COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohio State University researchers have been awarded nearly $3.9 million from the federal government to scale up their fast-charging, long-lasting electric vehicle batteries.

Ohio State’s project is one of 12 selected by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of a $42 million program to boost domestic EV production and adoption. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm told NBC4 that the project helps solve a major issue facing the EV industry: Batteries losing power over time.

“If people have an electric vehicle that you go to a charging station, if it is a fast charger – meaning if you can get it charged in 10 minutes or so, 15 minutes – often, that process might tend to degrade the battery,” Granholm said. 

What Ohio State researchers have done, Granholm said, is discover a complex chemistry that extends the life of a fast-charging battery.

Right now, Ohio State’s prototype batteries are the size of buttons, said Anne Co, head of the research group behind the project and a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Ohio State.

With the program award, Co, who is also an associate fellow at Ohio State’s Center for Automotive Research, said the team will scale the batteries up in size — first, to something roughly the size of cell phone before making a battery large enough to operate in a vehicle.

The funding comes from the Department of Energy’s EVs4ALL program, announced last May to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions and bring EVs into the mainstream American auto market. Awarded projects focused on solving battery-related issues. 

The transportation sector produces 28% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (better known by its acronym ARPA-E), which oversees the EVs4ALL program and selected the awardees. More than half of those emissions come from road-based passenger vehicles.

At the same time EV battery technology is undergoing extensive research and development, Granholm said the government has set its sight on a lofty goal: To have fast-charging EV stations every 50 miles along the nation’s freeways and within one mile of freeway exits – similar to gas stations.

“As we roll out these high speed chargers across the country, that’s why this particular innovation is so important,” Granholm said. “We want to make sure that the batteries are capable of withstanding repeated high-speed charges.”

Granholm said EVs4ALL is part of the federal government’s larger mission to transition the nation to relying on clean and renewable energy. President Joe Biden’s goal is for EVs to make up half of all domestic vehicle sales by 2030.

“It’s very exciting to be part of this,” said Co. “You know, not just the award, of course — but being in this field of battery research, this is a very, very exciting time as our society moves towards electrification.”

Other project awardees include:

  • Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Virginia) – nearly $2.9 million to develop cobalt- and nickel-free cathodes for EV batteries to cut cathode costs in half.
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, Colorado) – $3.4 million to analyze data and research next-generation cells, including failure mechanisms, testing standards and general risks.
  • University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland) – more than $4.85 million to increase the charge/discharge-rate an