House approves money for battery research center

ralessi@herald-leader.comAugust 1, 2009 

Key funding for a car battery research venture among the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois cleared the U.S. House Thursday.

The $5 million pegged for the Battery Manufacturing Research and Development Center to be headquartered in north Lexington was included in the Department of Defense appropriations bill.

The center will focus on developing efficient ways to manufacture new battery technologies, starting with lithium-ion batteries for next-generation automobiles.

"Kentucky stands on the threshold of creating the nation's first research and development facility that will focus solely on creating the technology for energy storage that can be used by electrically powered vehicles," Gov. Steve Beshear said in a statement.

The appropriations bill that contains money for the battery research center now heads to the U.S. Senate.

State officials, including Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters, met with aides of Kentucky's senior senator and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this year to outline the importance of the money and the project, said Jill Midkiff, Beshear's spokeswoman.

The governor's office followed up with McConnell and Kentucky's other U.S. senator, Jim Bunning, Friday, to "encourage their support" of the provision, Midkiff said.

In all, officials have estimated the project will cost between $5 million and $8 million.

This spring, state leaders touted the research center as a major step to compete with Asian companies that are exploring better ways to build cleaner car batteries and mass produce them.

Top researchers from Argonne, which specializes in science and engineering, will join forces with UK and U of L professors and researchers who focus on both the chemistry of batteries and effectiveness of manufacturing technology.

The center will be based in a 1970s-era office building next to UK's Center for Applied Energy Research in the Spindletop area of Lexington. However, some of the center's laboratories might be constructed in another building, depending on the renovation costs, Midkiff said. The final plans for those buildings are still being worked out.

The state and a consortium of companies are also vying for hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars to construct an advanced battery manufacturing facility in Hardin County.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service