The US House yesterday passed by a vote of 312-114 a bill that would authorize additional appropriations totalling $2.85 billion over the 2010-2014 period for the US Department of Energy (DOE) to support a broad range of research activities for advanced technology vehicles.
H.R. 3246, the “Advanced Vehicle Technology Act of 2009” covers research on light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as infrastructure and pilot programs. Ultimately targeting the development of technologies and practices that improve the fuel efficiency and reduce emissions of vehicles produced in the US, the bill also aims to “ensure a proper balance and diversity of Federal investment in vehicle technologies”, while strengthening “partnerships between Federal and State governmental agencies and the private and academic sectors.”
Priorities for the Department of Energy’s vehicle technologies research have shifted drastically in recent years among diesel hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and plug-in electric hybrids, with little continuity among them. The integration of vehicle, communication, and infrastructure technologies has great potential for efficiency gains through better management of the total transportation system.
The Federal Government should balance its role in researching longer-term exploratory concepts and developing nearer-term transformational technologies for vehicles.—H.R. 3246
Of the $2.85 billion, the bill specifies $1.1 billion (39%) be targeted at medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles; $115 million (4%) for user facilities; and $60 million (2%) for a non-road pilot program.
The bill sets out a broad range of supported areas for research activities, including:
- hybridization or full electrification of vehicle systems;
- batteries and other energy storage devices;
- power electronics;
- vehicle, component, and subsystem manufacturing technologies and processes;
- engine efficiency and combustion optimization;
- waste heat recovery;
- transmission and drivetrains;
- hydrogen vehicle technologies, including fuel cells and internal combustion engines, and hydrogen infrastructure;
- aerodynamics, rolling resistance, and accessory power loads of vehicles and associated equipment;
- vehicle weight reduction;
- friction and wear reduction;
- engine and component durability;
- innovative propulsion systems;
- advanced boosting systems;
- hydraulic hybrid technologies;
- engine compatibility with and optimization for a variety of transportation fuels including liquid and gaseous fuels;
- predictive engineering, modeling, and simulation of vehicle and transportation systems;
- refueling and charging infrastructure for alternative fueled and electric or plug-in electric hybrid vehicles, including the unique challenges facing rural areas;
- gaseous fuels storage system integration and optimization;
- sensing, communications, and actuation technologies for vehicle, electrical grid, and infrastructure;
- efficient use and recycling of rare earth materials, and reduction of precious metals and other high-cost materials in vehicles;
- aftertreatment technologies;
- thermal management of battery systems;
- retrofitting advanced vehicle technologies to existing vehicles;
- development of common standards, specifications, and architectures for both transportation and stationary battery applications; and
- other research areas as determined by the Secretary.
Transformational technologies. The bill puts particular emphasis on transformational technologies with potential to achieve deep reductions in petroleum use and emissions, including:
- hydrogen vehicle technologies, including fuel cells, internal combustion engines, hydrogen storage, infrastructure, and activities in hydrogen technology validation and safety codes and standards;
- multiple battery chemistries and novel energy storage devices, including nonchemical batteries and electromechanical storage technologies such as hydraulics, flywheels, and compressed air storage;
- communication and connectivity among vehicles, infrastructure, and the electrical grid; and
- other innovative technologies research and development, as determined by the Secretary.
Innovative Automotive Demonstration Program. The bill directs the establishment of an Innovative Automotive Demonstration Program within the existing Vehicle Technologies Program to encourage the introduction of new vehicles into the marketplace.
The target is vehicles capable of achieving energy efficiencies significantly greater than required under current and pending Federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. (EPA and NHTSA just released their joint proposed rulemaking for an average 250g/mile CO2 and 34.1 mpg US limit by 2016, earlier post.) Awards under this section are to be made on a competitive basis for demonstration of vehicles that carry at least four passengers; achieve at least 70 mpg or equivalent; provide acceptable performance; meet all Federal and State emissions requirement; and meet all Federal safety requirements, in addition to other criteria.
The bill also specifies the appointment of a full-time Director to coordinate research, development, demonstration, and commercial application activities in medium- to heavy-duty commercial, recreational, and transit vehicle technologies.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-9) and 16 co-sponsors.