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DOE issues $10M incubator FOA for batteries, power electronics, engines, materials, fuels and lubricants

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) issued an Incubator Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOAs) for a total of approximately $10 million. (DE-FOA-0000988)

EERE is focused on achieving well‐defined mid‐to‐long term clean energy goals for the US, and in that context has established multi‐year plans and roadmaps, with a concomitant focus of the majority of its resources on a limited number of “highest probability of success” pathways/approaches to ensure that the program initiatives are supported at a critical mass (both in terms of dollars and time) for maximum impact. While this roadmap‐based approach can be a strength, it can also create challenges in recognizing and exploring unanticipated, game changing pathways/approaches which may ultimately be superior to the pathways/approaches on the existing roadmaps.

Accordingly, EERE offices issue incubator FOAs to support innovative technologies and solutions that could help meet office goals but are not represented in a significant way in existing Multi Year Program Plans (MYPPs) or current portfolios. Incubator programs allow DOE to assess new technologies for potential to be on-ramped to future MYPPs.

The VTO FOA is open to any and all ideas which significantly advance the mission of the VTO. The FOA will give equal consideration to all proposals submitted, including submissions that address the following Areas of Interest:

Energy Storage R&D. VTO is seeking projects that address the major challenges to developing and commercializing batteries for plug‐in electric vehicles (PEVs). As described in multiple DOE reports, the main barriers to widespread PEV commercialization are the cost; performance and life; and abuse tolerance of high‐energy batteries.


  1. the current cost of high‐energy lithium‐ion batteries is approximately four times too high on a kWh basis;

  2. current batteries are two to three times too heavy and large, and high‐ energy batteries struggle to meet PEV cycle and calendar life requirements; and

  3. high‐energy Li‐ion batteries are not intrinsically tolerant to abusive conditions. The use of large format lithium cells increases the urgency with which abuse issues must be addressed.

Sample topic areas that might address one or more of these barriers include:

  • Novel cell, module or pack designs that significantly improve the thermal or safety performance, or significantly reduce the weight, volume, and cost of non‐ active (non‐energy storing) materials.

  • Material, cell, or pack manufacturing processes that significantly reduce the cost and environmental footprint of current manufacturing processes, including the development of novel/non‐conventional manufacturing machinery or equipment.

  • In‐line, non‐destructive evaluation diagnostics technologies that can enable high precision fault detection and quality control during high speed manufacturing.

  • Recycling or refurbishment technology that can restore an end of life cell or battery or battery material to new or near new performance.

Advanced Power Electronics and Electric Motors for Electric Traction Drives. VTO is seeking projects in this area not represented by, or similar to, current R&D projects at DOE) that focus on the following key barriers:

  • Cost Reduction. The components to enable electric drive vehicles must be more affordable. The additional content which includes the motor, inverter, converter, and on‐board charger must be offset by the cost savings in operational costs as seen by the customer.

  • Size Reduction. Significant reductions in the volume and weight of components will allow for ease of integration within current vehicle architectures.

  • Greater Efficiency. The efficiency of the components must continue to improve to provide value to the customer (e.g. displayed in longer EV range, higher MPG and/or MPGe ratings).

  • Greater Reliability. Electric drive components must be reliable and provide long vehicle service equal to or better than conventional petroleum powered vehicles.

Advanced Combustion Engine R&D. VTO is focused on critical barriers identified by joint government/industry research that are either unique to or common among three major combustion strategies: (1) Low‐Temperature Combustion (LTC), (2) Dilute Gasoline Combustion, and (3) Clean Diesel Combustion. The following are sample topic areas.

  • Technologies that enable LTC operation with either gasoline or diesel fuel, including control methodologies and technologies, especially for mixed‐mode operation.

  • Robust lean‐burn and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR)‐diluted gasoline combustion technologies and controls, especially relevant to the growing trend of boosting and down‐sizing passenger vehicle engines.

  • Cost‐competitive, commercially viable after‐treatment technologies for lean‐ burn systems and controls that allow compliance with proposed EPA Tier 3 emissions regulations with smaller penalty in fuel economy.

  • Cost‐competitive technologies for air handling, high‐pressure fuel injection, and higher pressure engine operation, for implementing the clean diesel combustion strategy.

  • Technologies and strategies that mitigate the impact of emerging fuel changes dictated by mandates to blend biodiesel with diesel, or ethanol with gasoline.

  • Precise and flexible engine controls and control systems that facilitate adjustments of parameters critical to engine combustion such as intake air temperature, fuel injection timing, injection rate, valve timing, and exhaust gas recirculation to enable advanced combustion strategies to operate over a wider range of engine speed/load conditions.

  • Durable emission control systems for engines operating in novel combustion regimes that can perform effectively for 150,000‐miles in passenger vehicles and 435,000 miles for heavy‐duty engines.

  • Cost‐competitive waste heat recovery technologies.

  • Thermoelectric‐based systems for waste‐heat recovery utilizing improved property bulk thermoelectric materials and producible at scales and in forms necessary for automotive applications with validated performance in automotive environments (e.g., durability).

Specifically not of interest to VTO are the following engine technologies that DOE research has shown to be unpromising:

  • Steam (Rankine cycle) engines

  • Stirling engines

  • Gasturbines

  • Rotary engines

  • Two‐stroke engines

  • Adiabatic engines

Carbon Fiber or Lightweight Materials. VTO is seeking projects that address the major challenges to developing and commercializing carbon fiber composites for lightweight structures. The main barriers to widespread commercialization of carbon fiber composites are the cost (carbon fiber precursor and manufacturing; composite manufacturing cycle times), incomplete modeling tools, joining of dissimilar multimaterials, recycling and repair. Most critical is the cost of the carbon fiber. Specifically:

  1. The cost of the carbon fiber precursor contributes ~ 50% to the overall cost of carbon fiber. If an alternative precursor can be used that provides good fiber and yield, the cost could be reduced.

  2. The cost to manufacture the carbon fiber is high. If an unconventional solution can be found to reducing the cost for either conventional oxidation or conventional conversion of the fiber, the cost could be reduced.

  3. The cost to manufacture composites is expensive. If an unconventional approach can be developed that can significantly reduce the cost to manufacture large and complex structural composite subsystems or systems, the cost could be reduced. Further, lightweight materials projects are sought that emphasize a combination of unique materials and processes to enable weight reduction of greater than 30% at a cost of less than $2.25 per pound of weight saved.

VTO is not looking for projects utilizing conventional automotive materials such as polymers, magnesium alloys, aluminum alloys, and steel alloys are not desired; rather, it is looking for promising materials and processes not generally found in the automotive sector. Sample topic areas that might address one or more of these barriers include:

  1. Lower cost carbon fiber through use of unconventional non‐petroleum precursors for carbon fiber that has the potential to provide high strength, low cost and high yield. The precursor could be bio-derived or a biomimetic polymer, such as major ampullate silk (MAS) containing two types of fiber proteins (MaSp1 and MaSp2); recombinant silk in either prokaryotic and/or eukaryotic organisms; E. Coli derived silk of MaSp1 and/or MaSp2; lower cost through unconventional approaches to precursor oxidation that speeds up conversion compared to the conventional thermal treatment; or lower cost through an unconventional approach to fiber conversion (from oxidized state to carbon fiber) that speeds up processing compared to the conventional thermal treatment.

  2. Development and demonstration of novel material/process combinations for weight reduction in vehicle structural systems achieving 30% weight reduction at a cost of less than $2.25 per pound of weight saved, which could include very low‐cost titanium structures; polymer‐metal composites and layered/composite structures; or metal foams and metal foam layered/composite structures.

Fuels and Lubricant Technologies. The Fuels and Lubricant Technologies subprogram develops technologies that reduce petroleum consumption through vehicle powertrain efficiency improvements and alternative fuels petroleum displacement. The subprogram’s activities fall into three main categories: 1) alternative and renewable fuels, such as natural gas‐derived fuels, drop‐in biofuels, and other renewable fuels; 2) lubricant technologies that can reduce friction losses in new and legacy vehicles to improve fuel economy; and 3) the use of unique, non‐conventional fuel properties to improve efficiency.

Sample topic areas that might address one or more of these barriers include:

  • Technologies that address barriers to increased use of compressed and liquefied natural gas in transportation, specifically to investigate challenges associated with maximizing the fill capacity of tanks, improving on‐board storage, improving the storage and dispensing of gas at stations, and improving pressure regulation to enable additional extraction of fuel from tanks.

  • Novel lubricant formulations (additive package and/or base oil modification) expected to improve the mechanical efficiency of light‐, medium‐ and/or heavy‐ duty vehicles by at least 10% compared to a 2010 baseline vehicle (improvement based on comparative results from chassis dynamometer testing or test track, e.g., SAE J1321) without adverse impacts on vehicle performance or durability.

  • Technologies that utilize fuel properties, such as octane, cetane, distillation, etc., to facilitate enhanced efficiency combustion regimes and engines. A typical example would be a light‐duty engine that utilizes a high‐octane fuel under high‐ load conditions and low‐octane fuel under other conditions to improve the engine efficiency while controlling fuel costs effectively.

  • Technologies that displace petroleum through the use of renewable fuels by addressing the technical barriers of non‐conventional alternative fuels, such as butanol and other higher alcohols. The topics could range from infrastructure compatibility to engine efficiency improvements that reduce the vehicle range penalty typical of non‐petroleum fuels.



"Specifically not of interest to VTO are the following engine technologies that DOE research has shown to be unpromising: "Rotary engines Two‐stroke engines Adiabatic engines"

I respectfully disagree. Look at some of the advanced the work being done with Rotaries in the unmanned arena and ditto that 2 strokes, Power to weight and compactness matter as well, it is not all about emissions and BSFC, I think their priorities are too centric in a couple of areas. Adiabatics? Didn't they read up on the Oil-Less Un-Cooled work done by TACOM in the 1980's. How much oil would you save on an Un-Lubricated and Un-Cooled engine since those products are derived from oil. The work done on that program IMHO was probably more significant than many realize and yet no one has run with that ball, and IMHO that is a shame. Tangent to this is some of the work done since then in frictionless and near frictionless technologies, that may warrant a revisiting of what was done before and can these new coatings etc be applied to a revisit of the Adiabatic Engine Program.

However kudos to them on recognizing the Titanium low cost options that have come to light in the media in the last couple of weeks.


Excellent exhaustive wish list. Ten million $$$ will not come close to 1% of it.


While I wouldn't argue that battery technology can be improved, and that the specific topics listed here are a good representation of the areas that can be improved, I am not sure I think we need improvement for their to be electric vehicles that are adequate for some commuters and consumers. I mean, it would be nice for cost of batteries to come down, but some vehicles are already competitive on total cost of ownwership basis. The Leaf, Fiat 500 EV, Chevy Spark EV, Smart EV. Again for some consumers who would both utilize the vehicle enough to garner the cost savings, and who can accept the limitations of the technology, such as a two or more car family that has an alternative vehicle for long trips, the technology works well as the primary mover for everyday commuting.

I think what DOE is saying is that for many people the price of EVs has to be the same or less than the price of an ICE car since many people are not aware of what they spend on gasoline. Thus, they cannot be convinced by rational arguments. So, for there to be broader implementation of electric vehicles, there has to be significant improvement in batteries, because the EVs can't just be better in some instances for us to be given the choice to buy them, they have to be superior in all ways for the average uninformed (or oil invested loyalist) to accept them as a product.

It's an unfortunate situation since there are many benefits to the technology which ignorance and vested interests deny to us. But then, there are many similar situations in which the lack of knowledge the general populous has limits our ability to improve. I believe that is why many consider our press and educational systems failures, since there is a general ignorance and in fact a pride in ignorance amongst the population.

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