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Science & Technology

San Diego companies receive aid to improve EV battery technology

Two San Diego based companies are getting the backing of the Department of Energy as they work to build better electric vehicle batteries. KPBS Environment reporter Erik Anderson says the local funding is part of a broader initiative to beef up the nation’s battery supply chain.

Two San Diego based companies got a financial boost from the Department of Energy and were visited by the Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk.

Turk visited South 8 Technologies, a local company pioneering battery technology that could make electric vehicles safer and more powerful.

The firm, which grew out of a collaboration at the University of California San Diego, fills batteries with liquefied gas instead of liquid electrolytes used in current EV batteries.

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The technology reduces the battery’s fire risk, allows the battery to hold a charge in cold temperatures and lets the device store more energy.

“There are a lot of groups out there pushing for so-called solid-state batteries, which as the name implies, is a solid material which conducts lithium ions,” said Cyrus Rustomji of South 8 Technologies. “But that has many more years to go in terms of development. And people are kind of hesitant. To put all their bets on that because the technology hasn’t really developed as far as it should have by now.”

The South 8 technology is nearly ready for military applications, and commercial projects could be a couple of years away.

The company is getting $3.1 million to prove their batteries are better.

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San Diego based Tyfast Energy also landed a $2.8 million grant to pioneer high density and fast charging batteries that last a long time.

Money comes from the Energy Department’s Electric Vehicles for American Low-Carbon Living program which doled out $42 million.

The agency hopes to make EV’s a reality for anyone that wants them, not just affluent people.

“This is a win-win for our efforts to fight climate change and power America's clean transportation future with technologies produced by researchers and scientists right here at home,'' said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm in a statement.

The grants are just a small part of the nation’s recent investment in EVs. The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed in 2021 included billions for clean energy projects and the Inflation Reduction Act, passed last year, added more.

Erik Anderson
Deputy Secretary of Energy, David Turk, inside the manufacturing lab of San Diego battery maker South 8 Technologies on Dec. 10, 2023

“Just a few months ago we put out $2.8 billion just from the Department of Energy in one grant announcement to build battery manufacturing here in the U.S.,” Turk said.

The federal officials hope the effort to build a domestic battery supply chain will create about 85,000 thousand manufacturing jobs, and Turk said it is important that all of the potential jobs are located in the United States.