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Lamonica at the ARPAE Summitt

PolyPlus Battery Commercialization Boosts American Manufacturing

Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it was awarding PolyPlus a grant for nearly $9 million to develop advanced manufacturing capabilities for its next-generation lithium batteries. Specifically, the grant is supporting a pilot project in collaboration with Johnson Controls and Corning Inc. to manufacture PolyPlus’s innovative electrode, which is used in its lithium-air, lithium-water, and lithium-sulfur batteries. The development is significant for two reasons.  First, if successful, PolyPlus is taking a big step forward in producing – at scale – its advanced lithium batteries, which could be one of the first to market. Second, the project is another example of the important role manufacturing plays in the development of innovative, new technologies and the important role government policy can play to support it.

As ITIF has noted, PolyPlus previously received funding from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and has validated that investment by making particularly impressive progress in its development of its advanced lithium batteries. This includes a lithium-water battery that’s non-rechargeable, but has a record setting energy density and lifetime, making it perfect for underwater robotics and marine sensing.  More important to

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Arun Majumdar Presenting

Arun Majumdar Made ARPA-E an Energy Innovation Leader

Last week saw the unfortunate news that Dr. Arun Majumdar will resign – effective June 9 – from the U.S. Department of Energy, where he has served as the head of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) since October 2009. His departure is a “big hit for energy innovation policy,” ITIF’s Matt Stepp commented (subscription article) to Politico, because Dr. Majumdar “bridged the bipartisan consensus around ARPA-E, which is a tough thing to do especially in tough budget times…Arun was the clean energy’s version of Neil deGrasse Tyson in how he speaks about astronomy and the need for space exploration. Arun was kind of our guy for that.” As Dr. Majumdar prepares to return home to California, it is a fitting time to assess ARPA-E’s work thus far and prospects for the future.

Although just barely three years old, the agency has provided $521.7 million in grants to more than 180 projects located in 34 states, across 12 very diverse program areas. The agency has also helped encourage private investment – 11 of the projects funded by ARPA-E to the tune of $40 million have leveraged more than

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U.S. Interstate 191

Lithium-Air Battery R&D Moves Forward

Last week, IBM announced that it is bringing on two corporate partners, Asahi Kasei and Central Glass, to collaborate on research for its Battery 500 Project, the goal of which is to develop a lithium-air battery that can power an electric car for 500 miles on a single charge. In comparison, today’s conventional lithium-ion batteries can only take cars roughly 150 miles between plug-ins. Lithium-air batteries, so-named because they use oxygen to drive a chemical reaction, theoretically have a much higher energy density – hence their appeal. The fact that IBM has dedicated time and money to the development of the technology is an indication of its significant potential. Furthermore, the progression of the Battery 500 Project itself is an interesting case study in innovation.

In late 2009, IBM applied for an ARPA-E grant to support its lithium-air battery research, one of 220 battery-related proposals. Ultimately, the agency chose to fund two other lithium-air projects instead, doling out roughly $5 million to the PolyPlus Battery Company and a little more than $1 million to researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology. IBM chose to continue its work

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Dispatch from the ARPA-E Summit 2012: Envia’s Strong Roots in the Public-Private Innovation Ecosystem

The 2012 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit opened with news that Envia Systems – the recipient of a $4 million investment from ARPA-E – has developed a breakthrough lithium-ion battery for use in electric vehicles. A flurry of independent tests confirmed that the Envia battery can perform in the world record-range of 378-418 watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg), almost triple the energy density of conventional batteries. The battery pack of the latest Tesla Roadster, for example, has a reported energy density of 121 Wh/kg. Furthermore, the unique battery design is such that “the cost of cells will be less than half — perhaps 45 percent — of cells today,” company CEO Atul Kapadia contends. If true, the technology could significantly reduce the cost of electric vehicles upon commercialization, assuming it’s scalable. Envia’s experience is a positive example of the kinds of potentially high-impact investments ARPA-E is making, as well as a reminder that technological breakthroughs are not manna from heaven, but rather the result of energetic public-private partnerships.

Envia is a small company of 35 people that spent 5 years laboring on their potential breakthrough. In addition to ARPA-E, Envia received

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Refuting David Frum

David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and current blogger for Newsweek/The Daily Beast, is among the more thoughtful conservative commentators. (Full disclosure – I had the pleasure and privilege of writing for his now defunct blog, Nevertheless, Frum is sadly mistaken in his recent piece on President Obama’s energy plan.

“Here’s the energy truth,” Frum states. “We want energy that is cheap. We want energy that is clean. We want energy that is secure. We can have (at most) two of those three desiderata. Coal is cheap and secure, but not clean. Wind and solar are clean and secure, but not cheap. Oil from the Persian Gulf is (relatively) cheap, but neither clean nor secure.”

My question is why can’t we strive for energy that is cheap, clean, and secure? The reality is that clean energy innovation can get us all three.

Frum is generally right that coal is cheap and secure, but not clean. Oil from the Persian Gulf is indeed neither clean nor secure and only relatively cheap, emphasis on relatively. The oil market is very volatile, with prices dependent on the whims

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