Chu Charged Up by Batteries

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 1: Energy Secretary Steven Chu attends a ceremony at the White House awarding the National Medals of Science and the National Medals of Technology and Innovation on February 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. Chu announced earlier in the day he is leaving his post. Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
National Journal
Mike Magner
Jan. 21, 2014, 2:35 p.m.

With his fourth new gig since step­ping down as En­ergy sec­ret­ary last April, Steven Chu is pick­ing up where he left off on a mis­sion to de­vel­op more-power­ful, longer-last­ing bat­ter­ies.

Chu, 65, this week joined the board of dir­ect­ors of Ampri­us, a Cali­for­nia start-up that is us­ing tech­no­logy de­veloped at Stan­ford Uni­versity, where Chu has re­turned as a phys­ics pro­fess­or. The com­pany aims to im­prove the strength and ca­pa­city of the lith­i­um-ion bat­tery, an ad­vanced en­ergy-stor­age device with a host of po­ten­tial uses.

“High­er-en­ergy and longer-last­ing bat­ter­ies are in high de­mand for nu­mer­ous ap­plic­a­tions, from con­sumer elec­tron­ics to elec­tric trans­port­a­tion,” Chu said in a state­ment an­noun­cing his seat on the board. “I look for­ward to ad­vising Ampri­us’s de­vel­op­ment of sil­ic­on-based an­odes, ad­vanced cath­odes, and next-gen­er­a­tion bat­ter­ies.”

Chu has been preach­ing the gos­pel of bat­tery de­vel­op­ment since be­fore he won the No­bel Prize for phys­ics in 1997 and long be­fore he was sworn in as Pres­id­ent Obama’s first En­ergy sec­ret­ary in 2009. At DOE, he helped fun­nel bil­lions of fed­er­al dol­lars in­to bat­tery re­search, par­tic­u­larly for use in elec­tric vehicles.

Two years ago in a speech to the De­troit Eco­nom­ic Club, Chu said the key to selling more cars like the Gen­er­al Mo­tors Volt and the Nis­san Leaf was to get the bat­tery cost down to around $1,500. At the time, bat­ter­ies for plug-in hy­brids cost about $12,000 each.

Chu ex­pan­ded on the eco­nom­ics in an in­ter­view last fall with Politico, ex­plain­ing that the price for an elec­tric car’s bat­tery is now about $500 per kilo­watt-hour of stor­age, and it needs to be around $160.

“Now, at that price, then you could have the 300-mile, Tesla-like range in a $25,000 car,” Chu said. “And if you get something like that, I can see, in sub­ur­bia and in cit­ies, elec­tric vehicles and plug-in hy­brids just be­com­ing main­stream. If you can plunk down $25,000 to get a car that’s com­par­able to a 40-mile-a-gal­lon in­tern­al-com­bus­tion en­gine at $20,000, you’d buy the plug-in hy­brid or the EV. I would. I wouldn’t even blink. And that’s even with today’s gas­ol­ine prices.”

But the former En­ergy sec­ret­ary is not nar­rowly fo­cused on bat­ter­ies in his new private-sec­tor ca­reer. Last month, Chu joined the board of In­ventys Thermal Tech­no­lo­gies, a com­pany based in Van­couver, Brit­ish Columbia, that is work­ing on tech­no­logy to cap­ture car­bon di­ox­ide from power plants that burn nat­ur­al gas.

“If I thought there was no chance of it work­ing, my com­pens­a­tion in stock op­tions wouldn’t be worth any­thing,” Chu said when he joined the board in Decem­ber.

In ad­di­tion to his full-time po­s­i­tion at Stan­ford and the lead­er­ship po­s­i­tions at Ampri­us and In­ventys, Chu joined an­oth­er board of dir­ect­ors after he left of­fice last year, for an un­named com­pany work­ing on the de­vel­op­ment of bio­fuels.

What We're Following See More »
WHITE HOUSE URGING QUICK SENATE ACTION
John King Gets Nod for Education Secretary
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

President Obama has said he’ll nominate John King to fill out the last few months of Obama’s presidency as Secretary of Education. King has been in an acting secretary role since Arne Duncan stepped down in December. The White House is pressuring the Senate to act quickly on the nomination.

Source:
162,000 SIGNATURES SO FAR
Sanders Supporters Begin to Petition Superdelegates
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Bernie Sanders supporters aren’t taking this whole superdelegate thing lying down. Despite a tie a blowout win against Hillary Clinton, Sanders trails her by some 350 delegates in the overall count, thanks mostly to superdelegates pledging to support her. His backers have taken to creating a MoveOn.org petition to pressure the superdelegates to be flexible. It reads: “Commit to honoring the voters—let everyone know that you won’t allow your vote to defeat our votes. Announce that in the event of a close race, you’ll align yourself with regular voters—not party elites.” So far it’s attracted 162,000 signatures. Related: At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver notes that in 2008, Clinton had a 154-50 superdelegate advantage over President Obama when New Hampshire voted. But “by the time Clinton ended her campaign on June 7, 2008, Obama had nearly a 2-to-1 superdelegate advantage over her,” owing in part to many pledged delegates who switched their support to Obama.

Source:
REGULAR ORDER
Ryan Pitching the Importance of Passing a Budget Today
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

House Speaker Paul Ryan today is trying to convince his large but divided conference that they need to pass a budget under regular order. “Conservatives are revolting against higher top-line spending levels negotiated last fall by President Obama and Ryan’s predecessor, then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). GOP centrists are digging in on the other side, pledging to kill any budget that deviates from the two-year, bipartisan budget deal.” Ryan’s three options are to lower the budget numbers to appease the Freedom Caucus, “deem” a budget and move on to the appropriations process, or “preserve Obama-Boehner levels, but seek savings elsewhere.”

Source:
HEADED TO PRESIDENT’S DESK
Trade Bill Would Ban Imports Made with Slave Labor
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

“A bill headed for President Barack Obama this week includes a provision that would ban U.S. imports of fish caught by slaves in Southeast Asia, gold mined by children in Africa and garments sewn by abused women in Bangladesh, closing a loophole in an 85-year-old tariff law.” The Senate approved the bill, which would also ban Internet taxes and overhaul trade laws, by a vote of 75-20. It now goes to President Obama.

Source:
TRUMP UP TO 44%
Sanders Closes to Within Seven Nationally in New Poll
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

Bernie Sanders has closed to within seven points of Hillary Clinton in a new Morning Consult survey. Clinton leads 46%-39%. Consistent with the New Hampshire voting results, Clinton does best with retirees, while Sanders leads by 20 percentage points among those under 30. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is far ahead with 44% support. Trailing by a huge margin are Ted Cruz (17%), Ben Carson (10%) and Marco Rubio (10%).

Source:
×