DoD is already off to a fine start. Moving fuel to our troops in Afghanistan costs hundreds of dollars per gallon, and costs soldiers' lives. The Navy has a goal of 50% non-fossil fuel use by 2020.
So yes, massive funding for a "Defense Battery program" is well justified.
The military has not always been able to afford the research to meet its goals. They used the government to push civilian use of nuclear energy. That industry became quite large and byproducts of that research aided military ends.
I have to agree, the article content is fluff. Sure, super-batteries will be wonderful things some day, and there is a lot of exciting research going on, but none of this is going to end up in an electric vehicle any time soon.
It's also a bit of a stretch to claim that development of superbatteries will not ruffle any feathers politically. Consider the issue of rare earth metals, mostly mined in China and mostly used in batteries. Then there is the discovery of vast quantities of lithium in Afghanistan. And finally, the idea that the oil industry will simply allow itself to be displaced by new energy sources while it still has a century's worth of petroleum to sell is pure fantasy.
There are more immediate political issues here in the U.S. as well, like whether we're all in agreement on $7,500 tax breaks for buyers of EVs and whether our tax dollars should fund battery research.
Lastly, I'm not sure that a cross-country trip that average 30 mpg and was mostly fueled by gasoline is a big victory for EV proponents.
President Eisenhower's name for our continental freeways was the "Defense Interstate Hiway System." That sort of title got priority funding. Maybe a "Defense Battery Program" could get more DoD dollars if it addresses the right "dual use" applications.
Actually, I think that GM had it right before the government takeover, when it had pretty much shelved the whole Volt idea. It only revived the Volt project it to appease the sensitivities of the slogan-oriented politicians. It was a PR ploy, pure and simple.
And I disagree with this: "... military procurement is a very inefficient way to get results from tax dollars. Most of them get siphoned off as 'graft'."
Military procurement is a decent way to get the best military hardware the world has, which is what it is for after all, and I'm quite sure you would have a difficult time proving the "most" aspect of the last sentence.
Military procurement is probably an inefficient way to create consumer-oriented technologies. Although since the government does have the task to "provide for the national defense," any fallout from that into consumer products can only be considered a good thing, IMO. Over the decades, this has certainly proved to be the case.
'Invent a better battery' just like that? Not so easy, my friends.
It is disappointing that a tech forum like this has such technically naiive content. There is a whole Internet-full of battery research information out there, and all we can comment on is the Chevy Volt? There are several comparative listings of different chemistries (I will post the best when I have read a bit more).
My 2c-worth is that military procurement is a very inefficient way to get results from tax dollars. Most of them get siphoned off as 'graft'.
Military procurement also has extreme requirements, and as Duane said, a different cost equation.
Interestingly (perhaps "annoyingly" or "disappointingly") many of our technology breakthroughs come from military R&D. They are currently spending a lot of effort and money on electric or hybrid electric propulsion as well as alternative fuels. They've been testing bio fuel powered land, sea and air vehicles with fuel created from algae and a variety of other raw materials.
Though I would prefer all of these technologies be invented strictly for peaceful purposes, we can't discount the military as a major technology innovation driver. It's far from the only driver, but likely one of the largest in the world. Their cost equation is different than that of the civilian world so they can be early adopters, work out bugs and drive costs down.