Yearning for an EV that can fit within your budget? You may not have to wait too long, according a group of engineers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), who are aiming to halve plug-in manufacturing costs by 2018. It's all part of something called Competence E -- a €200 million ($273 million) initiative that will draw upon the expertise of 250 scientists from 25 different institutes, in the hopes of creating new and more cost-effective methods of producing power trains and batteries. Under the publicly funded project, which was announced at last week's International Motor Show, KIT's researchers will construct a "research factory" where they'll develop and demonstrate their processes and technologies. According to project leader Andreas Gutsch, the idea isn't to create concepts that could bear fruit a few decades down the road, but to develop more pragmatic solutions that can be integrated at the industrial level within a relatively short time frame. "We are no longer focused on studying individual molecules or components, but on developing solutions on the system level, which meet industrial requirements," Gutsch told Science|Business. "We are actively approaching industry and will even intensify these efforts...We are conducting excellent research for application, not for the drawer." A full 50 engineers will begin working on Competence E next year, with the project scheduled to wrap up by 2018. Purr past the break for more details, in the full press release.
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IAA 2011: Reducing Costs of Electric Vehicle Batteries

KIT Closes Gaps in the Innovation Chain of Electromobility / Reference Factory Planned as Devel-opment Platform for Industry and Science

Costs of manufacture of batteries and power trains of electric vehicles can be halved by 2018, if the gaps in the innovation chain can be closed. For reaching this objective, KIT scientists develop concrete, close-to-industry solutions for energy stores and power trains and combine them on the system level. A close-to-industry "research factory" is planned to be constructed on the premises of KIT. KIT will present its concept of the 200-million-Euro project in the coming week at the IAA International Motor Show.

"It is no longer focused on studying individual molecules or components, but on developing solutions on the system level, which meet industrial requirements," explains the project head Andreas Gutsch. Under the "Competence E" umbrella project at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), 250 scientists from 25 institutes cooperate in an interdisciplinary manner in order to commercialize innovations from research.

The list of developments made by KIT is long: Nanomaterials based on iron-carbon already have twice the specific capacity compared to conventional batteries. A new process reduces the filling time of batteries with electrolytes to one tenth. The corresponding patent has been applied for. Modular battery and power train concepts will allow for a massive cost reduction in mass production. "To make use of the large innovation potential resulting from the high number of partial improvements, we will consistently pursue further development on the system level," announces Gutsch. For this purpose, a so-called "research factory" is being planned at KIT. Here, the gap in the chain of innovation and added value between research and industry will be closed by the construction of demonstrators and prototype fabrication lines for novel batteries and electric motors based on KIT's know-how.

The project costs for construction and development are calculated to amount to about EUR 200 million until 2018. Similar to other publicly funded big research facilities, such as accelerators and clean-room laboratories, the "research factory" will be opened to all partners from industry and research and, thus, contribute to a rapid and wide dissemination of new technologies in Germany. "It is a central objective of Competence E to rapidly commercialize innovations from Karlsruhe," emphasizes Gutsch. Apart from teaching and research, innovation is one of the three pillars of KIT. "We are actively approaching industry and will even intensify these efforts. We are conducting excellent research for application, not for the drawer."

Under the Competence E project of KIT, about 150 new positions are to be occupied by engineers. The first 50 engineers will be employed in 2012 already. In an extra-occupational qualification program at KIT, they will be trained to become specialists in the field of electromobility. Applications for the positions will be invited in Germany and Spain.

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German engineers want to halve EV manufacturing costs by 2018, seem confident about it