Feng Lin, a Virginia Tech expert in the development of electric vehicle (EV) batteries, has been awarded a $2.95 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). His funding is part of a larger campaign announced this week by the DOE as it funds 12 U.S.-based projects with $42 million to strengthen the domestic supply chain for advanced batteries that power electric vehicles.

According to the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program, Feng and his research team will “develop EV batteries using cobalt- and nickel-free cathodes, fast-charging and all-weather electrolytes, and coal-derived fast-charging and high-capacity anodes. By eliminating the use of cobalt and nickel in cathodes, the cathode cost will be reduced by 50 percent. Additionally, using a coal/carbon/silicon anode will resolve environmental issues of coal waste and reduce anode cost by 75 percent compared with a graphite anode.”

“Our short-term goal is to further de-risk our technology, assemble and test our batteries at scale,” said Feng, who is an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Leo and Melva Harris Faculty Fellow in the Virginia Tech College of Science. “Our long-term goal is to substantially reduce the cost and improve the performance of Li-ion batteries, making electric vehicles attractive and affordable for people.” 

The American Journal of Transportation estimates that EV global sales will hit roughly 10.5 million to 11 million units -- a market share of 16 percent of new vehicles -- in 2022. That’s an increase of 10.1 percent from 2021. For 2023, the uptick is expected to continue with global EV battery demand jumping as high as 75 percent in fiscal year 2023. “The EV market share is forecast to reach close to 21 percent this year, with around 14.5 million units sold,” the journal stated.

Lin’s interdisciplinary research aims to advance fundamental and practical knowledge for manufacturing new materials that can lower battery costs by using cheaper, more abundant raw materials. Of particular interest is research that will improve the affordability, convenience, reliability, and safety of electric vehicles. He previously has been awarded grants by the DOE, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Air Force.

Feng is also a member of Virginia Tech’s Macromolecules Innovation Institute and an affiliated faculty member of the university’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the College of Engineering.

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