Electric Vehicles:

Efforts to Complete Advanced Battery Development Will Require More Time and Funding

RCED-95-234: Published: Aug 17, 1995. Publicly Released: Sep 18, 1995.

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Victor S. Rezendes
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the development of advanced batteries for electric vehicles, focusing on the: (1) progress that the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) has made in reaching its long-term and mid-term research goals; (2) funding that has been spent as of fiscal year 1995 and the additional amounts, if any, that will be needed; and (3) Department of Energy's (DOE) role in managing the consortium.

GAO found that: (1) the consortium's long-term goal is to develop a battery that allows electric vehicles to compete fully with gasoline-powered vehicles in terms of performance and cost, but the feasibility of such a battery has not been demonstrated; (2) USABC is developing a mid-term battery that allows an electric vehicle to travel at least 100 miles under real world conditions; (3) electric vehicles using the mid-term battery would not likely achieve much commercial success, due to the battery's high costs and low driving range; (4) the consortium's budget for 1991 through 1995 was $262 million, but USABC spent only $123 million through March 1995, because of technical problems and delays in negotiating agreements; (5) the original USABC budget should sustain USABC initial research efforts through 1997, after which USABC will seek $38 million from DOE to complete the development of batteries meeting its long-term goals; (6) DOE reviews and approves USABC contracts and agreements with battery developers and national laboratories and participates in USABC management and technical committees; and (7) DOE plans an audit of USABC and will require USABC to conduct close-out audits of the individual battery developers.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE has undertaken a detailed review of the various issues raised in the lessons learned document and on May 17, 1996 issued an evaluation report that describes the actions taken to implement several recommendations included in the lessons learned report. According to the evaluation report, the action taken includes revising intellectual property agreements to make them significantly easier to implement, improving the negotiation process, and streamlining the Cooperative Research and Development Act review and approval process.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should give more careful consideration to the document entitled Lessons Learned Under the United States Advanced Battery Consortium to determine whether any of its recommendations should be implemented and develop any action plan for implementing those that are warranted.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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