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NRC Report Says FreedomCAR Making Significant Progress; Calls for Midcourse Shift in Strategic Planning

19 March 2008

The FreedomCAR (Cooperative Automotive Research) and Fuel Partnership research collaboration has made significant progress in most research areas, according to a new report from the National Research Council (NRC), but should reassess its strategic priorities to account for new national and changed research priorities.

Among other recommendations, the review committee called for the Partnership to “significantly intensify” its efforts to develop high-energy batteries; and to “move forward aggressively” with completing and executing its R&D plan for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

The FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership is a collaboration among the US government, in particular the Department of Energy (DOE); the US Council for Automotive Research (USCAR), whose members are Chrysler LLC, the Ford Motor Company, and General Motors Corporation; and five energy companies: BP America, Chevron Corporation, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil Corporation, and Shell Hydrogen (US).

The program supports a wide variety of research activities needed to enable a transition pathway for automotive transportation to a more sustainable basis. The pathway starts with increasingly efficient internal combustion engines (ICEs), proceeds through the increasing use of a variety of hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and then, by 2015, arrives at the point where the private sector can make a decision about the commercialization of fuel-cell-powered vehicles fueled by economically competitive hydrogen produced from a variety of energy sources.

The FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership started with a presidential commitment to request $1.7 billion over 5 years (FY04 through FY08), with appropriations thus far of about $243 million, $307 million, and $339 million in FY04, FY05, and FY06, respectively. The FY07 continuing resolution resulted in funding of about $401 million. The FY08 presidential budget request is for about $436 million. These funds are used to support basic research, applied research, development, and technology validation and deployment in the following areas:

  • ICEs using a variety of fuels;

  • Fuel cell power systems;

  • Hydrogen storage systems;

  • Electrochemical energy storage;

  • Electric propulsion systems;

  • Hydrogen production and delivery systems; and

  • Materials for lightweight vehicles.

Since the Research Council’s first review two years ago, the program has made great strides, and its managers have been generally thorough and receptive to the previous report’s recommendations. The barriers the program faces are challenging, and require inventive solutions that are technically feasible and economically viable in the automotive and fuel supply markets. For the industry to transition to a hydrogen-based vehicle used on a broad scale, the program will have to continue to be well-planned and managed with foresight.

—Craig Marks, committee chair and retired vice president for technology and productivity, AlliedSignal Inc

The review made recommendations in each of the principle technology areas covered by the FreedomCAR effort.

Advanced Combustion Engines and Emission Controls. Noting that internal combustion engines (ICEs) will be the mainstay of the nation’s automotive fleet for a very long time, even if the other goals of the program are met, the improvement in the efficiency of these powerplants through combustion research on advanced ICEs is a very important part of the Partnership.

The review committee recommended that the Partnership formulate and implement a clear set of criteria to identify and provide support to ICE combustion and emission control projects that are pre-competitive and show potential for improvements well beyond those currently being developed by industry.

Electrochemical Energy Storage. Very significant progress has been made during the last 2 years in this area, according to the review, and lithium ion batteries have been developed that can meet several of the FreedomCAR 2010 goals, including weight, volume, and cycle life requirements, with good prospects for meeting the remaining goals as well as the calendar life requirements.

New approaches have increased the safety and abuse tolerance of these batteries. Cost is the largest remaining barrier, with estimates of current cost about two times the 2010 goal. Substantial additional research is ongoing to find lower cost materials. The success of this effort will largely determine the viability of these batteries in mass-produced hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

A significant additional breakthrough in battery technology is needed to enable a competitive all-electric automobile that would help meet the FreedomCAR goals. Furthermore, the potential benefits of PHEVs in reducing petroleum consumption have been recognized by the Partnership, yet there seems to be a lack of urgency in finalizing and executing the R&D plan for PHEVs.

The review recommended that the Partnership conduct a thorough analysis of the cost of the Li-ion battery for each application: hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), PHEVs, battery electric vehicles (EVs), and hydrogen-fueled fuel cell HEVs. The analysis should re-examine the initial assumptions, including those for both market forces and technical issues, and refine them based on recent materials and process costs. It should also determine the effect of increasing production rates for the different systems under development.

The review also recommended that the Partnership should “significantly intensify” its efforts to develop high-energy batteries; in particular it should look for newer higher-specific-energy electrochemical systems within the long-term battery research subactivity and in close coordination with BES.

A third recommendation was that the Partnership should move forward aggressively with completing and executing its R&D plan for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Electric Propulsion, Electrical Systems and Power Electronics. Improvement in the size, weight, efficiency and cost of electric propulsion and power electronics systems, along with appropriate electronic controllers, is a significant part of the challenge of making hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles competitive.

Higher-temperature operation of these components and the integration of power controllers and electric motors to improve the performance of vehicle electric propulsion systems are the most important efforts being supported by the electrical systems and power electronics program, and appropriately so.

The review recommended that the Partnership should conduct a meta-analysis and develop quantitative models to identify fundamental geometric limitations that ultimately set bounds on and lead to the realization of the size, mass, and cost of power converters and electric propulsion systems in relation to the physical properties of materials and processes such as dielectric strength, magnetic saturation, and thermal conductivity.

This would allow the various ongoing and future efforts to be benchmarked against the theoretical boundaries of what is possible and enable the establishment of appropriate directions in research goals.

Structural Materials. The Partnership has set a target of a 50% reduction in vehicle structural mass with no increase in the cost of the materials involved.

This Partnership and the earlier Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles have a long history of research into structural materials for lightweight vehicles that is described in earlier reports. Based upon that work, it is likely that the proposed 50 percent reduction in mass can be achieved. However, it is also quite certain that, within the timeframe of the Partnership, this reduction cannot be achieved without incurring a cost penalty. The program management should, accordingly, realistically assess the cost of making the required mass reduction and adjust the cost targets of the other components appropriately.

The review recommended that, based on the 50% weight reduction as a critical goal and the near certainty that some (probably significant) cost penalty will be associated with it, the Partnership should develop a materials cost model (even if only an approximation) that can be used in a total systems model to spread this increased cost in an optimal way across other vehicle components.

The review also recommended that the materials research funding should largely be redistributed to areas of higher potential payoff, such as high-energy batteries, fuel cells, hydrogen storage and projects associated with infrastructure issues. However, materials research for projects that show a high potential for enabling near-term, low-cost mass reduction should continue to be funded.

Fuel Cells. Although hundreds of fuel cell vehicles are now being built for field tests by auto manufacturers, the early systems still need significant improvements in durability and cost before mass-produced vehicles can be built and sold. The improvement in durability and performance and the reduction in cost of fuel cell systems remain major goals of the Partnership.

Many uncertainties remain regarding the likelihood of meeting these goals and timing targets, but the potential benefits of fuel cells and the progress to date certainly justify current spending and increased future spending and budget allocations.

The committee recommended that the Partnership conduct sensitivity analyses on key fuel cell targets to determine the trade-offs and tolerances in engineering specifications allowable while still meeting fuel cell vehicle engineering requirements.

The committee also recommended that the Partnership should reassess the current allocation of funding within the fuel cell program and reallocate as appropriate, in order to prioritize and emphasize the R&D that addresses the most critical barriers. In particular, the Partnership should give membranes, catalysts, electrodes, and modes of operation the highest priority.

In particular, it should also:

  • Place greater emphasis on the science and engineering at the cell level and, from a systems perspective, on integration and subcomponent interactions;

  • Reduce research on carbon-based supported catalysts in favor of developing carbon-free electrocatalysts;

  • Ensure that Basic Energy Sciences (BES) funding of membranes, catalysts, and electrodes remain a high priority of the program;

  • Apply the go/no-go decision-making process to stationary fuel cell systems initiatives that are not directly related to transportation technologies.

Onboard Hydrogen Storage. Efforts to discover a viable alternative to compressed hydrogen gas are in their very early stages, according to the review—too early to have confidence in their ultimate success.

Meeting the program storage goals almost certainly will require a storage technology as yet undiscovered, making the current basic research approach—searching for new storage materials and operating modes—appropriate.

The review recommended that the hydrogen storage program continue to be supported by the Partnership at a high level since finding a suitable storage material is critical to fulfillment of the vision for the hydrogen economy. Both basic and applied research should be conducted.

The review recommended that the Partnership rebalance the R&D program for hydrogen storage to shift resources to the more promising approaches as knowledge is gained. The new systems analysis center of excellence (COE) should look at all of the system requirements simultaneously, not just the system weight percent storage goal, and guide this rebalancing.

A third recommendation was that in the event that no onboard hydrogen systems are found that are projected to meet targets, the Partnership should perform appropriate studies to determine the risks and consequences of relying on pressurized hydrogen storage. They should include production and delivery issues as well as effects on vehicle performance, safety, and costs.

Hydrogen Production, Delivery, and Dispensing. There are many pathways that a gradual transition from petroleum-based fuel to hydrogen as the main energy carrier for transportation vehicles might follow, and each needs to be analyzed and understood, according to the review.

The transition envisioned is likely to take place in complex ways over substantially more than a decade as the population of fuel cell vehicles grows. It is reasonable to expect hydrogen initially to come from existing centralized production facilities and to be distributed by tube trailer or liquid carrier. These supplies are likely to be supplemented, increasingly, by distributed generation in service station forecourts, using steam reforming of widely distributed natural gas, or by water electrolysis powered by the electric grid, perhaps during off-peak periods.

With all of these potential pathways, more extensive scenario analysis of the transition and emergence of mature hydrogen fueled systems is needed to understand the most critical factors in production and delivery as the market develops.

The review recommended that the Department of Energy continue its studies of the transition to hydrogen, extending them to 2030-2035, a period during which the number of hydrogen vehicles in use could increase rapidly, and use the results of these studies as a basis for evaluating the potential roles of different transitional supplies of hydrogen fuel as demand increases substantially, including both forecourt production at the fueling station and centralized production using the most cost-effective means of distributing the hydrogen.

The review made a number of other recommendations in this broad area, including:

  • DOE should put more emphasis on the space requirements for forecourt hydrogen generation by studying ways to minimize these requirements.

  • DOE should conduct a systematic review of the carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) program as it affects the schedule for and program assumptions about hydrogen production from coal. This review should identify indicators of incipient program slippage and, through systems analysis, the program consequences of possible delays, leading to recommendations for management actions that would compensate for these delays.

  • The Partnership should increase funding for electrolysis efforts to advance the technology, demonstrations, and systems integration. BES should support, as appropriate, fundamental research in catalysts, membranes, and coatings as well as in new concepts.

  • DOE should undertake a systems study to assess the relative importance of barriers to biomass production, availability, transportation, and conversion to hydrogen in order to identify the areas that most affect commercial availability, giving them priority attention in the program. This study should address technical barriers already identified, including their impact on the environment, and help define policies for land and water use and government-sponsored commercial incentives that would stimulate commercial expansion of the biomass options.

  • DOE should involve the energy partners in all biomass programs related to conversion to hydrogen or hydrogen carriers as early in the programs as possible. Recommendation. DOE should increase funding for the delivery and dispensing program to meet the market transition and sustained market penetration time frames. If DOE concludes that a funding increase is not feasible, the program should be focused on the pipeline, liquefaction, and compression programs, where a successful, if only incremental, short-term impact could be significant for the market transition period.

The study was sponsored by the US Department of Energy. The National Research Council (NRC) functions under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The four organizations are collectively referred to as the National Academies.

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March 19, 2008 in Batteries, Electric (Battery), Engines, Fuel Cells, Fuels | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack (0)

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Why does the government need to fund research for companies like Chevron, Exxon, Shell, GM and Ford? The oil companies are making more money than God, and we are supposed to think they want to change this? I don't get it.

Whew. What a lot of topics.

1.
On ICE efficiency...I had the impression that horsepower per liter of engine displacement has improved steadily over the last 3 decades, and that similarly, horsepower per unit of fuel consumed has improved substantially over the last 3 decades, but because vehicles tend to have more horsepower per pound of curb weight than they used to, it has not resulted in significant mpg gains. My point is, shouldn't we already be reaping big mpg gains from decades of research and refinement in fuel efficiency? What's to stop car makers from hijacking the research to make more powerful vehicles rather than more efficient vehicles?

2.
This path still presupposes hydrogen, rather than stopping at PHEV or all-electric drive as the ulitmate goal. I assume this is because of assumptions batteries will never be cheap, and assumptions that the public will always prefer 5-minute fillups to 5-hour recharges. However, batteries are getting better and cheaper faster than fuel cells. Some batteries can substantially recharge in minutes. It seems to me that delivering electricity will always be easier than delivering hydrogen, and that an all-electic drive system will probably have a substantially better well-to-wheels efficiency than even fuel cells. So...why the heck is our national policy to pursue an ultimate goal that is less economically and environmentally desireable than the intermediate goal?


Healthy Breeze,
Please remember that Hydrogen is a fuel, and electricity is not a fuel, but must be regerated from a fuel source like fossil fuel, or from hydrogen if one want to go completely to renewable-energy electricity.

Solar PV and wind turbine and nuclear energy can supply electricity directly to the grid, but there will be a gross seasonal mis-match of solar and wind energy production vs. comsumption, such that excess wind, solar and even nuclear and geothermal energy MUST BE STORED IN THE FORM OF HYDROGEN. Future societies must depend on synthetic fuel(s) in order to cope with fluctuating renewable energy production, period (.), no IF, AND or BUTs about it! Hydrogen is the most efficient form of synthetic fuel from renewable energy.

Now then, why not run your vehicle directly from Hydrogen fuel, instead of having to use the hydrogen to generate electricity AND THEN recharging your BEV with that electricity?

FreedomCAR was never more than a "Fig Leaf" to cover up the fact the Bush Co. killed the PNGV program before it was due to finish in 2004.

Roger Pham:

"...such that excess wind, solar and even nuclear and geothermal energy MUST BE STORED IN THE FORM OF HYDROGEN."

Why do you say 'MUST'? Scientific American just had a front-page article on how solar power farms in our deserts could solve our energy woes, with energy stored as compressed air in underground repositories distributed around the nation. Pressurized air would be combined with a little CH4 to run gas turbines for power generation at night. Storing renewable electricity generation as H2 is *not* the only option.

As for this: "...Now then, why not run your vehicle directly from Hydrogen fuel, instead of having to use the hydrogen to generate electricity AND THEN recharging your BEV with that electricity?"

Because if you do use H2 as a storage medium, generating electricity centrally and distributing over the existing grid to EVs or REEVs is much simpler, cheaper and more straightforward than building an H2 distribution system for complex, expensive FC hybrids.


Just sayin'...

Like every other George Duuuh-bya Bush administration policy, the FreedomCar Program is a horrible, criminal mistake. The state-of-the-art vehicle technology is Plug-in Hybrid, period. Hydrogen is more applicable as a combustable fuel for hybrid drivetrains than for fuel cell stacks applied to any vehicle type. Hydrogen fuel cell cars has always been as much a pipe dream as the flying car. No wonder the complete idjit, George Duuuh-bya Bush, went along with it even as GM and Dick Cheney must have known full well that fuel cell cars are a fraud.

Roger Pham,

1) Hydrogen is not a fuel.

2) What Nick said.

3) Batteries are about four times as efficient at storing energy than hydrogen.

GSP

Roger Pham...

'electricity isn't a fuel'.....Electricity is replacing fuel on my electric bicycle...& thru my lite bulbs & lots of other electric gadgets.

'excess solar & wind energy'...Where are the complaints that solar & wind couldn't meet our needs?

'excess...energy MUST BE STORED IN THE FORM OF HYDROGEN'...We store energy just by pumping water above the dams with the electrical generators.

Why do you make up problems to make hydrogen look feasible? & don't connect nuclear with wind & solar electric power sources. Or are you a nuclear advocate too?

Why must solar be stored in hydrogen?

Why not store solar heat, as heat?
Or more specifically, molten salt.
greyfalcon.net/solarthermal
href="http://greyfalcon.net/solarthermal2">greyfalcon.net/solarthermal2

Why is would hydrogen even be considered an ideal form of electricity storage at all?
electricitystorage.org/technologies.htm

On average you'd be looking at losing 75% of your input electricity to thermodynamic losses. AND it would take 9 gallons of water to produce just 1 kg of hydrogen.

That sounds pretty crappy odds to me.

Well Roger, I'll say one thing: At least this hydrogen post is not as wacky as your proposal that Rosa Parks is responsible for Global Warming... But you're getting close.

why the heck is our national policy to pursue an ultimate goal that is less economically and environmentally desireable than the intermediate goal?
Because the policy serves the interests behind the administration, not the country as a whole or citizens as individuals.  Cui bono and all that.

You'all think that storing H2 as fuel is not efficient? Think again! The most advanced room-temp method using nano-tech nickel electrodes instead of the traditional platinum has raised efficiency of room-temp electrolysis to 85%. Storing electricity from the grid to the battery is a 90% efficient process...not much better. High-temp electrolysis using waste heat will raise the efficiency of electrolysis to 140%.

Adsorptive materials under development will allow for high mass of H2 to be stored under much lower pressure than before in lighter and more compact containers.

A battery is a combination of a CHEMICAL FUEL made up of the chemicals inside of it IN COMBINATION with an electromotive force (EMF)GENERATOR made up of the layers of electrodes. The battery is heavy because the small amount of chemical fuel is sandwiched around large arrays electrical generator made of metal plates. But, battery is convenient when you want to have both the fuel and generator combined into one for quick and simple usage.

However, when one must store a vast amount of fuel for use throughout the bitter-cold winter season, it would be more efficient and far cheaper to separate the fuel (H2) away from the generator (FC or ICE-genset). One would need only a small ratio of electrical generators over the vast quantity of fuel to be stored for use for the entire energy-intensive winter season.

BEV is simply a form of vehicle in which the fuel (electrolytes and substrates) is stored right inside the electrical generator, whereas a FCV or an H2-ICE-HEV are vehicles wherein the fuel is stored separated from the electrical generator. In this fashion, energy storage will require less bulk and weight and far faster refilling than in a BEV, in which the battery must contain both fuel and generator in predetermined proportion, hence battery tend to be heavy and bulky for the amount of energy stored in it.

In an optimized H2 vehicule and infracstructure vs. a BEV-grid system, the overall efficiency of both forms are comparable. None can really claim any significantly higher efficiency than the other, due to the law of conservation of energy.

Despite all claims, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Conversion of electricity to hydrogen, and back to electricity will cost. The conversion losses have not (as often claimed) been overcome.

In short, the hydrogen highway is like a ride in the Hindenburg.

The FreedomCAR (Cooperative Automotive Research) and Fuel Partnership research collaboration is simply a plan on how to keep control of fuel confined to the few now making a total muck of our Mother Earth, and sucking a little taxpayer money out to do it.

I don't mind people getting rich, but I do mind them destroying the planet.

In opposition to this plan is the BEV, and home wind/solar generation of electricity. The technology is here, as is the necessity to implement. Once the "price point" is reached, and it will be within five years, then the flood of pure electric cars will take over the world market no matter what else is offered.

To my mind, the FreedomCAR project was always too narrowly focused on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. There are no utilities among the members, only domestic car makers and the oil & gas industry. If anyone expects a working electric vehicle to come out of that, they need to have their head examined.

The reality is that in spite of national security and environmental considerations, it will take decades to phase out internal combustion engines. Even with oil prices at record highs, alternative fuel vehicles of all types face high barriers to market entry: fuel production & distribution, performance, range, reliability, environmental side effects, cost and resistance by vested interests. Also, vehicles are durable goods, so it takes a long time for the fleet to churn.

Nevertheless, it is the fuel that ultimately defines the propulsion system and not vice versa. Oil will peak sometime in the not-too-distant future even as demand for it is still increasing. Taxpayer money would therefore be better spent asking which fuels be made available for transportation in the 21st century at the lowest cost, supply risk and environmental impact. The options are fossil natural gas, synthetic fuels (liquid or gaseous) and grid electricity. Only the latter two can be produced in a sustainable fashion, but all are more expensive to apply to vehicles than the incumbent petroleum distillates.

Improving vehicle fuel economy to reduce oil consumption is therefore the critical first step. Particular attention must be paid not only to vehicle weight, rolling resistance, aerodynamics, air conditioning and, fuel wasted by imperfect conversion of fuel to motive force plus dissipative braking.

In addition, customers must be persuaded to moderate their demands on the range and acceleration performance of their daily driver. Vehicles for special purposes, e.g. hauling goods, long trips, fun trips or motorsports, should be rented or owned as timeshare assets. Ultimately, the only way to achieve this shift in consumer behavior is to reduce the total cost of ownership of daily drivers by raising that of special purpose vehicles. The definition of "daily driver" will vary by geography and profession but very few really *need* a body-on-frame commercial vehicle or a true sports car as their primary vehicle.

The second step is to test consumer acceptance of alternative fuels and associated systems. Liquid synthetic fuels (incl. biofuels) have the smallest impact on vehicle configuration. Pressure tanks for gaseous fuels pose packaging problems, these should be resolved for LPG/DME/natural gas before hydrogen is tackled, especially if the latter is to be used for a fuel cell. IMHO, cryotanks are not suitable for mass-produced passenger vehicles.

Electric propulsion offers many advantages incl. greater packaging flexibility, but range per unit of TCO is very poor. Fortunately, even CARB has accepted that the way to foster this technology is to combine it with small, efficient internal combustion units for range extension.

In summary, the core applied research that FreedomCAR has done on advanced combustion, electric drive and structural materials deserves to be continued. However, DOE should steer clear of using taxpayer money to fund actual product development.

The work done on mobile hydrogen fuel cells poses so many engineering challenges all at once it has truly become a white elephant. To salvage the massive investment already made, the R&D effort should now be split. On the one hand, refocus on the distribution and on-board storage of natural gas for combustion in an ICE. On the other, refocus on direct alcohol fuel cells and, on raising their operating temperatures.

@ Roger Pham -

is your 140% figure based on a system that uses the waste heat to drive a heat pump of some type? Otherwise, your statement appears to contradict the first law of thermodynamics.

Roger means that the energy yield of high-temperature electrolysis is theoretically as much as 140% of the electric input; he's assuming that heat is free.

If heat is free then I'm going into the Stirling engine business.

Roger assume all H2 production will be cogeneration harvesting waste heat from nuclear (preferred) or coal power plants. Lots of CH4 plants already use cogeneration, although I suppose there may be some heat left after creating steam, but lower quality.

I'm all for recovering waste heat, but doubt all the other problems with hydrogen make hydrogen the preferred way to do so. I'd favor closed loop turbine systems that use something with a lower boiling point than water for secondary or tertiary cogeneration. Dunno the economics of it though.

I like this one best:

"None can really claim any significantly higher efficiency than the other, due to the law of conservation of energy."

So all engines and energy storage media have equal efficiency! Now that's what I call progress!

Thanks, Rafael, for putting it all in perspective.

Short-term approach to petroleum conservation would be to make all new cars as HEV's capable of increase fuel economy by as much as 50-100%. This, coupled with a much lightened body thanks to fiber-filled plastic body and frame, capable of halving the curb weight of the vehicle, will yield a 4-seat vehicle capable of 100 mpg fuel economy. Laws should be made to encourage increasing use of small 4-seat vehicles for commuting, while larger vehicles for occasional use can be rented or shared in joint ownership club.

A 100-mpg car would have adequate range with only 2-3 kg's of H2 on board, and with H2 adsorptive material inside the H2 tank, will keep the size, weight and cost of the H2 storage vessel to that comparable with current gasoline tank having 13-16 gallons. Synergistically, with vast increase in vehicular efficiency, the cost and impracticality of H2 as fuel will be soved, and the Freedom CAR initiative will be seen as having important initial role in starting the whole process.

@John Taylor,

BEV may have an edge in efficiency vs. H2-car when direct solar PV or wind turbine electricity is used. However, due to the large seasonal (long-term) mismatch of supply and demand of solar and wind energy, these can, at best, supply the renewable energy directly to the grid only 50% of the times (or less), forcing the use of H2 as energy storage means, in order to use the summer-generated solar energy for winter use, or spring and fall wind energy for winter use.

So, if the electricity must be generated by power plants from stored H2 at 55% efficiency (for half of the time), then going thru losses in the grid and charging system, and thru losses in the BEV power train, then a BEV, in this situation, will be a lot less efficient than an H2-car capable of using H2 directly on board, with 60% efficiency tank-to-wheel like in the Honda FCX, or 50% efficiency in an optimized H2-ICE-HEV setup.

All in all, a BEV will not be any more efficient than an H2-car if one look at the whole picture and not just focus on one segment of it.

"...budget request is for about $436 million..."

Less than 1/2 of 1% of what they spend in Iraq each year. If we invested more in this we would not need to be spending in Iraq at all.

Interesting there isn't any representation for the electric grid. For the all of oil companies represented, there should also be the same number of very large grid power producers. Let's see, car companies would resist losing maintenance revenue from the demise of the ICE since electric cars are virtually maintenance free and oil companies would resist losing revenue from reduced petroleum usage.

Now someone explain to me what is this groups incentive other than to collect funding, and hinder results. They might do hydrogen because oil can control it and car companies reap revenue from expensive maintenance of fuel cells.

Just an observation, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is being shown now, slated to go into limited production in 2009 and full in 2010. It's all electric 4-door, 4 passenger auto. Just read a review where the reporter drove it on the road for 1 hour at city and highway speeds and only used half its capacity. The range is around 100 miles. Has the same power response as its gas engine twin. This will easily cover my daily commutes. It's even capable of accepting a 30 minute fast recharge. What are we looking for? Mitsubishi appears to have it. If they put it up for sale in the U.S. I'll buy it!

I really hate to burst everyone's bubble, but you're not addressing the real problem - consumer choice.

After the oil crisis of the 1970's we had dramatic increases in fuel efficiency. One would assume that the petroleum demand would have a corresponding drop, but it has moved progressively upward. There are several reasons, but the two major culprits are increase in vehicle miles traveled and expendable income. As efficiencies increased and income grew, Americans just increased their driving distance. Nominal household budgets are set with a certain acceptable level of spending for fuel, and if the fuel price drops people just travel more.

What we really need (which amounts to political suicide for politicians) is a massive tax on petroleum fuel to reduce the miles traveled. If the funds were actually invested in mass transit and bike and pedestrian paths we could put a dent in our energy dependence, carbon emissions, and health care costs. (The majority of people would have a health benefit if they're forced to move their largesse under their own power, so we could also make a dent in the Nation's obesity epidemic.)

Like it or not, we'll be dependent on fossil fuels for at least another half century. We just don't have the renewable energy capacity to sustain the current (much less future) energy needs for transportation as it exists today. We've know this for decades, and each time we's had a chance of making a difference we've taken the easy way out. We are in for a rude awakening.

"The FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership started with a presidential commitment to request $1.7 billion over 5 years (FY04 through FY08), with appropriations thus far of about $243 million, $307 million, and $339 million in FY04, FY05, and FY06, respectively."

People really BELIEVE this claptrap?? This is a BUSH Administration initiative! When did the Bush Administration EVER do anything right?? More phony PR to coddle big oil and continue the illusion that anyone in the US cares about anything but profits.

More to the point, the Freedom Car money was a continuing research subsidy with no requirement to build anything for sale.  The looming deadline to let people BUY SOMETHING was almost certainly the Big 3's problem with PNGV.

Had a car of Chrysler ESX-3 or Ford Prodigy caliber been on sale in 2004, I would have bought it.  Even if NOx regulations killed the adiabatic diesels, DI gasoline engines would have delivered 50-60 MPG in the same chassis. 

Congratulations to the Mitsubishi i-MiEV! One more EV to help establish BEV viability. The current MiEV model does not appear to be able to pass US crash /safety testing, nor would it be accepted in in this form factor. Which is probably why it is only being sold in Japan and possibly England. The i-MiEV Sport concept looks more like something that would sell in North America - currently no production plans exist.

And in case you have not heard, the oil boys are playing hardball with claims of new drilling tech and vast sources of "abiotic" oil starting with the 500 billion barrel field in the Bakken Formation, which covers North Dakota and parts of South Dakota and Montana. This would delay the peak event for a century and temp industry to throttle back on electrification. The counter to this is, for those who care, to get behind the few who are DOING something. Which means the active PHEV/BEV divisions of automakers, auto-entrepreneurs and those evangelizing them.

It's easy to take shots at pet targets, but don't forget who your opponent is and their ability to drown sustainable goals in oceans of oil. Someone up there smiles every time you ding Bob Lutz.

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