|Projected annual gasoline saved for the average car and light-duty truck as a function of the all-electric range of a plug-in hybrid. Click to enlarge. Source: Dr. Andy Frank|
Witnesses at a House Science Subcommittee on Energy hearing today—including a representative from Honda—expressed unanimous support for proposed legislation that would advance the commercialization of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV)—although some witnesses were more enthusiastic about the prospect of PHEVs than others.
The witnesses testified at a hearing on the discussion draft of legislation by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Act of 2006, which would conduct research and development (R&D) on advanced plug-in hybrid vehicle technologies and demonstrate plug-in hybrid vehicles so as to promote their commercial application in the consumer marketplace.
Testifying were Roger Duncan, Deputy General Manager of Austin Energy, and board member of the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA); Mark Duvall, Technology Development Manager for Electric Transportation & Specialty Vehicles in the Electric Power Research Institute’s Science & Technology Division; Dr. Andrew Frank, professor in the Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Department at the University of California, Davis; John German, Manager of Environmental and Energy Analyses for American Honda Motor Company; Dr. Danilo Santini, Senior Economist in the Energy Systems Division of Argonne National Laboratory’s Center for Transportation Research; and Dr. Cliff Ricketts, professor of Agricultural Education in the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience at Middle Tennessee State University.
Witnesses told the Subcommittee that technical challenges related to the size and cost of the battery, and limited demonstration of existing technologies have kept plug-in hybrids from penetrating the market-place. The witnesses unanimously agreed, though, that Rep. Smith’s draft bill would help overcome these hurdles and advance the commercialization of plug-in hybrids.
Roger Duncan stated that the main obstacle to widespread commercial application of plug-ins is automotive industry inertia based on a perception that there is not a commercially viable market.
Almost all of our partners ask me the same question—where can I get one? And this is one place where I think the proposed legislation will be very helpful. The demonstration program proposed in the legislation will directly address our most pressing need—providing demonstration vehicles to the state and local government, businesses and other Plug-in Partners. We will help in matching the great consumer demand that we are uncovering with the demonstration program proposed in this legislation.—Roger Duncan, Austin Energy
Mark Duvall stated that analysis to date indicates that the technology, control systems and advanced battery systems are sufficient to move plug-in hybrid technology to the market at an early entry level.
It further suggests that continued R&D on key component technologies is critical, especially advanced batteries. Additional analysis and experience with the vehicle and systems can lead to further optimization as test data is applied to the design of motor and engine systems, and engine/motor coordination strategies are further refined.—Mark Duvall, EPRI
As to the concern about the impact charging PHEVs would have on the grid, Duvall noted that a typical battery charger for a plug-in hybrid will draw about 1,400 watts of power from a 120-volt outlet and be active for about 2-8 hours per day—roughly equivalent to an electric space heater.
Several analyses by EPRI or the DOE estimate the energy demand of plug-in hybrids, even at 50% market penetration, at between 4-7% of total US electricity demand.
EPRI has reviewed the discussion draft and is of the opinion that it addresses the most critical technical challenges to the development and adoption of plug-in hybrid vehicles.Mark Duvall, EPRI
Duvall noted that there is a “high degree of correlation” between the draft bill and the six key steps EPRI believes the government should take to advance plug in hybrid technology:
Develop a program to demonstrate the technology;
Demonstrate a plug-in fleet of vehicles to operate throughout the US;
Collect and share data from consumers and fleet operators about the benefits of plug-in hybrids;
Develop a certification test protocol for plug-in hybrid drive systems;
Establish a program to educate the public about plug-in hybrid technology;
Focus federal R&D efforts on increasing performance of batteries, drive systems and power electronics.
Andy Frank also spoke of the need to convince the car companies of the existence of a viable market, and called for government to build a fleet of 200 advanced PHEVs with all-electric ranges (AER) from 10 to 60 miles on three of the most popular vehicle platforms with one or two of the American OEMs over the next 2 to 3 years, and to develop the supply chain.
A 40-mile AER would meet the needs of about 50% of the driving public, according to Dr. Frank, and is technically achievable today. Dr. Frank noted that a 40-mile AER in half the US fleet could reduce oil to about half its current use—and that such penetration into the fleet would take about 20 years.
John German, the lone representative from the auto industry, acknowledged the potential, but sounded much more cautious notes.
It is impossible to predict the pace of technology development and when breakthroughs will or will not occur. Accordingly, technology-specific mandates cannot get us where we need to go. In fact, previous attempts to mandate specific technologies have a poor track record...
With respect to plug-in hybrids, it is really too early in the development of hybrid vehicles and advanced batteries to predict whether plug-in vehicles will reach their hoped-for potential. Plug-in hybrids have a lot of promise, especially to displace oil consumption. They need and deserve further research and development. In that regard, the thrust of the draft legislation makes a good deal of sense. Before plug-in vehicles can be viable, however, there are a number of technology, consumer acceptance, environmental and cost issues that still need to be addressed.
According to German, those issues include:
Battery weight and size, and performance demands. The extra batteries add 175 to 500 pounds to the vehicle, which decreases performance, and it is difficult to find space for the extra batteries without detracting from the utility of the vehicle.
The impact on emissions control. The catalytic converters used to reduce most of the criteria emissions from the engine need to be at least 250° C to function properly. If the engine is off most of the time, catalyst temperatures will drop well below the level needed for conversion of emissions and tailpipe emissions will be orders of magnitude higher, according to German. He also noted that current emission and fuel economy test procedures are not designed to accurately measure emissions from these types of vehicles and would have to be revised.
Energy storage. The battery pack in a plug-in will need to be many times larger than in a conventional hybrid, even with just a 20-mile electric range. In addition to the cost, weight and size issues, the battery pack is now subjected to deep discharge cycles during electric-only operation and to much higher electrical loads and temperatures to maintain performance. This will cause much more rapid deterioration of the battery pack, likely requiring replacement of the battery pack at least once during the vehicle life.
Environmental considerations. In this category, German placed both the CO2 generated by electricity production (depending upon the method) and end-of-life battery disposal.
From a manufacturers’ and customers’ point of view, there is no business case [for plug-ins] unless fuel prices rise to substantially more than $3 per gallon, fuel shortages occur, plug-in hybrids are heavily subsidized, or there is a breakthrough in energy storage.
By far the most important action the government can take is research into improved energy storage.
Honda strongly supports the research program outlined in the House discussion draft of the Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Act of 2006. Hybrids, including plug-in hybrids, have a great deal of promise and their potential issues should be actively investigated for solutions, especially energy storage. The outlined research program is the best way for the federal government to accelerate the development and deployment of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.—John German, American Honda
Cliff Rickets argued for a focus on flex-fuel plug-in hybrids, and noted the potential for using hydrogen in the internal combustion engine component of the PHEV as well.
Despite possible problems with battery technology and cost, as noted by some of the other witnesses, Danilo Santini also articulated his support for the legislation.
I am confident enough about the potential of plug-in hybrid technology to recommend that Congress and DOE make a long-term commitment to research and development of lithium-ion battery chemistry R&D in particular, and energy storage in general, with a focus on needs of plug-in hybrids.—Danilo Santini
The Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Act of 2006 would require the Secretary of Energy to carry out a program of research, development, demonstration, and commercial application for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and electric drive transportation technology.
The research program is designed to develop high capacity, high efficiency batteries; high efficiency onboard and offboard charging components; high-power drivetrain systems for passenger and commercial vehicles and for non-road equipment; control systems, power trains, and systems integration for all types of hybrid electric vehicles; and a nationwide public awareness strategy for electric drive transportation technologies that provide teaching materials and support for university education focused on electric drive systems and component engineering.
The bill authorizes appropriations to the Secretary of Energy of $2 billion from fiscal 2007 through 2016 ($200 million each year) to carry out the program. It also authorizes $500 million from fiscal 2007 through 2016 ($50 million each year) to fund demonstrations of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and flexible-fuel plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
Maximum grants per demonstration vehicle are on a downward sliding scale.
|Maximum Grants per Vehicle|
|FY 2007-2009||FY 2010-2012||FY 2013||FY 2014||FY 2015||FY 2016|