Recovery Act Funds Electric Car Batteries, Renewable Energy, Genome Scans

WASHINGTON, DC, August 24, 2010 (ENS) – The United States is now on track to slash the cost of electric vehicle batteries, halve the cost of solar power, double renewable energy manufacturing, and produce inexpensive personal genome maps, according to a new report on the results of the Obama administration’s economic stimulus released today by Vice President Joe Biden.

Introducing the report from the Congressional Budget Office on the employment and economic impact of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in Washington, Biden said today the $100 billion investment in innovation funded by the Act and the goals set by the administration have changed the American economy by inspiring new technologies and launching new industries.

President Barack Obama views the zinc bromide battery making process at the ZBB Manufacturing Facility, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, August 16, 2010. (Photo byChuck Kennedy courtesy The White House)

“From the beginning, we have been a nation of discovery and innovation,” Biden said, “and today we continue in that tradition as Recovery Act investments pave the way for game-changing breakthroughs in transportation, energy, and medical research.”

“We’re planting the seeds of innovation, but private companies and the nation’s top researchers are helping them grow, launching entire new industries, transforming our economy, and creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the process,” he said.

Recovery Act investments have now put the United States on track to cut the cost of batteries for autos by 70 percent between 2009 and 2015, by taking advantage of the latest technologies and ramping up manufacturing to much higher levels, the report shows.

This means that the cost of batteries for the typical all-electric vehicle will fall from $33,000 to $10,000, and the cost of typical plug-in hybrid batteries will drop from $13,000 to $4,000.

President Barack Obama, with assembly manager Teri Quigley, drives a new Chevy Volt electric car at the General Motors Auto Plant in Hamtramck, Michigan, July 30, 2010. (Photo by Pete Souza courtesy The White House)

Those lower prices will mean that electric cars are affordable and less expensive over the life of the car than similar non-electric vehicles.

Already, electric vehicles are becoming more affordable and accessible. In 2009, the only available electric-drive vehicle cost more than $100,000. Soon, the Nissan Leaf, starting at $25,000, and the Chevy Volt, starting at $33,000, will be available.

By 2015, the new batteries will be lighter by 33 percent, so less energy will be needed to power the car. By 2015, a typical battery is expected to last 14 years, more than three times as long as the current four-year battery lifetime.

“Thanks to investments made possible by the Recovery Act, we are unleashing the American innovation machine to change the way we use and produce energy in this country,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu at the launch of the new report.

“Just as importantly,” he said, “these breakthroughs are helping create tens of thousands of new jobs, allowing the U.S. to continue as a leader in the global economy and helping to provide a better future for generations to come.”

We are on track to cut the cost of solar power in half by 2015, which will bring the cost of generating solar power down to the cost of electricity from the grid, the report shows.

The cost of power from rooftop solar panels will drop from $0.21 per kWh in 2009 to $0.10 per kWh in 2015, which is equivalent to typical household electricity rates.

Allison Gray measures the optical efficiency of a solar trough collector at the National Renewable Energy Lab, January 2010. (Photo courtesy NREL)

The cost of power from utility-scale solar projects would drop from $0.13 per kWh today to $0.06 in 2015, which is equivalent to the cost of wholesale utility power.

The report predicts that the cost of rooftop solar power could drop to as low as $0.06 per kWh by 2030. At that cost, solar power will be cheaper than household electricity rates, and an average household could save more than $400 per year in electricity bills.

Biden said today, “President Obama, Secretary Chu, and I set a goal of doubling U.S. renewable energy generation capacity from wind, solar, and geothermal by 2012. We wanted to install as much renewable capacity in three years as the U.S. had in the previous thirty. But we’re ahead of pace to meet it.”

“In Pensacola, Florida, we’ve funded the largest photovoltaic power plant in North America, with over 90,000 solar panels – enough to provide energy for 3,000 homes,” Biden said.

“And the Department of Energy is in the process of supporting what will be the world’s largest solar thermal facility in the Mojave Desert. It will have 349,000 mirrors,” he said.

Finally, the Obama administration’s goal of bringing the cost of a personal human genome map to under $1,000 in five years is within reach, the report shows. This cost level will allow researchers to sequence 50 human genomes for the same cost as sequencing just one today.

With a more affordable price tag, DNA information could become a routine part of medical care. Just like a blood test, an inexpensive whole-genome DNA scan could help health care providers in the future choose effective, personalized treatments.

Seven projects funded by the Recovery Act are attempting to drive down the cost of human genome sequencing, each with a different technological strategy.

Director of the National Institutes of Health Francis Collins, M.D., said today, “The Recovery Act funding is not only producing thousands of jobs in the biomedical research community, it is also helping speed important medical discoveries that will benefit the health of Americans nationwide.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.