The United States’ first graduate program in battery technology launches this autumn at a Silicon Valley university. Given the spate of bankruptcies of American battery makers such as A123 Systems and Ener1 over the past year, one might ask if that horse has already left the barn.
But battery storage has emerged as the linchpin for scaling up intermittent sources of renewable energy such as solar and wind—where a continuous steady supply can’t be guaranteed—as well as for commercializing electric vehicles. And California is trying to take the lead in battery research at a time when China is also working hard on it. A123, for instance, ended up in Chinese hands when Wanxiang Group bought the battery maker at a bankruptcy auction.