Washington — The U.S. Energy Department said Wednesday it is awarding $45 million in 38 grants to accelerate the research and development of vehicle technologies to improve fuel efficiency and lower transportation costs — including several awards to Detroit’s Big Three automakers.
Articel provided by: Detroit News
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“By partnering with universities, private industry and our national labs, the Energy Department is helping to build a strong 21st century transportation sector that cuts harmful pollution, creates jobs and leads to a more sustainable energy future,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “By improving the fuel economy of our cars and trucks, we can save families and businesses money at the pump and better protect our air and water.”
The Army is contributing an additional $3 million in co-funding to support projects focused on lightweighting and propulsion materials, batteries, fuels and lubricants. “Working with the Energy Department, we are accelerating the development and deployment of cutting-edge technologies to strengthen our military, economy, and energy security,” said Dr. Paul Rogers, director the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.
The 38 projects span five major areas critical to advanced transportation technologies:
» Advanced lightweighting and propulsion materials (15 projects; $10.2 million): Next generation lightweight materials can reduce passenger car weight by up to 50 percent, the Energy Department said. Reducing a vehicle’s weight by 10 percent can improve fuel economy by 6 to 8 percent. These projects will conduct research on lightweight materials — such as advanced high-strength steel, magnesium and aluminum — that allow vehicle manufacturers to include electric drive components, electronic systems and emissions control equipment without increasing vehicle weight.
» Advanced batteries (13 projects; $22.5 million): In the last four years, the cost of a plug-in electric vehicle battery has come down by nearly 50 percent, the Energy Department said. The awards will help improve cell chemistry and composition, develop advanced electrolytes and create new battery design tools.
» Power electronics (Four projects; $8 million): Compared to silicon-based technologies, wide bandgap semiconductors can operate at higher temperatures, have greater durability and reliability, and can lower the cost and improve performance of plug-in electric vehicle inverters. New approaches to enable high-temperature operation and cost reduction for capacitors in these inverters will also help to reduce the cost of vehicle power electronics.
» Advanced heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (Two projects; $4 million): Reducing impact of heating and cooling on plug-in electric vehicles can significantly increase all-electric driving range. These projects are focused on developing new heating and cooling technologies that reduce battery demands and improve range by 20 to 30 percent.
» Fuels and lubricants (Four projects; $2.5 million): These projects will develop advanced fuels and lubricants that can reduce friction losses and increase the efficiency of cars already on the market and next generation passenger vehicles .
The awards to automakers include: $1.5 million to Ford Motor Co. and $1.3 million to General Motors Co. to develop a new welding technique of aluminum to advanced high strength steel. GM’s project will conducted at its Warren research center and Ford’s in Dearborn. Chrysler Group LLC won nearly $600,000 to join die cast magnesium to aluminium alloys and mild and high strength steel.
Ford separately won $350,000 for a project to adapt lubricant technologies from turbo machinery for other axle applications. Delphi Corp. won $1.7 million to develop a phase change heating system for vehicles to reduce energy used for cabin heating in EVs, while Van Buren Township-based Halla Visteon Climate Control won $2.3 million to develop an efficient heating and cooling heat pump system to reduce battery power.
Michigan State’s Composite Vehicle Research Center won $600,000 to demonstrate bonding, repairability and reassembly of materials using thermoplastic adhesives, while the University of Michigan won $600,000 to measure how temperature changes affect advanced cast magnesium alloys.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, praised the awards.
“If we want to build the vehicles that will dominate the global marketplace in the decades to come, we must partner with American industry and researchers to push the envelope on automotive technologies,” Levin said. “These grants will help secure the future for U.S. auto makers and auto workers in a world that increasingly values fuel efficiency and advanced technology.”
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