WASHINGTON, May 13, 2009 – The Army’s Advanced Automotive Battery Initiative is searching for the “holy grail” of power technology: an inexpensive, lightweight and reliable battery. “Collaboration is very important, in my opinion,” Sonja Gargies, energy storage team leader for the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, told listeners during an “Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military” webcast May 6 on Pentagon Web Radio. “I don’t see how one agency alone can accomplish the goal of a more energy efficient world.”

Academia and industry, along with the Defense and Energy departments, need to work together to make the goal a reality, she said.

“The ‘holy grail’ of power is actually the path that leads to an inexpensive, lightweight, reliable and long-lasting battery,” Gargies said.

TARDEC and other collaborating agencies, such as the Energy Department and the Army Research Lab, are trying to find dual-use niche markets with industry and academia under this new initiative.

“The battery initiative’s outcome is to establish a cost-competitive, flexible, domestic production base where we can have high-quality, advanced automotive battery materials, along with components that have dual-use applications for military ground vehicles, hopefully by 2015,” Gargies said.

Toward that end, TARDEC chaired a battery-planning summit meeting, where military and commercial vehicle users worked together to reach a consensus on the near-term equipment for launching and executing this initiative. The result was an Advanced Automotive Battery Initiative white paper.

“Basically, [we are] maximizing the commonality between the military and commercial market,” Gargies said. “We’re hoping to reduce the overall cost and increase the manufacturing flexibility to address the … unique vehicle military requirements and weapon systems requirements.”

The military is a large consumer of batteries, but that alone doesn’t create a sufficient demand to justify the creation of facilities and cell manufacturing that are solely devoted to military applications, Gargies said.

“To reduce the cost for military and industrial applications, we need to grow the niche battery markets while taking advantage of something called ‘dual-use’ technologies that will help meet the needs of both commercial and military vehicle platforms and products,” she explained.

Gargies added that battery research and development is an integral part of the national effort to develop environmentally friendly technology.

“In addition to the conventional applications, they can be used for electric vehicles, hybrid-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, to reduce the greenhouse emissions and the dependence on imported oil,” Gargies said. “They can be used to store electricity that is generated by solar energy and wind energy.”

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