Penn State Battery & Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Center


Research on energy storage to enable renewables and vehicle electrification, from materials to cells to systems.


  • Penn State has led the nation in battery research, including the first EV battery fabrication facility in a US University.
  • BEST faculty have successfully competed in almost every DOE program in batteries.
  • Other universities are challenging our early lead through strategic hires and infrastructure investment.
  • Many grand challenges remain to be solved in energy storage, the first of which is lowering costs.
  • A key opportunity area for PSU is to grow our infrastructure and capabilities in grid storage, a rapidly growing field.


  • Increase funding and activities through strategic investment in research in materials, cells, and systems.
  • Stimulate research on new battery chemistries with lower cost, higher safety and performance, and longer life.
  • Support interdisciplinary work to integrate batteries with renewable energy technologies.
  • Leverage recent advances in smart batteries that have built in intelligence, sensing, and actuation.
  • Expand work on multifunctional batteries that can carry structural loads, actuate motion, and sense stress while storing electrical energy.


Major greenhouse gas emissions by commercial sector from 1990-2015 are: 29% electricity, 27% transportation, 21% industry, 12% commercial & residential, and 9% agriculture
Fig. 1 Major greenhouse gas emissions, by commercial sector. US EPA (2017). Inventory of emissions: 1990-2015

Balancing the increasing energy demand by society with the need to economically reduce greenhouse emissions is arguably the defining challenge of our time. It is therefore unsurprising that among the 14 Grand-Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century identified in the National Academy of Engineering’s 2008 report, 3 address the need to lower humanity’s carbon footprint. Moreover, most world energy forecasts show, further, that absent a disruptive intervention that creates cost-effective alternatives to fossil fuel consumption in the transportation, electric power generation, manufacturing, and residential sectors, efforts to balance economic growth and carbon emissions, particularly in the developing world, cannot succeed. This contention is supported by the most recent (2017) report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reproduced in Fig. 1, which shows that energy use in these four economic sectors account for nearly 90% of annualized greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. There is broad consensus that electrical energy storage (EES) systems capable of meeting the complex and differentiated performance, cost, life cycle, environmental, and societal needs in each of these sectors are a requirement for progress. Currently, there is no cost-effective energy storage solution that can handle the integration of renewable energy resources on a large scale.

In 2014, electric vehicles (EVs) accounted for less than 1% of total auto sales in all countries except Norway (12.5%), the Netherlands (3.9%), the U.S. (1.5%), and Sweden (1.4%). Today’s batteries constitute the major obstacle to EV sales; they increase the price and limit the driving range. In the Nissan Leaf (the best-selling EV) and the Tesla Model S, the battery accounts for about 25% of the weight and 25% of the manufacturing cost of the car. In September 2015, Electric Power Research Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council stated that if EVs accounted for 50% of the miles traveled by personal vehicles in the U.S., they would reduce the total annual CO2 from our transportation and electricity sectors by the equivalent of removing 80 million gasoline-powered cars from the road. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has identified energy storage as a “game changer” for both EVs and solar energy storage.

Energy storage research will help to meet the National Academy of Engineering grand challenge of making solar energy economical. Low cost and long life energy storage is needed to fill the gaps in renewable energy production in homes, microgrids, and the national grid. Batteries are already taking this role with major storage facilities coming on line in California and Australia.

The BEST Center was created with seed funding from across the university to address these challenges. Leveraging this support, BEST faculty have secured large grants from the Department of Energy (DOE), National Science Foundation (NSF), and industry sponsors. Examples include (>$10M in total for these specific projects):

  • CAEBAT (DOE – Rahn and CY Wang) – PSU was the only academic participant in this DOE program.
  • BATT (DOE – D. Wang and Hickner) – fundamental research on battery chemistry.
  • Li-S Batteries (DOE – D. Wang and CY Wang) – PSU leads; subcontracts to Argonne, JCI, and EC Power.
  • Extreme Fast Charging (DOE – CY Wang and D. Wang) – PSU leads, subcontract to Argonne.
  • Cold-sintered Solid State Batteries (ARPA-E – E. Gomez, C.Y. Wang, C. Randall)
  • Multifunctional Batteries (NSF – Rahn, D. Wang, Frecker)
  • High-performance Li Metal Anodes (DOE – D. Wang) – PSU leads, subcontract to Ashland Corp.

In addition to these specific projects, the BEST Center faculty have substantial funding for their battery work from most major automobile companies (including GM, Ford, Chrysler, JCI, Cummins, Toyota, and Nissan).

Strategic Planning

Low cost solar and wind power are major motivators for increased energy storage. The focus in the BEST center has been at the smaller, vehicle scale, but we aspire to attack these global and large scale problems in the future. A new key activity will therefore be to work with the solar and wind centers to better integrate battery storage into renewable energy production.

The BEST Center will continue to promote and enhance activities in energy storage, at the materials, cell, and systems level and with a new emphasis on large scale storage. Key strategic needs to facilitate this shift are:

  • Four faculty hires in the areas of grid storage, battery systems, power electronics, and energy markets;
  • Seed grant funding for materials research on high energy density, low cost, safe, and long-life battery chemistries (Four $200K projects);
  • Creation of an on-campus fully instrumented and programmable microgrid-scale energy storage system;
  • An $1.2M investment in core facilities that include: (i) A new pouch cell fabrication line for cells that are the backbone of grid energy storage systems; (ii) A battery maker space with material preparation equipment, glove boxes, cell fabrication equipment, and electrical testing machines to support the education of the next generation of powertrain and grid engineers.

List of Participants

  • Primary contact
    • Prof. Chris Rahn, 150A Hammond
  • Participants
    • Chao-Yang Wang (co-director of BEST)
    • Hosam Fathy
    • Donghai Wang
    • Adri van Duin
    • Michael Hickner
    • Michael Janik
    • Randy Vander Wal
    • Serguei Lvov
    • Joel Anstrom
    • Tim Cleary
    • Arash Khoshkbar-Sadigh
    • Enrique Gomez
    • Clive Randall

Education and Outreach

  • DOE funded Graduate Automotive Technology Education Program (2008 – 2018) focused in energy storage.
  • Minor: Electrochemical Engineering
  • Courses
    • ME/Emch/Matsc 597K – In Vehicle High Power Energy Storage
    • ME 442W/443W Advanced Vehicle Design I/II
    • ME 597G Electrochemical Engines with Lab
    • ME 597C, Battery Systems Engineering
  • Outreach activities
    • CAC Legacy of Tour de Sol
    • EcoCar
    • Solar Decathlon

Supplemental Information

Location: EESL (MRL) Co-Directed by Prof. Chris Rahn (150A Hammond) and Chao-Yang Wang (162 EESL)