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SAE Symposium: Plug-in Hybrid Development Work Accelerating

At this week’s SAE Hybrid Vehicle Technologies 2007 symposium, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) were a major topic on the program and in the hallways.

The US has adequate energy supplies, but it lacks available energy for transportation, noted Don Hillebrand, Director of Argonne’s Center for Transportation Research, in his presentation at the symposium. The challenge lies in finding ways to use the available energy supplies for mobility.

The government has begun to focus its efforts on the PHEV. New breakthroughs in batteries make this more doable. A PHEV really meets the government’s needs with respect to reducing reliance on imported energy. ...The PHEV can do it, but cost is the issue and battery technology is the potential showstopper.

—Don Hillebrand, Argonne

In parallel to its internal research on plug-in technology, Hillebrand said, the government is preparing solicitations for plug-in research that will pull in stakeholders and encourage more research.

Speaking at the symposium, Dr. Mark Duvall from EPRI commented that 2007 may be “a special year for people that are interested in plug-in hybrids.”

A number of events over the last year are supporting this increased interest: GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler showing plug-in technologies, with DaimlerChrysler beginning the first public PHEV demonstrations; the initiation of the DOE PHEV R&D program; public statements of PHEV interest from other major automakers; strong bi-partisan political support; and re-emerging interest by the utilities in electric transportation.

Renewed interest in the concept [of plug-ins] is only the beginning. It does guarantee that there is suitable societal incentive to support the technology...We can still choose not to make it. Plug-in hybrids are now at the same stage as other advanced automotive technologies that almost made it.

—Mark Duvall

Some of the needs that must be met for the technology to “make it” include more vehicles on the road in testing and evaluation programs; continued battery and powertrain advances in terms of cost, availability and durability; stakeholder collaboration on certification; and consensus on PHEV environmental characteristics.

EPRI is working with DaimlerChrysler on the Sprinter PHEV demonstration. Four vehicles are on the road, and DaimlerChrysler has committed to putting more than 20 into the test. (Earlier post.)

The goal of the road tests, according to Duvall, is not to build a perfect system, but to determine that the concept is viable and dependable. The demonstrations also serve as a way to work through the current debate on operating strategy: whether to run in a dedicated all-electric mode until the battery depletes to a specified state of charge, or to “blend” battery and engine power together throughout the drive cycle. The selection of strategy will have a significant impact on battery sizing and optimization, as well as an impact on the air quality emissions technologies selected for the vehicle.

We have a lot of debate going on—now that there are enough people to have a debate—about how to operate.

—Mark Duvall

From a market point of view, fuel economy rather than all-electric range is the key vehicle metric, said Hillebrand. “An all-electric requirement would drive costs up and decrease likelihood of production.

The Sprinter offers a mix of the two operating strategies, with an option to lock into a full-electric range EV mode. That choice results from a European design philosophy, according to Duvall. Acceleration is not as mandatory, and the Europeans have a greater desire to freeze out combustion engines from city centers. In normal operation, the Sprinter PHEV is torque limited and speed limited in electric mode.

2aerphev Blendedphev_1
All-electric operating strategy. Engine turns on when battery reaches low state of charge. Requires high power battery and motor. Blended operating strategy. Engine turns on when power exceeds battery power capability. Engine only provides load that exceeds battery power capability.
Click to enlarge. Source: NREL

DaimlerChrysler has taken full responsibility for the demonstration of the Sprinter PHEV, and is working on a production design to follow the prototypes.

On the battery front, EPRI currently is evaluating battery packs in partnership with Southern California Edison in a PHEV configuration. The two have designed a test profile that discharges the battery from a full state of charge to a threshold of about 25% at which point it switches over into charge sustaining mode, rests, recharges and rests again.

Battery technology as it stands is capable of performing very well under these conditions. This is an indication that existing mature technologies are much more durable than we had expected.

—Mark Duvall

In general, Duvall said, the Saft lithium-ion battery is seen as a mature technology for the near term.

Innovation in battery technology is accelerating, Duvall noted, with the rapid development of nano-structured materials for production batteries, such as that from A123Systems. The outlook is promising, but more data is needed to quantify performance against the full range of PHEV requirements.

Argonne National Laboratory is trying to fill in some of that data. Mike Duoba, lead engineer at the Advanced Powertrain Research Facility (APRF) provided an overview at the symposium of the lab’s approach to evaluating PHEV technology using a systems approach from modeling and simulation, to emulation to validation on a dyno.

In December 2006, the DOE designated Argonne National Laboratory as the lead national laboratory for the simulation, validation and laboratory evaluation of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and the advanced technologies required for these vehicles.

Battery modeling for PHEVs is much more complex than modeling for a charge sustaining hybrid, Duoba noted, given the very large variation in the state of charge for the PHEv compared to the conventional hybrid.

Power to energy ratio as a function of range.

One of the things the facility is working on is developing an understanding of the power to energy ratio for batteries required for certain distances. Early vehicle-level simulations provided an initial view of that scaling, shown in the diagram at right.

The Argonne group is also developing and evaluating energy storage requirements for PHEV batteries. Their work also feeds into work being done at FreedomCAR. Argonne will validate the energy storage requirements with the systems-level approach as well, with component testing, vehicle simulation, and validation with the component in a system context.

DRAFT ANL PHEV Energy Storage Requirement
Characteristics at End-of-Life (EOL)Commercialization
Commercialization Target Year 2012 2016
Reference Equivalent Electric Range Miles 10 40
Peak Pulse Discharge Power (10 sec) kW 45 35
Peak Regen Pulse Power (10 sec) kW 30 25
Available Energy for Charge Depleting (CD) Mode, 10 kW rate kWh 4.2 10.7
Available Energy for Charge Sustaining (CS) Mode kWh 0.5 0.3
Maximum Round-trip Energy Efficiency (USABC HEV cycle) % 90 90
Cold Cranking Power at -30°C, 2 sec - 3 Pulses kW 7 7
CD Life/Discharge Throughput Cycles/MWh 5,000/17 3,000/35
CS HEV Cycle Life, 50 Wh Profile Cycles 300,000 300,000
Calendar Life, 40°C Years 15 15
Maximum System Weight kg 72 111
Maximum System Volume Liters 48 74
Maximum Operating Voltage Vdc 400 400
Minimum Operating Voltage Vdc >0.55 x Vmax >0.55 x Vmax
Maximum Self-discharge Wh/day 50 50
Maximum System Recharge Rate at 30°C kW 1.4 (120V/15A) 1.4 (120V/15A)
Unassisted Operating & Charging Temperature Range °C -30 to +52 -30 to +52
Survival temperature range °C -46 to +66 -46 to +66

APRF is currently characterizing the performance and life of the Johnson Controls-Saft prototype PHEV battery, and has extended the model to cover power/energy ratios needed for a variety of PHEVs.

The assessment of batteries and control strategies is part of an effort to assess the best overall PHEV energy management strategy, including engine torque, motor torque, state-of-charge and gear ratios.

For any trip—regardless of PHEV design—Duoba noted, the global optimization solution favors ending the state of charge of the battery at the end of the trip—not leaving any energy on the table, as it were.

Currently the APRF is testing a number of converted PHEVs—including the Hymotion and Energy CS units. To accommodate the uncertainties inherent in fuel economy testing of a plug-in, APRF breaks out the results in three categories: charge sustaining miles per gallon, charge depleting miles per gallon, and utility-factor weighted miles per gallon. Sample results for two test cycles—UDDS and HWY—are below.

Summary of APRF Results for Hymotion Prius
CS MPG 64.2 mpg 65.0 mpg
CD MPG ~175 mpg
+ ~126 Wh/mi
~113 mpg
+ ~104 Wh/mi
UF-weighted 88.6 mpg
+ 58.3 Wh/mi
86.6 mpg
+ 80.7 Wh/mi



Mr. Millikin,
The graphics links do not work. thx


There seems to be a recent proliferation of diesel Sprinter vans. Since most are commercial vehicles, their current owners will surely welcome a hybrid Sprinter.
_The PHEV Prius figures foretell future OEM Prius numbers.


I'm not encouraged by the timetables given here. 2012 is a long way out. But then, this is a government outfit. I remember a time when the US airforce realized that the F4 needed a rear view mirror. They spent 6 million studying the problem. The Israelis just went ahead and put something in for a few hundred bucks equivalent.
The issues raised here does give some additional credence to Tesla's (Martin Eberhard) arguments that its actually easier to build a pure BEV due to power requirements. AFAIC battery cost is the main issue now.


Seems like beaurocratic handholding. They say it can be done by 2012-16 and Tesla, Lotus and several others say they are doing it NOW.


graphics links fixed (finally).


Oh, and I forgot Phoenix/Altair. Their truck goes from 0-60 in 10 seconds, top speed of 100mph, travels 130 miles on one charge AND the battery is labtest proven for 15000 cycles! That's 40 YEARS!!!!!!!

And I didn't say "will go", this truck is on the road right now. Forget 2012-16, it'll happen by '08 year end.


arguments that its actually easier to build a pure BEV
Of course a BEV is "easier" than an ICE-V, it's only the economic of the battery that's difficult. Ever wonder if this is the reason GM killed the BEV? In a world of BEVs, GM becomes just a coach assembler.


There is a difference in "doing it" and doing it economically. Phoenix is making money because of the ZEV credits it gets to sell, and I imagine that Tesla is doing something similar. From what I read it comes out to about $75K per vehicle. Take that away and they wouldn't be making profit.


To Rick and Neil: Feel free to start your own PHEV or BEV production car line now! If you don't have the cash then zip it. Due either of you own a PHEV or BEV? I don't see the need to rush things anyway?


Yes, it is about the economics. That's why I suspect that government and major car manufacturers will dither around until there is another big spike in oil prices, then they'll scramble like mad to get something on the road. If they were smart they'd do the scrambling now and be prepared to have a market edge when the time comes. Other than a big jump in gas prices it will take government incentives to shift the economics towards the PHEV.


Otto: I'm afraid you're the one who gets to "zip it". I do own a ubuild BEV. We need to rush now because of the amount of time it will take to penetrate the market in numbers big enough to make a difference. I suggest you do a little research into three areas. 1) Global warming 2) Peak Oil and 3) the war in Iraq.


You must be a bureaucrat!

Only happy to step on your toes...

I notice that you didn't dispute that Tesla, Lotus and Phoenix/Altair are actually DOING IT, and not waiting on a bureaucrat to tell them when to start!

kent beuchert

""Ever wonder if this is the reason GM killed the BEV? In a world of BEVs, GM becomes just a coach assembler.""

That's being unrealistic and misinformed - in a world where electric motors propel, GM is equal to Toyota and Honda, for th efirst time in thirty years. Only Honda and Toyota and Nissan have vested interests in maintaining the status re ICEs. That was the same idiocy in the stupid theories in "Who Killed.."
GM can compete as a coachbuilder, but has proven incapable of competing using ICE architectures.


Rick: should we include the Zenn and the Think?
How about the Vectrix?


I don't but be my guest.

Here's a PR from Zap! :

and be sure to read this one. 600hp all-electric Lotus APX by Zap!

Harvey D.

All the technologies required exist to build practical PHEVs and BEVs in 2007/08.

The major drawbacks to mass production of affordable units seem to be the availability and high cost high performance batteries.

A few Chinese high performance battery factories could (and most probably will) solve both remaining shortcomings much faster than our government employees think.

Will those low cost Chinese storage units reach North America before 2012? That is a good question.



George K

“I’m not encouraged by the timetables given here. 2012 is a long way out.”

I had the same reaction, esp. knowing that GM has targeted the PHEV Volt for 2010-2012, and the PHEV Vue to precede that.

Additionally, from what we have read on this site, it seems that Altair Nano, and Valence Technology both produce batteries that are powering test PHEVs right now, with A123 Systems to follow next year if not sooner??!

Besides Phoenix Motorcars, Edrive is projecting to release their PHEV Prius (California only) this year.

So, what’s with 2012?

Rick E

Regarding Altair

AFAIK, they have delivered a total of twelve batteries at a cost of $75,000 each. And, thier independent testing has not been completely independent, so far.

ALL these new batteries for EV's still have a large cost problem.



Calculated 75K price for Altair NanoSafe battery supplied to Phoenics Motorcars includes Altair’s “cut” from anticipated 200K per vehicle California ZEV emission credits. In small scale mass production cost of the battery is approximated to be 400-600 $ per KWh, which places their 35KWh battery at the price of about 17K. It is not cheap, but also not prohibitory expensive.

For first stage PHEV application, as outlined in previous “SAE Symposium…” post, about 6KWh battery will suffice, and it places cost of such battery in 3000$ bracket plus profit and premiums. This is totally adequate for commercialization (current HEV battery for Prius costs about 2000$ delivered). All other requirements are already met by Alti battery, according to their internal tests. Independent verification of their claims is pending.

Kit P

The DOE timetable looks just about right to me. My Industrial Ecology text book calls BEVs elsewhere emission vehicles (EEV).

Where is the electricity going to come from? Currently, the capacity to build solar and wind is maxed out. The earliest we can expect new nukes is 2014. There is no environmental or national security benefit of making electricity to store in batteries if the fuel is imported natural gas or coal.

There is however a surplus of legal professionals who oppose any new project regardless of merit. The first soccer mom that fries her brain plugging PHEV will provide a test case.


Kit: Time to get a new book.
There is enough extra generating capacity right now to power millions of PHEVs. Wind is nowhere near maxed out. Solar is just getting started. You may be right about the Nukes (due to the NIMBYs). You failed to mention tidal and wave power. You can also generate electricity from gassified biomass.
Environmentally, electricity from NG in a BEV is way better than petroleum in an ICE engine. You could even burn the gassoline for electricity and still come out ahead. With coal you have the option of sequestering the CO2 (if the government forces them to)
As far as security goes, NG can be imported from far more sources than oil, which has a limited number of countries with by far the greatest reserves (MENA). Coal has almost no supply security problems.
As for someone getting fried by a PHEV, they will mostly charge off of regular house power so it's no more dangerous than plugging in a vacume cleaner.

George K

A new study (12-11-06) by Pacific Northwest National Labs, part of Dept. of Energy, finds that "off-peak" electricity production and transmission capacity could fuel
84 percent of the country's 220 million vehicles if they were plug-in hybrid electrics.

While not all parts of the country could handle all PHEVs, the article points out that some parts of the country are better able than others to handle the additional PHEV load due to night time charging.

Also, the PHEV charging would provide enormous amounts of funding for more efficient (and usualy, more expensive) environmentally friendly generating equipment. Plus, many articles have been written about load leveling that V2G (vehicle-to-grid) can provide down the road for peak daytime smoothing!

Check out the link below.


Don't forget that a significant percentage of BEVs could be charged with the "base load". There is a base load that is underutilized at night. That is, electricity is being produced but it is not running anything. Therefore, the difference between actual electricity demand and the base load can be used to recharge electric vehicles. In essence, there are a significant number of vehicles can be charged at no additional economic or co2 cost to the system. Virtually, these vehicles will actually allow us to decrease co2 production by the amount of co2 in all the gas they would have otherwise used.

Kit P

Neil, if an economical PHEV were available, I would buy one because I work in the electricity generating industry. There would be no environmental benefit because my local air quality is very good.

The principles for making good environmental choices in my IE text are still valid. Maybe Neil can send me his PFM text on producing electricity. I have been looking for instructions for that magic wand that allows you to make electricity from the wind energy without a windmill. Yes, I did not mention any the pixie dust method s of making electricity. When Toyota sells a PHEV, it will be have to be as safe as plugging in a vacuum.

I would rather see PHEVs brought to the market when the technology is ready rather than a new gimmick.

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