Q&A About Electric Vehicle Flow Battery Technology

This week, we announced a partnership with Berkeley Lab to develop a water-based, flow battery capable of more than just traditional, stationary energy storage. In the below Q&A, Chemist Grigorii Soloveichik discusses the project, the partnership and a bit about himself. Be sure to check out the 6-second video demonstrating how the technology is designed to work!

1. How did this project first begin?
This project first started within DOE-funded Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC), which targets fundamental basis for an energy storage technology that is a combination of an organic flow battery and a fuel cell. The main problem of fuel cells is slow oxygen reaction at the cathode, so we started to look at more practical, efficient and faster liquid cathodes; we began to think about how to increase their energy density and finally, we came up with an idea of an all inorganic water-based flow battery.

2. Describe this technology in 140 characters. Ready, Set, Go.
It is a rechargeable battery where highly soluble, inexpensive active materials are dissolved in water, pumped through an electrochemical cell, and stored separately.

Conceptual design of a water-based flow battery GE scientists are researching as part of ARPA-E’s RANGE program. This battery could be one-fourth the cost of current car batteries, and could nearly triple the distance electric vehicles could travel on a single charge.
Conceptual design of a water-based flow battery GE scientists are researching as part of ARPA-E’s RANGE program. This battery could be one-fourth the cost of current car batteries, and could nearly triple the distance electric vehicles could travel on a single charge.

3. List some reasons why this water-based flow battery is a game changing technology for EVs.

It’s energy dense due to multi-electron transfer and high solubility of active species, It’s safe because we use non-flammable solutions in water and active materials are stored separately. It’s conformable because the storage tanks could be any shape and in any place in a car and it’s affordable because we use very inexpensive bulk materials compared to that used in current batteries (lithium, nickel, vanadium, etc.)

4. Why 240 miles?
This number is based on ARPA-E analysis. Along with the battery cost target (<$125/Wh), this would ultimately lead to electric vehicles at a cost parity with ICE vehicles.

5. Discuss the value of partnering with Berkley labs.
We established this relationship when we started EFRC. Having a free flow of ideas, using each other skills, experiences and facilities has proved to be very valuable.

6. What is most exciting to you about this project?
The possibility of seeing how an idea transforms into a technology.

7. What types of expertise were involved in this project from GE Global Research and how has this combined expertise impacted the project?
GE Global Research has a long history in electrochemistry, inorganic chemistry, catalysis, membranes, and fuel cells and flow batteries. Because of the cross-disciplinary expertise of our researchers, it gives us a confidence.

8. Why did you decide to become a Chemist? And why GE’s Research center?
In high school, I pursued both math and chemistry because of two excellent teachers. After I literally missed the train for a math Olympiad, I decided to pursue chemistry. I’ve worked at GE’s research center (GRC) for more than 15 years. I was attracted to the GRC because of the possibility of generating ideas in different fields of chemistry and seeing how they could become a reality. In addition, I have the pleasure and honor of working with great researchers here.

9. What do you like to do outside of the labs?
I enjoy traveling and seeing new places, along with hiking, reading, playing tennis, and meeting friends.

10. What do you read?
I read mostly historical books, detective novels and science fiction, both in English and Russian.

11. They say you learn one new thing every day. What have you learned today?
I learned (almost) how to make a meaningful six-second video.


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