Issue: Oct 2011

Investing for a cleaner world

by Jon Knox

Billions of dollars are being invested into reducing the reliance of the United States on fossil fuels, with spin-offs for the motor industry around the world as batteries become more ef¬ficient and lose weight, together with the cars they are powering.

In a ground-breaking partnership with the private sector, the Vehicle Technologies Program of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in the United States Department of Energy (DOE) has invested US$2.4-billion in new battery and electric-drive component manufacturing and vehicle deployment projects. These include battery and power electronics manufacturing facilities, PHEV, and electric vehicle (EV) demo projects, as well as education projects. 

As the largest single investor in these technol¬ogies, the program is designed to jumpstart U.S. manufacturing capacity. The program’s fiscal year 2011 budget is approximately $300 million, which supports research for hybrid drivetrains, advanced bat¬teries, lightweight materials, advanced combustion and fuels, vehicle systems integration, and deployment activities. 

The program supports the mission of the DOE to strengthen America’s energy security through public-private partnerships. America imports more than half of the oil it consumes – 69% of which is used for transportation. While the program supports a portfolio of advanced vehicle technologies, including advanced combustion, materials, and fuels technologies, its focus on electric-drive technology aims to reduce costs through three complementary component and system-level technology routes: 

The program works through two major government-industry endeavors – U.S. DRIVE (Driving Research and Innovation for Vehicle efficiency and Energy sustainability); and the 21st Century Truck Partnership. U.S. DRIVE facilitates frequent and detailed technical information exchange among government and industry experts, who discuss critical R&D needs, develop technical targets and roadmaps, and evaluate R&D progress. The 21st Century Truck Partnership aims to cut pollution from trucks and buses while they safely and cost-effectively move larger volumes of freight and greater numbers of passengers. Again, the critical goal is to dramatically reduce dependence on imported oil. 

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Patrick Davis, program manager of the Vehicle Technologies Program office at the US Department of Energy what makes the Vehicle Technologies Program so critical today? 

Davis: Our dependence on imported petroleum is one of our greatest economic and national security risks and a primary driver for the Vehicle Technologies Program. Our nation imports more than 50% of the petroleum we use, and we export capital of about $400 billion per year (about $1 billion per day) to pay for this imported petroleum. This is not sustainable in the long-term. Moreover, transportation accounts for approximately two-thirds of our petroleum use, and on-road vehicles are responsible for about 80% of our transportation energy needs. The Vehicle Technologies Program supports a broad range of advanced technologies that can significantly improve vehicle efficiency and reduce petroleum consumption, such as advanced combustion, materials technologies, and fuel and lubricant technologies. These solutions are critical to reducing our dependence on imported petroleum in the near term. Addressing this challenge over the longer term, however, requires fuel substitution, such as through vehicle electrification. The Vehicle Technologies Program supports a robust effort to accelerate the development of advanced batteries and other electric-drive components and systems, with a focus on reducing cost and improving performance to facilitate the widespread use of electric-drive vehicles. 

AI: How would you rate the work of the program so far? 

Davis: The Vehicle Technologies Program has an excellent record of success. A few examples: 

• The batteries in all leading hybrids today contains DOE battery technology 

• The Vehicle Technologies Program has reduced cost of PHEV/ EV Lithium Ion battery to $650/kWh (35% reduction from 2009 baseline of $1,000/kWh) 

• The Vehicle Technologies Program and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) developed breakthrough battery technology licensed to multiple automotive manufacturers/suppliers – this cathode technology results in much smaller and lighter battery cells and potentially lower-cost batteries 

• Program-sponsored R&D enabled engine manufacturers to improve diesel engine efficiency by 5 percent since 2002 (has saved 2.4 billion gallons of diesel fuel worth more than $7.6 billion – more than 60 times the Vehicle Technology Program’s $123 million investment in commercial engine R&D from 1999 to 2007) 

• Program-supported light-duty engine R&D at Argonne National Laboratory, University of Wisconsin, and Sandia National Laboratory demonstrated engine technology that can potentially improve the fuel economy of engines by over 75% 

AI: How does this public-private enterprise model works? 

Davis: The Vehicle Technologies Program seeks stakeholder and public input in many different ways. Among them are our public-private partnerships for research and development, which provide an important framework for frequent and detailed interaction with industry to discuss R&D needs, obtain industry input on research targets and roadmaps, and evaluate progress toward those targets. Each partner organization is engaged at multiple levels, so there is steadfast commitment from leadership, management, and technical staff. We operate by consensus, allowing all partners to have a voice in decision-making if they so choose. Although partners participate regularly in detailed technical discussions, each organization makes its own independent decisions regarding project management and funding. Our partnership framework helps to accelerate technical progress, as it allows peers in the technical community to regularly discuss pre-competitive, technology-specific R&D needs and challenges, identify possible solutions, and evaluate progress toward jointly-developed technical goals. It also prevents duplication of efforts between government and industry and ensures that publicly-funded research delivers high-value results and overcomes high-risk barriers to technology commercialization. 

AI: What is most important – speeding up the popularity of EVs and HEVs, improved battery storage solutions or the search for alternative fuels? 

Davis: The Vehicle Technologies Program maintains a balanced portfolio that includes advanced combustion, lightweight materials, and fuels technologies, as well as batteries, power electronics, and electric motors needed for electric-drive vehicles. All of these advanced technologies contribute to petroleum reduction by either improving vehicle efficiency or by fuel substitution. These technologies are not mutually exclusive, either. For example, vehicle lightweighting can increase the efficiency of the full range of vehicles and powertrains, and using advanced internal combustion engines in hybrid electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will enable even greater fuel savings benefits. 

AI: How does your program work in allocating resources or setting priorities? 

Davis: We work to maintain a steady balance across the portfolio of technologies the program supports, while also considering the importance of both near-term and longer-term technologies and their relative potential for reducing dependence on petroleum. With regard to vehicle classes, the program’s support of light-duty vehicle technologies generally reflects their significant contribution to highway transportation energy use, compared to other vehicle classes: light-duty vehicles account for 76% and heavy trucks account for 19% of U.S. highway transportation energy use (buses and medium trucks account for the remaining 5%). It is important to note, however, that much of the Vehicle Technologies Program budget supports the development of technologies applicable to both light-duty vehicles and heavy-duty vehicles, such as advanced combustion, hybridization, and lightweight materials. In addition, historically the balance between R&D and deployment has strongly favored R&D. Roughly 10% of the program’s annual budget supports vehicle deployment efforts, focusing primarily on facilitating local partnerships that can significantly leverage Federal funding to both accelerate market penetration of commercially-available advanced vehicle
“The Vehicle Technologies Program supports a broad range of advanced technologies that can significantly improve vehicle efficiency and reduce petroleum consumption”?? to read full version of AI stories go to
technologies and raise awareness of other petroleum reduction strategies among the driving public. 

AI: How environmentally viable do you think EVs are when considering the power generation options available today? 

Davis: Although battery electric vehicles (BEVs) produce zero tailpipe emissions, from a well-to-wheel perspective their environmental attributes depend on the source of electricity used to charge the vehicle. While a focus of the Vehicle Technologies Program is to accelerate the development of electric drive vehicles, parallel efforts are underway in other areas within the Department of Energy to address emissions of power generation technologies. These efforts focus on renewable electricity generation, as well as technologies for clean electricity generation from conventional resources. 

AI: Tell us a little about the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership initiatives. 

Davis: The Department of Energy has a long history of partnering with industry to advance the development of light-duty vehicle technologies. Beginning with the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) in the 1990s, this relationship has evolved over time in terms of membership, scope, and technical emphasis. FreedomCAR, and later the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, was part of that evolution. In May 2011, on behalf of the Partnership, DOE announced the transition from FreedomCAR and Fuel to the next-generation partnership, called U.S. DRIVE (Driving Research and Innovation for Vehicle efficiency and Energy sustainability).
Like the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, U.S. DRIVE is a non-binding and voluntary government-industry partnership focused on pre-competitive research of advanced automotive and related energy infrastructure technologies, and partners include DOE and automotive, energy, and electric utility companies. At the heart of the partnership are twelve technical teams that bring together the foremost technical experts from U.S. DRIVE partner organizations to discuss R&D needs, develop goals and technology roadmaps, and evaluate progress toward technical targets. 

AI: What are some of the critical milestones of the U.S. DRIVE endeavor? 

Davis: The Partnership sets research targets for key metrics in each of its focus areas, and each of the Partnership’s technical teams has a roadmap with a comprehensive set of detailed technical targets. As part of the transition from FreedomCAR and Fuel to U.S. DRIVE, we are updating those key partnership targets and each of the teams is updating its technology roadmap and the technical targets therein. Examples of current targets include reducing the cost of advanced lithium-ion batteries to $300/kWh by 2014, reducing the cost of advanced electric-drive systems (advanced power electronics and electric motors) to $12/kW by 2015, and reducing the cost of automotive fuel cell systems to $30/kW by 2017. 

AI: What are the critical breakthroughs of the 21st Century Truck Partnership? 

Davis: The partnership accomplishments include the design of a diesel electric hybrid drive train that has seen production in thousands of transit buses, increasing heavy duty diesel engine efficiencies - while meeting stringent federal emissions regulations - and teaming with NASA and the national labs to explore new approaches to commercial vehicle aerodynamics. These elements and more have recently been brought together in four industry teams under the DOE SuperTruck Initiative to develop and demonstrate Class 8 tractor trailer systems with a 50% higher freight hauling efficiency. 

AI: What will be the focus of your program in the next five years? 

Davis: We will continue our support of a broad portfolio of advanced vehicle technologies, with an emphasis on research to overcome key cost and performance barriers to technology commercialization and market penetration. 

Partnerships in action
Battery company A123 Systems has commercialized lithium-ion battery systems for hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and PHEVs. The program also has sponsored the development of a two-mode hybrid system for hybrid buses in collaboration with GM and Allison Transmission. 

The Vehicle Technologies Program is also sponsored Semikron to develop an inverter with improved technical and cost features that were incorporated into a GM program called Project Driveway, which tested the real-world performance of fuel cell vehicles. Collaboration with the automotive industry also resulted in new materials and packaging improvements that increase power density in automotive power electronics by 45% percent while improving reliability and bringing costs down by 40%.
ANL’s powertrain systems PSAT enables dynamic analysis of vehicle performance and efficiency to support detailed design, hardware development and validation of vehicle components and systems. 

Building on this success, the program has since deployed the next-generation vehicle modeling tool called Autonomie, which uses a plug-and-play architecture to analyze the performance and efficiency of a variety of powertrain technologies.


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