The announcement earlier this month that a second major automotive battery manufacturer is planning to build a large plant in Kentucky was welcome news for researchers at the University of Louisville’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research, which leads fundamental and translational research on batteries.
As part of a federally funded industry/research collaboration, Efficient Vehicles and Sustainable Transportation Systems (EVSTS), the UofL researchers work with the automotive industry to improve energy efficiency and environmental sustainability of ground vehicles and infrastructure, including battery technology.
EVSTS combines engineering expertise of the UofL, Arizona State University, University of Texas Austin and Auburn University and engages the automotive industry’s critical stakeholders – vehicle manufacturers, component and system suppliers, fleet operators, ground transportation infrastructure providers and state and local governments. The Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC), formed in 2016 by the National Science Foundation (NSF), recently announced $500,000 in additional funding for EVSTS until 2027. The work is an effort to meet demanding federal regulations governing vehicle fuel economy and emissions, as well as society’s growing needs for improved sustainability.
“Through the EVSTS, the University of Louisville is pleased to partner with original equipment manufacturers to overcome barriers for successful development and deployment of electric vehicles, charging stations and alternative fuels,” said Sam Park, associate professor of mechanical engineering at UofL’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering and the EVSTS UofL site director. “Phase II funding continues dynamic collaborations with industry from Phase I that increase vehicle efficiency and safety, transform motive systems and positively impact our environment.”
The researchers at UofL and the other institutions consult with major vehicle manufacturers, heavy truck manufacturers and battery manufacturers to develop proprietary technology to improve existing and emerging systems. EVSTS conducts research to transform powertrains, fuels and electrification of passenger cars, trucks and motorized non-road equipment, which currently produce significant greenhouse gas emissions.
The UofL team has prioritized research in thermal management, analysis of battery degradation and development of high-safety solid-state batteries for improving the energy source of electric vehicles. Conn Center facilities include roll-to-roll for electrode coatings, pouch cell fabrication and device cycle testing. Conn Center and its affiliated companies have technologies for manufacturing both cathode and anode materials at scale.
This research is particularly relevant to Kentucky, which is home to four major automotive plants and a network of parts suppliers. In October 2021, Ford Motor Co. and South Korean partner SK Innovation announced plans to build a $5.8-billion vehicle battery plant in Hardin County by 2025. On April 14, Japanese electric car battery maker Envision announced plans to build a $2-billion plant in Bowling Green. These projects will bring thousands of new jobs to the state.