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US invests $33.8m to develop advanced vehicle motors and drives

24 May, 2007

The US government and a group of industrial partners are to invest $33.8m over the coming three years to develop advanced electric motor and drive technologies for hybrid electric and fuel cell vehicles. The US Department of Energy (DOE) will contribute up to $19m towards the cost of five projects designed to support President George Bush’s "Twenty in Ten" plan, which aims to cut US petrol consumption by 20% within a decade by increasing the use of alternative and renewable sources of energy.

The goal of the projects is to cut the cost, weight, and size of electric drive and power conversion devices, while boosting vehicle efficiencies. They will focus on four areas: high-speed motors; integrated traction drive systems; high-temperature three-phase inverters; and bidirectional DC/DC converters:

º General Electric Global Research will get up to $3.4m from the DOE to develop high-speed electric motors. This work will focus on raising traction motor power densities and efficiencies, and cutting costs, by developing a motor with a peak power rating of at least 55kW, capable of operating at above 14,000 rpm. Team members include GE Motors and the University of Wisconsin.

º General Motors will get up to $7.9m to develop a combined traction motor and inverter. The aim is to cut costs, weight, and package volume, while raising efficiency. Team members include Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Ames National Laboratory, Arnold Magnetics, Encap Technologies, Isothermal Systems Research, and AVX.

º Delphi Automotive Systems will get up to $4.9m for research on high-temperature three-phase inverters, as part of a team that includes Dow Corning, GE Global Research, Argonne National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

º Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University of Blacksburg, Virginia will get up to $1.7m to develop an advanced softswitching inverter for cutting switching and power losses, as part of a team that includes Azure Dynamics, Powerex, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

º The US Hybrid Corporation will get up to $1.3m for work on a bidirectional DC/DC converter for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. This work will include a study to determine the optimum battery and DC-link voltages to boost efficiencies and cut costs. Team members include the University of Illinois, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"These projects will not only help alleviate our ‘addiction to oil’ but also play a critical role in accelerating commercialisation and making more clean and efficient alternative vehicles available to consumers," says Andy Karsner, assistant secretary in the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. "Not only will more alternative vehicles on the road help reduce our reliance on imported sources of energy, it’s also critical to confronting climate change."

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