Executive Summary

In January 1991, three major U.S. automakers—Chrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and the General Motors Corporation (GM)—entered into an agreement to pool their technical knowledge and funding to accelerate progress in the development of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs). Their partnership, which is slated to run until 2003, is called the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC). The purpose of the USABC is ''to work with advanced battery developers and companies that will conduct research and development (R&D) on advanced batteries to provide increased range and improved performance for electric vehicles in the latter part of the 1990s.'' In addition to the three automakers, participants in the USABC include the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through a cooperative agreement with the partnership, and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), through a participation agreement.

The USABC began its technical program by developing goals and objectives as a basis for selecting and managing projects. Midterm performance goals were designed to meet "introductory EV market requirements assuming EV subsidies." The long-term goals define a level of technology capable of sustaining a competitive EV market. In 1996, the USABC developed intermediate commercialization goals that specify technologies the USABC believes will allow the entry of EVs into the market without subsidies.

The USABC has awarded eight contracts to companies for work on battery technologies for EVs and is sponsoring related projects at several DOE national laboratories through cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs). In Phase I (1991–1996), work was focused on six major battery systems: nickel metal hydride (Ni/MH), sodium-sulfur, lithium-ion, lithium-polymer, lithium-ion-polymer, and lithium-iron disulfide systems. Total spending for Phase I was



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--> Executive Summary In January 1991, three major U.S. automakers—Chrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and the General Motors Corporation (GM)—entered into an agreement to pool their technical knowledge and funding to accelerate progress in the development of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs). Their partnership, which is slated to run until 2003, is called the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC). The purpose of the USABC is ''to work with advanced battery developers and companies that will conduct research and development (R&D) on advanced batteries to provide increased range and improved performance for electric vehicles in the latter part of the 1990s.'' In addition to the three automakers, participants in the USABC include the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through a cooperative agreement with the partnership, and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), through a participation agreement. The USABC began its technical program by developing goals and objectives as a basis for selecting and managing projects. Midterm performance goals were designed to meet "introductory EV market requirements assuming EV subsidies." The long-term goals define a level of technology capable of sustaining a competitive EV market. In 1996, the USABC developed intermediate commercialization goals that specify technologies the USABC believes will allow the entry of EVs into the market without subsidies. The USABC has awarded eight contracts to companies for work on battery technologies for EVs and is sponsoring related projects at several DOE national laboratories through cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs). In Phase I (1991–1996), work was focused on six major battery systems: nickel metal hydride (Ni/MH), sodium-sulfur, lithium-ion, lithium-polymer, lithium-ion-polymer, and lithium-iron disulfide systems. Total spending for Phase I was

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--> $189 million, which was divided equally between government (DOE) and industry (the three automakers, EPRI, electric utilities, and battery companies). In Phase II (1996–2000), the focus is on Ni/MH, lithium-ion, and lithium-polymer systems. Phase II funding is expected to total $106 million, of which DOE will provide 45 percent and industry 55 percent. Scope and Contents of This Study This study by the National Research Council (NRC) was requested by DOE's Office of Advanced Automotive Technologies. The study focuses on the processes used by the USABC to select, evaluate, and manage R&D projects on EV batteries in Phases I and II of the program. The chapters in this report are focused on the following topics: the management structure of the USABC; the establishment of performance and cost goals and the selection of projects; technical progress in Phases I and II; and the quality of management and oversight. The principal conclusions and recommendations presented below are grouped into five categories: overall perspective on the USABC; goals; program management; procurement; and battery technologies. A number of these recommendations are relevant to cooperative government-industry R&D programs in general, including the Advanced Battery Initiative, which has been proposed as a follow-on to USABC. Overall Perspective Conclusion. The participants in the USABC have made a reasonable effort to develop technology for an extremely demanding application. Despite an overly ambitious schedule, which was imposed by regulatory requirements, the USABC has made significant progress. Although no technology has yet been brought to the point of fully meeting even the midterm goals, work in progress has a significant chance of meeting both the midterm and commercialization goals early in the next decade, possibly even before the year 2000. The consortium has effectively brought together battery technologists and experts in EVs in creative, focused partnerships but has missed some opportunities to provide broad technical leadership because timely information was not made public. The USABC was created to respond to specific challenges imposed by regulatory agencies, and many aspects of its operation, including its technical strategy, have been affected by the regulatory timetable established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Technology capable of meeting the CARB mandate did not exist when the USABC was founded, and there was no obvious path to it. The USABC's experience has confirmed that there are major technical difficulties and challenges in developing batteries for EVs. Given the circumstances, the committee generally agrees with the strategic assumptions that have

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--> guided the USABC program, the most fundamental of which are (1) that development based on existing science should take precedence over research to create new science and (2) that multiple technologies should be pursued simultaneously. The first two years of the USABC's existence were taken up with the logistics of creating the organization and its operating principles, defining goals, soliciting proposals, working out principles governing intellectual property, and negotiating contracts. In the committee's view, the USABC carried out these tasks as efficiently as could be expected, and many of the lessons learned by the USABC could be valuable for establishing future collaborative government-industry R&D programs. Nevertheless, the time remaining before the implementation of EVs in 1998, as required by the 1990 CARB mandate, was only about three years. The time required for development of the vehicle left very little time for development of the battery. Nevertheless, the committee respects the role regulatory initiatives have played in forcing the pace of progress in this field, which can lead to significant public benefits as a result of reduced vehicle emissions. In the committee's view, if the implementation horizon had been after the year 2000, there would have been enough time for the USABC to pursue a more effective R&D portfolio for EV batteries and more opportunities for the USABC to pursue new science aimed at improving the performance and cost effectiveness of critical components. Regulators in this domain would be well advised to recognize that their time constraints have an impact on the range of science and technology that can realistically be brought to bear on a given problem. By bringing together automotive manufacturers, battery manufacturers, electric utilities, and DOE, the USABC has provided a venue for a focused approach to meeting EV requirements. The interaction between automotive manufacturers and battery manufacturers has added a valuable dimension of systems integration and testing to the programs for battery development. Interaction among the partners on individual USABC projects has been very productive. Nevertheless, the committee was surprised to find how little public information was being made available on an ongoing basis by the USABC, a multiyear program that receives substantial government funding. In the committee's view, the USABC could have fostered a climate in which battery technology could have progressed on a broader front and gone beyond large-scale efforts directed only toward relatively short-term applications. Because precompetitive issues, which could have been discussed in open venues, were not separated from private company issues, the USABC missed an opportunity for proactive leadership. The USABC partners clearly have a common long-term interest in fostering a healthy industry that has multiple suppliers for any given EV battery technology. The USABC could have promoted this interest effectively at very low cost by developing and updating a technology road map and by making concerted efforts to summarize progress regularly on a nonproprietary basis. More general information would also have helped to inform the public and policymakers on the difficulties of developing a commercially viable EV.

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--> By adopting a collegial management model involving program officers from DOE, the USABC was able to take advantage of DOE's extensive expertise with battery systems. However, the committee is concerned that other DOE battery R&D (under the Exploratory Technology Research program or elsewhere in DOE) may have been unwisely reduced to pay for federal participation in the USABC, which is a focused development program aimed at one very demanding battery application that might be unrealizable in terms of the defined performance goals. The committee believes that the nation as a whole has many different interests in battery science and technology, and these interests should be managed, financially and otherwise, in a balanced way by DOE and other federal research programs. A number of groups besides the USABC involving industry and government representatives are addressing the infrastructure required to support a significant EV market, such as standardized charging systems, the supplies of materials for the construction of advanced batteries, and battery disposal and recycling. The committee understands that the USABC considers these matters outside its scope, but they are critical to meeting USABC's goals. Therefore, the committee believes the USABC would be justified in paying more attention to infrastructure issues in the remainder of the program. Recommendation. In future programs and current programs outside the USABC, DOE should focus more on research that advances the science of electrochemical systems that have the potential to meet the long-term performance and cost criteria for electric vehicles, as opposed to development of systems based on existing science. A significant portion of this scientific research should be focused on battery technologies that have not been included in the USABC program. Recommendation. In concert with other groups addressing infrastructure issues, the USABC should use some of its remaining Phase II funds to address infrastructure for its most promising long-term technology, in particular, ensuring the availability of materials and recycling of batteries. Recommendation. The USABC should communicate its targets and results on a regular basis to the technical community, within the bounds of agreements on proprietary information. The USABC should develop a technical road map to guide battery development even outside the USABC, and to identify barriers to the implementation of batteries in commercially viable electric vehicles. A technical road map would also be valuable for follow-on programs to the USABC. Recommendation. Given the trend toward cooperative government-industry technology development and commercialization, DOE, should collaborate with other federal agencies to develop a governmentwide approach to the efficient implementation of cooperative agreements. These procedures could also be used for launching a follow-on program to the USABC.

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--> Program Goals Conclusion. The USABC acted appropriately in establishing performance goals consistent with both the CARB mandate and the marketing assumptions made by the three major U.S. automakers. The goals reflect a legitimate view of the requirements for meeting the CARB mandate with vehicles that could be successful in the marketplace. A successor to the USABC may have the latitude to rethink the performance goals in the light of ongoing technical developments and changing market potential. In terms of fundamental energy considerations, a battery-powered EV cannot match a gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle1 in range, performance, and recharging characteristics. However, many vehicles are used in circumstances where these characteristics are not critical. In establishing performance goals consistent with CARB requirements, the USABC assumed that EVs would be competitive only if their performance were comparable to the performance of ICE vehicles. The committee concluded that the USABC's approach was reasonable in light of the CARB regulatory requirements. The USABC relied heavily on its own marketing study and marketing studies by the U.S. automakers to compare the competitiveness of EVs and ICE vehicles. Marketing strategies based on the advantages of EVs, such as quietness, cleanliness, automatic in-home "refueling," and potentially reduced maintenance requirements, might have been used to establish more attainable performance goals. The battery systems developed to meet the midterm goals were not expected to gain a sustainable share of the market for EV batteries or even to contribute to the development of battery systems that would meet the long-term goals. The committee observed that the main purpose of developing batteries to meet the midterm goals was to meet (or show a good faith effort at meeting) the original CARB mandate (which has since been changed) for a 2 percent new car market share in California for zero emmission vehicles (ZEVs) in the late 1990s. The committee questions the wisdom of using short-term regulatory requirements to establish an initial technical direction for the USABC's program. Cost goals should be a high priority for the USABC program. The projected full cost of the ownership and operation of a battery is an important consideration in the economics of EV development. Although the USABC recognizes the importance of the cost issue, its cost estimates have not always been based on consistent methods and realistic assumptions. Recommendation. Participants in a follow-on program to the USABC should allocate some program funds to examining a broader spectrum of electric vehicle concepts and related market opportunities, in addition to developing a replacement vehicle for a gasoline-fueled ICE vehicle that could capture a significant share of the conventional automobile market. 1    In this report, an ICE vehicle is assumed to be a conventional, gasoline-fueled vehicle.

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--> Recommendation. The participants in a follow-on program to the USABC should make a critical assessment of the economics of batteries for electric vehicles. The issue of cost should be addressed early in the program, and cost projections should be monitored and tested by consistent methods throughout battery development. Meeting cost goals should be an important criterion for maintaining funding. Program Management Conclusion. The three major U.S. automakers have managed the USABC program effectively using proven industry practices and have made appropriate decisions to narrow the portfolio of battery technologies as the program has proceeded. In the committee's judgment, the industry-led consortium model adopted by the USABC has been effective in focusing development on well defined, but extremely challenging, technical targets for a specific application. Because the three major domestic automakers are customers for EV batteries themselves and are bound to ensure that batteries developed under the USABC are compatible with vehicle requirements, the committee considers it appropriate for the automakers to have overall responsibility for battery development. Moreover, the committee doubts that a purely government-managed program could have brought a similar focus or managerial crispness to the program, or that a purely private initiative could have brought the same level of resources to bear or engaged as wide a range of participants. The committee observed that both funding and decision making within the consortium are highly leveraged. Although funding levels from the automakers and EPRI are proprietary, the committee estimates that the contribution from the automotive companies is significantly less than the contribution from DOE; nevertheless, most of the consortium's management decisions are made by the automakers. In the committee's judgment, Chrysler, Ford, and GM have managed the program effectively and have made appropriate decisions to narrow the portfolio of battery technologies as the program has proceeded. Mechanisms have been established to ensure that the statements of work for each project are being followed or are modified in accordance with established procedures. Mechanisms have also been established for focusing R&D on critical issues, and informed Go/No Go decisions have been implemented. Although the USABC program management has many excellent features, the committee believes that some changes in the internal peer review process would be beneficial. The USABC oversight management process does not include peer review as it is usually understood in the context of projects supported by government agencies. The USABC peer review process involves only personnel from the

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--> USABC's management structure and, in the committee's opinion, lacks objectivity. Independent peer reviews by external experts at specified intervals—and at the start-up of major new projects—would enhance the USABC's management processes. The peer review process should include procedures for handling proprietary information and for communicating nonproprietary information to a broad technical audience. Input from a wide audience would increase the likelihood of the USABC finding the best midterm and long-term approaches to technological problems. DOE has responsibilities both as a partner and as an overseer in the USABC. By virtue of the cooperative agreement between DOE and the USABC, DOE is substantially involved in approving all statements of work, selecting and approving all technologies, overseeing all major decisions, issuing technical directives, and approving the USABC's annual plan. On an operational basis, DOE's participation appears to the committee to be largely collegial rather than directive. Although this arrangement seems to be working smoothly and has had good results, it is probably not sound practice for individuals to play both collegial and oversight roles. Recommendation. Within the limits imposed by proprietary considerations, regular peer reviews of the USABC's ongoing programs should be implemented immediately to provide objective assessments and to support decision making. Peer reviews should also be incorporated into any follow-on program that receives federal funding. Recommendation. DOE should keep its collegial and oversight roles in the USABC program separate by ensuring that managers above the level of participants receive appropriate progress reports. Procurement Conclusion. The USABC has solicited proposals, chosen contractors, and made awards using accepted procurement processes. Although methods for verifying practical accountability have been established, the progress made by the USABC has not been satisfactorily disseminated to a broad audience. As a result, some opportunities for technical advancement have been lost. The USABC's policies on intellectual property and its processes for evaluating proposals may have precluded the participation of small companies and international partners, especially organizations with relatively mature battery systems. The USABC's original request for proposal information (RFPI) was broad and open, and the solicitation process stimulated an impressive amount of creative collaboration among technology developers. For example, a joint project by 3M and Hydro-Québec, which was brokered by the USABC, appears to be a

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--> successful collaboration between owners of potentially valuable, complementary technologies. The results of this collaboration appear to be much greater than the sum of the parts. In general, small companies were unable to compete for contracts effectively because the proposal evaluation criteria placed considerable emphasis on the developer having an established manufacturing capability. In addition, the USABC's fundamental objective of fostering American competitiveness in the automobile and battery industries tends to limit international collaborations. These comments are observations about, not criticisms of, the RFPI. The USABC's policies governing intellectual property favor the partners of the consortium rather than the developers of the technology. Other models that the committee examined, such as the Sematech model, have adopted policies that are more favorable to the developers and, therefore, seem more likely to promote the enthusiastic development of a desired technology. In this respect, the announced practices in the RFPI appear to be defensive. The RFPI requirement that companies reveal commercially sensitive information almost certainly discouraged battery developers with relatively mature systems—which they have developed over many years at considerable expense—from participating. The committee applauds the consortium's requirement that testable items, particularly cells, batteries, and packs, be delivered periodically. The committee also believes that the national laboratories have performed a valuable role as independent evaluators of technology, especially through testing programs tailored to the needs of the USABC. By this mechanism, the consortium has been able to develop an excellent method of establishing practical accountability. However, the virtual absence of timely progress summaries for a broader audience is a major deficiency. Proper documentation is not only a means of tracking progress, but is also a valuable tool for analyzing and stimulating researchers and vendors. Opportunities for technical advancement were probably lost because of the lack of timely documentation. Battery Technologies Conclusion. Given the constraints of the CARB mandate, the USABC made a reasonable selection of prospective technologies for EVs and pursued these technologies with appropriate partners. Substantial progress has been made even though none of the required technologies and none of the battery systems currently funded meets the USABC's cost or life objectives. At the outset of the USABC program, the technology did not exist to support the program's goals. Although those technologies have still not been fully developed, substantial progress has been made in the development of Ni/MH and lithium battery technologies for EV applications, as well as in design, manufacturing processes, system integration, and cost reduction.

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--> In the committee's judgment, the USABC acted appropriately in closing down unpromising lines of inquiry in a timely manner, especially because the USABC had to focus on relatively mature systems that offered some chance of meeting the program goals within a very short time frame. The USABC was correct to cancel the sodium-sulfur, lithium-iron disulfide, and lithium-ion-polymer battery projects, which did not meet critical performance criteria or offer promising business opportunities by the end of Phase I. The committee also considers that the USABC acted appropriately in focusing Phase II on reducing battery cost. None of the battery systems presently funded meets its cost objectives, which will be critical to the successful commercialization of EVs. Commercialization will also depend on battery cycle life and calendar life, which have yet to be determined for most systems, and on satisfactory battery performance over a range of operating conditions. The midterm technology programs were established in response to the CARB goal of requiring 2 percent of new cars in California to be ZEVs in 1998. However, CARB has changed the mandate to 10 percent in 2003 and is considering revising that mandate to include hybrid vehicles. The committee, therefore, believes that the USABC is justified in reevaluating its midterm battery programs. The Ni/MH battery, for example, which does not meet the midterm performance or cost requirements, will be discontinued in 1998 although it will remain under development in a separate program to meet the high power energy storage requirements for hybrid vehicles for the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) program. The lithium-ion battery, which meets the midterm performance criteria but not the cost requirements, may be worth pursuing if it has the potential to meet the interim commercialization criteria. Recommendation. In Phase II, the USABC should place more emphasis on evaluating promising battery systems under extreme temperatures and stressful-use conditions. Batteries should also be subjected to extensive safety and reliability testing from the beginning to the end of life. Recommendation. The USABC should reevaluate its midterm battery programs. The development of the lithium-ion battery should be continued if it has the potential to meet the interim commercialization criteria.