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Obama bets US$2.4 billion on battery-electric vehicles

By

August 7, 2009

The Chevy Volt - a flagship American electric car that's sure to benefit from Obama's reco...

The Chevy Volt - a flagship American electric car that's sure to benefit from Obama's recovery cash injection.

Awesome news: battery technology is about to get a US$2.4 billion-dollar kick in the pants. US President Barack Obama has announced the single largest funds injection into battery development and electric/hybrid vehicle technology the world has ever seen. Obama's hope is that this huge chunk of stimulus funds will be enough to knock down the biggest wall standing between electric vehicles and the mainstream: the fact that current batteries are still too expensive, take too long to charge, and don't hold enough energy. If the move succeeds, it could put America right at the front of the electric car revolution - but at the least, it could help the next generation of iPhones last more than a day between charges.

Barack Obama is putting his money where his mouth is on alternative engine technologies, and using a big chunk of the US$1 trillion economic recovery package to re-imagine the American automotive industry as a world leader in battery-electric vehicles.

Electric drive technology is already out there and reaching a point of reasonable maturity. It's not hard to build electric cars, trucks and motorcycles - the main thing holding the whole industry back is battery technology. Mainstream consumers aren't too keen on ditching their trusty petrol cars for electrics that run out of juice in less than a couple hundred miles, and take all night to charge up again. Sure, there's electrics with better range and quicker charging times available, but they tend to carry truly fearsome pricetags.

Obama's massive cash injection is an attempt to leapfrog the battery technology hurdle and give America a chance to become a world leader in the field.

The plan breaks down into the following (taken from the whitehouse.gov press release:

  • $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.

Specific companies set to benefit from the grants include A123, Johnson Controls, Compact Power, Dow Kokam, GM, Chrysler, Ford, Celgard, Saft America, East Penn Manufacturing Co., Smith Electric, and several universities around the USA. Significantly, several small companies have received big funding boosts, a move calculated to spur the kinds of quick, agile development that larger companies seem to struggle with.

The grants have a very real chance of kickstarting a serious battery-electric and plug-in hybrid movement in the United States over the next decade or so. But beyond that, any battery cell advances inspired by this huge slab of investment will eventually filter through to other industries - notably portable computers and mobile phones, two device categories that are also struggling to deal with battery capacity issues.

Either way, it's a forward-thinking and revolutionary step, an attempt to start a new type of auto industry out of the ashes of Detroit. Obama has stamped his name on a program that embodies the kind of change he was elected to bring to America, and we can only hope that out of the 50-odd projects that will receive funds from the government, a few of them will take off and deliver some game-changing innovations.

Check out the full announcement from President Obama in the video below:

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
6 Comments

Yea! for planet earth

Michael E Foltz
7th August, 2009 @ 07:38 am PDT

woohoo!

Thanks Obama, putting your money where your mouth is.

If America can pull ahead in electric vehicles, it'll be worth billions to them.

Good work :)

Craig Jennings
8th August, 2009 @ 04:21 pm PDT

Generally I don't approve of government grants or subsidies, but I think this is smart from an ecological, political and economic standpoint.

The political benefits are obvious - boost domestic industries.

The ecological benefits are also pretty obvious - move America from a dependence on fossil fuel powered transportation to electric cars that could derive their energy from wind, solar, tidal, biomass or other renewable energy sources.

The economic benefits make sense because a move away from fossil fuels could end the immense wealth transfer (hundreds of billions of dollars per year, I believe) from American consumers to foreign producers of oil.

So, yep, this one makes good sense all around.

Now here's hoping the funds get put to work wisely and have a multiplier effect...

- Aaron Dalton, Editor, http://1GreenProduct.com

1greenproduct
8th August, 2009 @ 06:29 pm PDT

Really a Great Move! World will be benefited with his move.

Battery operated vehicles have both ecological and economical safety. I saw battery operated vehicle operating in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1994. They were imported but I saw a ray of Hope for cleaner environment in that vehicles.

In India several companies like mahindra are also in the process to develop a economically viable battery operated vehicle but due to some technical reasons of lead acid batteries like weight to current ration, charging/discharging time and many more, these types of vehicle are still under development. However e-bikes have gain a tremendous market in China and also gaining popularity in India also.

Obama\'s step to fund the EV\'s development will surely give the edge to cleaner environment.

We appreciate this step.

Arvind Mohan, Astt Editor, Battery Directory & Year Book, India

Arvind Mohan
9th August, 2009 @ 10:25 am PDT

And now Vectrix will be finally brought by a company and it will continue to sell the best electric motocycle ever made!! I was unsure to buy one since I've heard of the sabotage made by it's corrupted new CEO.

Mauro Mazzerioli
9th August, 2009 @ 10:52 pm PDT

Thank you Mr. President.

Justin T. Shockley
1st October, 2010 @ 12:28 pm PDT
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