient in lithium batteries is lithium when in reality very little lithium is required in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries. Otherwise it was an interesting story on where we will store the electrical energy we need to power electric cars.

  6. Leland Palmer says:

    About Stirling engines-

    It doesn’t seem to be possible for private individuals to buy one, other than hobbyist or demo engines, or specialized systems costing thousands of dollars, for generating electricity on yachts, for example. At least, I haven’t been able to find any American or European firms that will just sell you a free piston Stirling engine, although Sunpower, Inc. used to sell them.

    With Stirling engines, it would be possible to build external combustion multi-fuel cars, which could be run on biomass or biochar, and so be carbon neutral. Other than the biomass (wood pellets) or biochar fuel, and replacing the internal combustion engine with a burner and a Stirling engine, these would be conventional hybrid vehicles.

    Why the deafening silence on Stirling engine development?

  7. dhogaza says:

    Government’s aim for 250mph train network to replace short-haul flights was condemned as ‘insane’ by Ryanair boss

    Ryanair competes successfully against similar technology in Europe.

    While that same railroad technology also competes successfully against Ryanair :)

    Well, not really, it currently competes better against more traditional airlines, just as Ryanair does.

    European high-speed rail is popular. When traveling from Berlin to A’dam three or four years ago, I bought a ticket, then found the train was overbooked (just like airlines, gosh!). But I was able to put down my duflebag and sit at the rear of a car for the first half of the trip, until a seat opened.

    AVE trains in Spain aren’t typically fully booked, just 80% or so. Total failures compared to RyanAir.

    RyanAir does represent the future in air travel … the “insanity” of comfortable, scenic, high-speed rail travel compared to RyanAir includes RyanAir soon to charge to go the the toilet, and to sell standing room-only tickets, the flyer being lashed to a bulkhead with a little outcrop shoved under his or her butt.

    Anyone concerned with comfort, pleasure, combined with reasonable travel times in Europe choses the spanish AVE, or german ICE, or french TGV, even if it costs a bit more (because they can get away with *charging* more).

  8. jorleh says:

    Could somebody comment IFR? What is the reason to forget this nuclear possibility? I understand Brooks in Australia recommends it warmly.

  9. Leland Palmer says:

    Here we go-

    Apparently Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway personal transporter, is working on a hybrid car and/or scooter powered by external combustion and a Stirling engine. Power such a car or scooter on biomass or biochar, and you’ve got carbon neutral transportation.

    http://inventorspot.com/articles/segway_inventor_designs_hybrid_scooter_will_run_anything_burns_30290

    [JR: Yeah, well the Segway ain't green in my book and Kamen as been predicted to be having an imminent Stirling engine for a decade now. Stirlings are not the future, I think. We're gonna power cars on liquid fuels or electricity.]

  10. Jeff Wishart says:

    Leland,

    I think that you are mistaken about Toyota’s interest in the Li-ion battery (see here and here.) Li-ion batteries have a much higher energy density than do Ni-MH batteries, and are also expected to have the potential for more substantial cost decreases. This is why you won’t see GM looking to put Ni-MH batteries in the Volt.

    I am also skeptical about flywheels used for energy storage in a vehicle. You ask why there is no mention of them, but that’s largely because there is so little R&D being done on them. Flywheels have excellent energy conversion efficiency and transients, but are heavy and could be deadly in a crash. In any event, the purpose of this government money is to help promising technologies commercialize, and with so little industrial R&D in flywheels, you can’t blame the administration for not sending money their way (yet).

  11. hapa says:

    seems like flywheels solve a power problem only racing teams and industrial engineers need to solve; and batteries+supercapacitors are ok for most vehicles. i don’t think i’ve seen anyone yet question their potential application as storage on a(n inter-)continental green grid.

  12. Gary Thompson says:

    On Tuesday, GE agreed to pay $50 million to settle a fraud claim lodged by the federal government. Simply put: GE misled investors by cooking its books. There are many prominent CEOs on GE’s Board of Directors. How can they live with this?

    Wouldn’t this money be better spent in R&D?

  13. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Joe-

    [JR: Yeah, well the Segway ain't green in my book and Kamen as been predicted to be having an imminent Stirling engine for a decade now. Stirlings are not the future, I think. We're gonna power cars on liquid fuels or electricity.]

    Well, you might be right. Certainly, it is easy to make an electric vehicle carbon negative- just run it off of a carbon negative converted coal fired power plant.

    Making a Stirling electric hybrid carbon negative is hard, and would involve some sort of regulatory mechanism to force biochar producers to produce extra biochar and use it as a soil amendment, or use the biochar in a high carbon concrete aggregate, or something. Because of the multifuel capability, though, it is easy to make a Stirling electric hybrid carbon neutral, though.

    Stirlings have a big potential to increase overall energy efficiency of the whole society, though, I think. This is because they can produce electricity with maximum efficiency from practically any source of waste heat, and as a hugely inefficient society, we have a lot of waste heat. We could have pellet stoves for heating, for example, with Stirling generators for cogeneration, leading to extremely high overall energy efficiencies, using biomass – a fuel that is inherently carbon neutral.

    Kamen’s Stirling patents look pretty impressive, to me. The DOE ought to throw Federal money behind producing a standardized design Stirling engine, IMO, and Kamen has achieved a lot, just on his own. With federal resources, he might be unstoppable.

    Another company with a very long history of successful Stirling development is Sunpower, Inc. They have produced Stirling radioisotope power units for NASA that have run for tens of thousands of hours with zero maintenance.

    About Toyota, well, they do seem interested in producing small numbers of lithium ion hybrids. But they are routinely producing hundreds of thousands of nickel metal hydride hybrids, right now.

    So, my point is that maybe the Obama administration is being too forward looking, and ought to throw some of that federal money (and design expertise!) at technologies such as nickel metal hydride batteries, Stirlings, and flywheel storage, which have large potential but perhaps some persistent engineering problems, which the feds might be able to solve, with their huge resources.

    [JR: If Stirlings have made major advances in this country is because of the DOE. We funded them significant late when I was there because they enable concentrated solar thermal collectors among other things. I think you'll find the vast majority of U.S. Stirling companies got DOE money. I am very familiar with the technology. Useful, yes, and I'm sure Chu is funding work on them -- but don't really see it as a game changer.]