January 11, 2011

Argonne battery will drive Chevy Volt

University-affiliated Argonne National Laboratory and General Motors Company (GM) have partnered in the development of the new Chevrolet Volt, one of three business deals announced by Argonne on Thursday. Argonne’s research on battery cells will be featured in the Volt, which was named the North American Car of the Year at the Detroit Auto Show yesterday.

Argonne also unveiled new business agreements with GE Intelligent Platforms and LG Chem, Ltd., a Korean chemical company.

The agreement with GM grants the company the right to manufacture lithium-ion batteries using Argonne’s patented cathode technology. Argonne’s development is designed to improve the energy capacity and safety of the Chevy Volt—the first hybrid plug-in vehicle to be mass-produced.

According to head of the Energy Storage Initiative at Argonne, Jeff Chamberlain, the new development represents a “step in the right direction” for battery cell research. “Energy storage is a very important piece in the energy security puzzle,” Chamberlain said.

The three announcements represent major developments by the U of C lab, indicative of Argonne’s growing participation in industry. “It’s certainly very significant when you can license something to a multinational company like GM or LG,” Argonne spokesperson Angela Hardin said.

A similar, but separate, agreement with LG will focus on energy storage technology for the Volt. The lab unveiled a licensing deal with LG Chem, Ltd. which allows for the production of cathode material technology for the Volt’s battery cells.

“It is especially gratifying to know that the commercialization of this Argonne-cathode is helping the development of an emerging U.S. battery manufacturing industry, as well as the creation of new American jobs,” Chamberlain said in an Argonne statement. LG’s new production facility created 400 jobs at a site in Michigan, according to the statement.

The third agreement links Argonne and GE Intelligence Platforms—a subsidiary of General Electric Company (GE). GE has acquired the Argonne offshoot company SmartSignal Co., which specializes in technologies for diagnosing malfunctions in industrial equipment.

The purchase of SmartSignal by GE is indicative of Argonne’s importance, Hardin said. Chamberlain agrees that the announcements signal the growing strength of the Argonne lab. “It’s a consistent message that we have been delivering and that we do deliver,” he said.