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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

New ABB Azipod D for electric marine propulsion requires 25% less installed power, boosts flexibility

March 25, 2015

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Azipod D. Click to enlarge.

ABB has introduced a new offering, Azipod D, to its line of Azipod marine electric propulsion systems. This new product will allow a wider range of vessel types to benefit from the proven reliability and flexibility that have made Azipod the leading propulsion system across numerous ship types.

Azipod Propulsion is a gearless steerable propulsion system in which the electric drive motor is in a submerged pod outside the ship hull. A ship with Azipod Propulsion does not need rudders, long shaftlines or stern transversal thrusters. This new Azipod D provides designers and ship builders with increased design flexibility in order to accommodate a wide range of hull shapes and propeller sizes, as well as simplicity of installation. The Azipod D requires up to 25% less installed power. This is partly due to the fact that the new hybrid (air and water) cooling helps reduce the thruster’s weight and directs more power toward propulsion of the ship, not cooling requirements. The performance of the electric motor is increased by up to 45%.

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DOE to award up to $20M to advance high-speed industrial motors and drives

March 20, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $20 million to spur the development of high-speed industrial motors and drives, using high power-density designs and integrated power electronics to increase efficiency. Individual awards may vary between $3 million and $5 million, not including the recipient cost share.

The Energy Department plans to select four to six projects, through the Next Generation Electric Machines: Megawatt Class Motors funding opportunity (DE‐FOA‐0001208), that demonstrate the benefits of using wide bandgap (WBG) variable-speed drives. These projects are expected to target a 30% reduction in system losses and a 50% reduction in size for megawatt-scale motor and drive systems used in the chemical and petroleum refining industries; natural gas infrastructure; and general industry compressor applications such as HVAC systems, refrigeration, and wastewater pumps.

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Renault boosts ZOE EV’s range by almost 15% to 149 miles with new motor unit

March 04, 2015

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The new R240 motor unit with integrated PEC. Click to enlarge.

Renault has extended the range of its battery-electric ZOE to 149 miles (240 kilometers)—a boost of 19 miles (31 km), or 14.6%—in the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) by using a new lighter and more compact R240 electric motor and an optimized electronic management system. (Earlier post.)

The R240 is a synchronous electric motor with rotor coil, with a power output of 65 kW and torque of 220 N·m (162 lb-ft). It also features a built-in Chameleon charger (earlier post) which allows faster charging at home (3 kW and 11 kW). The R240 is an all-Renault motor, designed by Renault engineers at the Technocentre R&D facility outside Paris and at the Cléon plant where the motor is made—close to Flins, where the ZOE is produced.

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TM4 receiving $3.7M to develop low-cost wheel motors

February 28, 2015

TM4, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hydro-Québec, is receiving $3.7 million in funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada’s (SDTC) SD Tech Fund, through the ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative, to develop low-cost wheel motors for electric and hybrid vehicles.

The objective of this project is to design an in-wheel motor electric drive system with one of the highest power densities in the world, and at the lowest possible cost. This system will consist of one or more power converters and electric machines, to be assembled and bench tested, and then tested on the road in an electric vehicle.

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Ricardo develops prototype next-generation 85 kW switched reluctance EV motor; no rare earth elements

February 23, 2015

Ricardo RapidSR electric motor
The Ricardo RapidSR switched reluctance drive motor avoids the use of rare earth elements. Click to enlarge.

Ricardo has developed a new prototype 85 kW synchronous reluctance motor designed primarily for electric vehicle traction applications. The motor avoids the use of expensive rare earth elements, while delivering strong performance at a significantly reduced cost.

The new EV motor was designed and built in prototype form by Ricardo as part of a collaborative research and development project, RapidSR (Rapid Design and Development of a Switched Reluctance Traction Motor). (Earlier post.) Using a conventional distributed stator winding, the Ricardo synchronous reluctance electric machine is an innovative design that makes use of low-cost materials, simple manufacturing processes and uncomplicated construction.

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Porsche names GKN Driveline “Technology Partner” for eAxle system in 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid supercar

February 12, 2015

Porsche has awarded GKN Driveline “Technology Partner” status for its development of the high-performance eAxle for the 918 Spyder, an advanced plug-in hybrid supercar. (Earlier post.) GKN Driveline’s eAxle module—used for the 918 Spyder’s front axle—supports full-electric mode, all-wheel drive and provides a boost function.

The eAxle that supplements the 918 Spyder’s hybridized 4.6-liter V8 is an evolution of the company’s innovative eAxle drive. (Earlier post.) The module has maximum power of 95 kW and can deliver up to 1500 N·m (1,106 lb-ft) of torque to the front wheels via a fixed gear ratio. A specially developed compact differential engages the torque seamlessly, giving the 918 Spyder optimum power distribution at all times. The differential also disengages the module to minimize drag losses and maximize efficiency. At speeds above 265 km/h (164 mph), a clutch isolates the electric motor to prevent it from over-spinning.

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ESKAM finishing electric drive axle module for commercial vehicles, new production technologies; vehicle testing this year

February 02, 2015

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Electric drive axle module with two motors and integrated power electronics. Groschopp AG. Click to enlarge.

The ESKAM (Electric Scalable Axle Module, Elektrische SKalierbare AchsantriebsModule) consortium in Germany, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), is completing the development of an optimized electric drive axle module for commercial vehicles, consisting of two motors, transmissions and power electronics. All components fit neatly and compactly into a shared housing, which is fitted in the vehicle using a special frame construction also developed by the project engineers.

The individual modules developed by the various partners are complete, as are new manufacturing techniques developed by the partners. The consortium is now putting the individual parts together to make a demonstrator. After that, they want to fit the axle module into a real vehicle for testing by the end of 2015.

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Study finds vertical force of in-wheel switched reluctance motors deteriorates vehicle stability and comfort

January 27, 2015

In a study investigating switched reluctance motors (SRMs) for in-wheel motor applications, researchers at Chongqing University in China have found that the vertical component of the residual unbalanced radial force of the motor deteriorates the lateral and anti-rollover stabilities of the vehicle in addition to having a considerable impact on vehicle comfort. (The unbalanced radial force is the radial force difference between a pair of opposite stator poles.)

In their paper, published in the Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part D: Journal of Automobile Engineering, they suggest that a control method addressing these issues will be needed if SRMs are to see use in in-wheel applications. In an earlier paper, members of the team had proposed the use of an FxLMS (filtered-X least mean square) controller based on active suspension system to generate controllable force to suppress the vibration caused by SRM vertical force. In that paper, they found that utilizing active suspensions could reduce the effect of SRM vertical force on suspension performance.

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UQM Technologies granted patent on permanent magnet electric motor design using non-rare earth magnets

January 20, 2015

UQM Technologies Inc. has been granted a US patent (8,928,198, “Brushless PM machine construction enabling low coercivity magnets”) for an electric and hybrid electric vehicle motor design using non-rare earth magnets. The patent covers the unique magnet geometry and the method of manufacturing the motor.

The majority of electric and hybrid electric vehicles produced today use permanent magnet (PM) motors with rare-earth magnet materials because of the high coercivity of the rare earth materials. Coercivity is a measure of the reverse field needed to drive magnetization to zero after being saturated—i.e., it is a measure of the resistance to demagnetization. The new UQM design enables the use of low coercivity magnets, such as Aluminum Nickel Cobalt (AlNiCo) or Iron Cobalt Tungsten (FeCoW), in PM machines.

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Renault previews new production-bound EV motor and dual-fuel gasoline/LPG engine

December 12, 2014

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Renault’s new, more compact electric motor with integrated Power Electronic Controller. Click to enlarge.

Renault has previewed a new electric vehicle motor, designed by its engineers and manufactured at its Cléon plant in France, as well as a new dual-fuel gasoline/LPG combustion engine. Both are slated to enter production in 2015. Rémi Bastien, Renault’s Director of Innovation Engineering, noted that “The future of mobility calls for the same command of electric motor technology as it does of internal combustion engines. We are consequently active on every front, from internal combustion engines to electric motors and alternative energies.

New Renault electric motor. The synchronous electric motor with wound rotor develops 65 kW and peak torque of 220 N·m (162 lb-ft), and features an integrated Chameleon charger (earlier post). Integration, miniaturization and simplification were the three objectives that guided the design of this motor.

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GKN develops two-speed eAxle; in production on BMW i8

November 10, 2014

GKN has developed the first two-speed eAxle; the technology has entered production on the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, (earlier post) in which it provides power to the front wheels from a 96 kW, 250 N·m (184 lb-ft) electric motor. (A 170 kW/231 hp three-cylinder combustion engine in the BMW i8 drives the rear wheels.)

Production electric and axle-split hybrid vehicles have used single-speed transmissions; however, GKN said, using a fixed ratio limits electric drives in terms of either acceleration or top speed as they must disconnect at certain speeds to prevent the motor overspinning. GKN said its two-speed eAxle is the first in series production to enable the electric drive to boost the vehicle’s performance across its entire speed range.

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Honda beginning sales of Legend with 3-motor Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system in January; V6 with cylinder deactivation

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. will begin sales of the all-new Legend flagship sedan (its cousin is already on sale in the US as the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD) at dealerships across Japan on 22 January 2015. The fifth-generation Legend features the 3-motor Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system also offered in the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD (earlier post).

Positioned at the front of the vehicle is a newly developed V6 3.5L direct injection i-VTEC engine and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) with an integrated 35 kW electric motor. The rear-mounted TMU (Twin Motor Unit) contains two 27-kilowatt motors that dynamically distribute electric-motor torque to the rear wheels. Both the front and rear motors capture kinetic energy during vehicle deceleration and braking and convert it to electricity to supply the Intelligent Power Unit’s 72-cell, 1.3-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, located behind the rear seatback. Teaming up with a high-output lithium-ion battery, the control unit coordinates the operation of the engine and three motors.

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First look at all-new Voltec propulsion system for 2G Volt; “the only thing in common is a shipping cap”

October 29, 2014

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Cutaway of the new power electronics unit, which is much smaller than in gen 1, and which is now integrated into the drive unit housing. The power electronics and the motors use separate cooling: water for the PE and ol for the motor unit. Click to enlarge.

The second-generation Volt, which makes its world debut in about 10 weeks at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, features a clean-sheet, all-new Voltec propulsion system—new battery, new electric drive unit, new power electronics and new range-extending engine. At an introductory media briefing on the new powertrain held at the Warren Transmission Plant in Michigan, where the new drive unit will be built, Larry Nitz, GM Executive Director, Transmission and Electrification, noted that the only common part between the gen 1 and gen 2 drive units was a little yellow plastic intra-plant shipping cap for the manual selector.

The battery cells, with a tweaked NMC/LMO chemistry from LG, increase storage capacity by 20% volumetrically when compared to the original cell. The drive unit features a large number of changes: new roles for the two motors, two clutches instead of three, and a smaller power electronics unit integrated into the housing among them. (No more big orange high-voltage cables underneath the hood.) The new direct-injected 1.5 liter engine with cooled EGR features a high compression ratio and is optimized to function in its range extender role.

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GM Warren Transmission Plant to build electric drive unit for second-gen Volt; part of $300M investment in Michigan through end of year

October 28, 2014

Later today at the Detroit Economic Club, General Motors CEO Mary Barra will confirm that its Warren Transmission Plant will build the new electric drive unit—the GM Voltec 4ET50 Multi-Mode EDU—for the upcoming second-generation Chevrolet Volt. As a result, most major Volt powertrain components—from the battery cells to the new 1.5-liter range-extending engine—will be made in Michigan, establishing the state as the company’s global engineering center of excellence for vehicle electrification. The new Volt will debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2015.

The drive unit for the first-generation Volt consists of two motors—a 111 kW main traction and 63 kW (at 4800 rpm) generator motor (55 kW generator output)—as well as three clutches and a planetary gear set tucked in the end of the traction motor that improve overall efficiency by reducing the combined rotational speed of the electric motors as needed. (Earlier post.) GM will subsequently be providing details of the second-generation drive unit.

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NIMS team develops new magnetic compound with lower neodymium content

October 20, 2014

A research group led by Dr. Kazuhiro Hono at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) has synthesized a new magnetic compound which requires a lower amount of rare earth element than the currently used neodymium iron boron compound.

The ratio of neodymium, iron and nitrogen in the new compound (NdFe12N is 1:12:1). Its neodymium concentration is 17% of the entire mass compared to 27% for the neodymium iron boron compound known as Nd2Fe14B, the main component used in the strongest permanent magnets. Furthermore, the intrinsic hard magnetic properties of the new material were found to be superior to those of Nd2Fe14B.

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Siemens integrates EV motor and inverter in single housing; common cooling and SKiN

October 17, 2014

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Siemens has developed a solution for integrating an electric car's motor and inverter in a single housing. Click to enlarge.

Siemens has developed a solution for integrating an electric car’s motor and inverter in a single housing. The motor and the inverter, part of the power electronics which converts the battery’s direct current into alternating current for the motor, have up to now been two separate components. The new integrated drive unit saves space, reduces weight, and cuts costs.

The solution’s key feature is the use of a common cooling system for both components. This ensures that the inverter’s power electronics don’t get too hot despite their proximity to the electric motor, and so prevents any reduction in output or service life.

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New “2-in-1” EV unit integrates traction motor and A/C compressor for increased range in hot climates

October 01, 2014

Engineers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) have designed a “2-in-1” electric motor unit which can increase the range of electric vehicles in hot climates. This innovative electric machine integrates the A/C compressor, the compressor drive motor and the traction motor into a single housing physically clutching with the compressor during braking events.

The approach unifies the EV traction and compressor drives into a single housing which drive together during braking events. Based on simulations and analysis, the team expects the system to reduce battery consumption by at least 3% compared to existing mechanisms while improving the regenerative energy capturing capacity of the system by 8%. Overall, the novel design could increase the range of electric vehicles by an additional 15 to 20% with other modifications, the researchers suggested.

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DOE awards $17M for vehicle technologies; batteries, PEEM, engines, materials, fuel

August 21, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding $17.6 million in 14 cooperative agreements with small businesses and institutions of higher education to develop and to deploy efficient and environmentally friendly highway transportation technologies that will help reduce petroleum use in the United States. The awards made under an Incubator Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000988) issued in January. (Earlier post.)

The newly selected projects are in five areas: energy storage; power electronics and electric motors (PEEM); advanced combustion engines; materials technologies, and fuels and lubricant technologies. Awardees are:

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Researchers develop efficient technique to develop new materials with desired coefficient of friction

July 11, 2014

Researchers at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) have developed a highly efficient method for developing friction materials with a desired frictional property. Using the new method, it would be possible to find the appropriate crystal preferred orientation for coatings with the desired value of the coefficient of friction.

The method, described in a paper in the journal Tribology Letters, could thus significantly accelerate the development of materials that have a friction coefficient suited to the purpose of use, such as low-friction materials for reducing energy loss and high-friction materials required for high-performance brakes.

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Project developing electrically conductive lubricants to protect electric motors from discharges in the bearings

June 12, 2014

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The effect of insulating (upper right) and electrically conductive (lower right) lubricants. The insulating lubricant (yellow coating) can cause electrical discharges (red lightning bolts), which can damage the bearing’s raceways. If the lubricant is conductive (green coating), no electrical discharges occur. Source: Bosch. Click to enlarge.

A joint research project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, is investigating the development of ionic-fluid-enhanced electrically conductive lubricants to protect electric motors from the surface damage that can result from electrical discharges in the bearings (electrical discharge machining, or EDM). The initiative was launched to prepare for future vehicles which will require higher voltages than current models.

At present, 12 volts provide all conventional automotive electric systems—from lights and radios to air conditioners—with sufficient power. Within the next few years, the figure may rise to 48 volts to support a growing number of functions. The voltage levels of electric and hybrid vehicles are even higher: these vehicles can require as much as 400 volts. Higher voltage levels result in stronger alternating electric fields in alternators and electric motors, explained Dr. Gerd Dornhöfer, a Bosch scientist taking part in the “SchmiRmaL” project (Switchable intelligent tribological systems with minimal friction losses and maximum lifespan).

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DELIVER electric light commercial vehicle demonstrator to make its debut at FISITA

May 28, 2014

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DELIVER. Click to enlarge.

Liberty Electric Cars, the European subsidiary of Green Automotive Company, has completed the build of the first fully functioning example of “DELIVER”—an electric light commercial delivery vehicle funded by the European Commissions’ 7th Framework Programme. DELIVER will have its world premiere at FISITA World Automotive Congress, which starts on 2 June 2014 in Maastricht (NL).

The DELIVER (Design of Electric LIght Vans for Environment-impact Reduction) project started in November 2011 with the goal of reducing the environmental impact in urban areas by 40%, along with delivering optimized ergonomics and loading space at affordable costs. Ten partner companies are involved in the design and construction of an electric light commercial vehicle.

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Kinetics Drive Solutions and Efacec collaborate on electric bus propulsion systems

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Kinetics’ NexDrive EV3-850 + PowerPhase HD electric drive system. Click to enlarge.

Kinetics Drive Solutions Inc. and Portugal-based Efacec Electric Mobility, S.A. are collaborating to deliver full-vehicle propulsion systems for electric buses. This solution is engineered to provide bus OEMs a fully integrated and optimized system that can be implemented on various platforms with minimal engineering development. Efacec’s first electric bus with the NexDrive solution will be deployed for field operation in July.

In April, UQM Technologies Inc. and Kinetics announced their collaboration to offer an integrated electric motor and multi-speed transmission system for commercial vehicle applications (earlier post); that system is used in the Kinetics/Efacec solution.

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Ames Lab researchers observe rare-earth-like magnetic properties in iron

April 29, 2014

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have observed magnetic properties typically associated with those observed in rare-earth elements in iron, albeit at cryogenic temperatures. These properties are observed in a new iron-based compound that does not contain rare earth elements, when the iron atom is positioned between two nitrogen atoms.

The discovery opens the possibility of using iron to provide both the magnetism and permanence in high-strength permanent magnets, such as those used in direct-drive wind turbines or electric motors in hybrid cars. The results appeared in Nature Communications.

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UQM Technologies and Kinetics Drive Solutions collaborate on electric drive systems for all-electric commercial vehicles

April 23, 2014

Kinetics
EV3-850 combined with PowerPhase HD220. Click to enlarge.

UQM Technologies Inc. and Kinetics Drive Solutions Inc. are collaborating to offer an integrated electric motor and multi-speed transmission system for commercial vehicle applications that will benefit from a full system approach. This system is engineered to provide commercial vehicle manufacturers with an efficient electric drive powertrain while minimizing the development time for integration.

Advantages for customers will be a fully integrated and calibrated system that allows quicker time to market and reduced development time and cost, as well as fewer engineering variables. Systems will feature UQM PowerPhase HD electric motors and controllers combined with Kinetics NexDrive transmissions.

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Siemens and BAIC form JV to produce high efficiency electric powertrain systems for NEVs

April 21, 2014

Siemens AG and Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co., Ltd. (BAIC), one of the major Chinese carmakers, signed a joint venture agreement at the 2014 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition and outlined their plan to utilize Siemens’ electric drive train components in a range of BAIC new energy vehicles (NEVs).

The JV, Beijing Siemens Automotive E-Drive System Co., Ltd., will manufacture components for the electric drivetrain including power-electronics and electric motors. The new electric drivetrains consist of a safer and higher power density inverters and highly energy efficient motors. Prototype and small volume production will start in 2014, followed by mass production in a new Beijing-based factory in 2015. The production volume is planned to be more than 100,000 units per year with upside potential.

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First “MotorBrain” prototype shown; lightweight electric motor system with no rare earth metals

April 11, 2014

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MotorBrain prototype. Integrated unit is on the left, the motor core is at the right. Click to enlarge.

The four partners in the European research project ”MotorBrain”—Infineon Technologies, Siemens, the Institute of Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology at the Technische Universität (Technical University) Dresden and ZF Friedrichshafen—are presenting their first prototype of a lightweight electric motor system that requires no rare earth metals.

The €36-million (US$50-million) MotorBrain effort is one of the largest single European research projects in the area of electromobility. The MotorBrain prototype integrates the motor, gear drive and inverter. The prototype is three-quarters the size of models from 2011, the year when MotorBrain began; the prototype now being presented could fit in a conventional-sized laptop or notebook backpack.

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DOE awards $17M to FY 2014 SBIR Phase II projects; includes Si/graphene anodes, motor windings, exhaust treatments

March 31, 2014

The US DOE recently awarded $17 million to 17 FY 2014 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II projects to further develop Phase I projects and to produce a prototype or equivalent within two years. The selected 17 awards represent the best of nearly 1,000 ideas submitted for the FY 2012/13 Broad Based Topic Solicitation, DOE said.

The selected projects include 6 vehicle-related technologies and 2 hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, as well as new hydropower, heat pump, solar and manufacturing technologies. Vehicle technologies span a range from new Si/graphene Li-ion anode materials and composites for motor windings to diesel aftertreatment and advanced lubricants. Selected vehicle and hydrogen technology projects are:

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