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.