SwRI opens Energy Storage Technology Center

July 19, 2018 by Paul Shepard

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has opened a new Energy Storage Technology Center, amassing its diverse scientific research, development and evaluation of energy storage systems under one roof.

The facility houses SwRI technology to evaluate and develop battery and energy storage systems for electric, plug-in and hybrid electric vehicles; grid storage; flywheels; and stationary systems such as flow batteries for electric power grid applications.

“As manufacturers ramp up development of next-generation energy storage and vehicle electrification, this new facility gives us the flexibility to expand client services in battery performance and characterization, lifecycle assessment, and aging, temperature and abuse testing,” said Dr. Terry Alger, director of SwRI’s Spark Ignited Engine R&D Department.

“We now have 10 times the laboratory space devoted to energy storage research and testing. This much larger footprint means better service for our customers,” Alger added.

To meet federal guidelines to increase vehicle efficiency and reduce emissions, vehicle manufacturers increasingly are turning to producing more hybrid and electric vehicles. That puts a premium on SwRI’s engineers working to make batteries safer, extend their range and advance battery performance.

“Batteries by far are the most expensive components in electric and hybrid vehicles,” said Chris Chadwell, assistant director of the department. “Manufacturers want to develop better batteries and systems more cost-effectively. This new facility makes SwRI well-positioned to help clients develop next-generation battery and energy storage systems.”

Since 2010, SwRI has tested more than 40,000 batteries — from cells to packs to grid storage systems — for automotive, military and energy clients. The new facility includes 10 battery testing chambers where technicians can run prescribed charge/discharge cycles under extreme temperature conditions in environmentally controlled units.

In a separate, specialized chamber, SwRI evaluates battery limits through abuse testing including penetration, crush, vibration, drop, accelerated aging, fire/flammability resistance, corrosion and overcharging to evaluate their limits.

In addition to performing battery evaluations for commercial and government clients, the facility conducts battery benchmarking for the Energy Storage System Evaluation and Safety Consortium (EssES).

SwRI manages the consortium of original equipment manufacturers that produce passenger cars, trucks and locomotives to enhance cell- and pack-level understanding and to improve design and control of energy storage systems in a pre-competitive setting.