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DOE to award up to $3M for R&D to improve efficiency of off-road fluid-power systems

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will provide up to $3 million of new funding (DE-FOA-0001815) for fluid-power systems research for off-road vehicles. Construction, mining, and agriculture equipment represent the majority of fuel consumption in off-road vehicles, and this equipment relies heavily on fluid-power systems (i.e. hydraulics) to actuate most of their functions. They are preferred over electric motors because of their high specific power density and ability to tolerate shock and harsh environments. However, current fluid-power systems have poor efficiency. Research in this area can provide decreased operating costs for these key domestic industries.

Opportunities exist to improve the efficiency of fluid-power systems through research. On 12 September 2017, a public workshop on fluid power systems for off-road vehicles was held at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to identify early-stage research and development needs. The space is challenging—off-road, mobile fluid power spans a wide range of equipment, with large variance in operational requirements. Low production volumes for individual equipment types makes the economics of R&D challenging for OEMs, and for customer payback periods.

The workshop highlighted that both new technologies and architecture concepts are of interest for OEMs—but they requie costly validation efforts. Cost increases without demonstrable operational savings are a barrier to adoption. A modular approach to leverage technologies across multiple applications could serve as a solution.

The workshop attendees also observed that the integration of fluids, materials and component design to improve efficiency will require component and system-level development, as well as standardized test method for the consistent measurement of performance.

For the new funding opportunity, DOE anticipates that technologies for efficiency improvement will include, but are not limited to, new system architectures, energy storage, engineered fluid properties, advanced materials, engine technologies, and hybridization.

DOE anticipates making approximately 2-3 awards under this FOA.



A market standard or preferred performance and design library as described should lead to cheaper mass produced product and encourage innovation as proposed must be a good thing especially with today's focus on energy efficient design.


We are a relatively low volume manufacturer of special agricultural machinery and use a mix of hydraulic and servo electric drives. Currently, the wheel motors use hydraulic drives but I expect that in the future we will go electric for the wheel drives but we may still use some hydraulic cylinder actuation. Anyway, the electric drives are considerably more efficient than the hydraulic drives and we already use only about 1/2 the fuel that our competitors use.


I guess appropriate technology outcomes have a wide range of considerations.

Energy efficiency vs simplicity especially when many machine workshops can produce and maintain components that meet reliability requirements with a lower technology. If the hydraulics are used rarely or intermittently and can utilise a recuperative power source that could go a way to compliment low emission technology.
Presume the hyd hub motors and many of the applications you mention are working at high duty cycles and so require constant intensive energy input meaning the saving potential is also high from electric. .
One with place where work is wasted unproductively as high grade heat sic on many vehicles is the shock absorber. There are designs for electricity generation at that location but again there is the question of technology level.

Stepper motors and electronic drives and associated drive options have expanded into high power applications opening up many possibilities but one downside is that this means the ongoing reliance on a supply chain with many high tech so higher cost areas.

I take your point the rules applying to thermodynamics physics cant just be dreamt away.

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