Scania and Siemens are teaming to develop hybrid trucks that draw electrical current conductively from overhead wires or inductively from energy-transmitting devices embedded in the road. “Full-scale demonstration of electrified road sections can quickly become a reality through this partnership,” Henrik Henriksson, Executive Vice President and head of Scania’s Sales and Marketing, said in a March 11 press release that contained few technical details. In 2012, the two companies displayed a mockup of a truck fitted with a catenary system like those used on some trams and trains. Siemens has been studying catenary technology as part of its eHighway concept, which it says involves three core components: diesel-electric hybrid technology, power supply via catenary lines and regenerative braking, and intelligently controllable pantographs for energy transmission.
SMILE FC System Corp. (“SMILE FC”), a joint venture between U.K.-based Intelligent Energy and Suzuki Motor Corp. has established a ready-to-scale production plant for its fuel-cell systems in Yokohama, Japan. The manufacturing center will be scaled up to supply fuel-cell stacks for integration with as-yet unnamed Suzuki vehicles. No information was available from Suzuki on its fuel-cell-vehicle plans, but an Intelligent Energy spokesman told AEI that work to date has focused on two-wheelers.The new production line marks the successful transfer of proven semi-automated production technology, developed and utilized by Intelligent Energy. Expected are reduced manufacturing and assembly costs, as well as improved cycle times and enhanced product quality. SMILE FC was created in February 2012 to develop and manufacture air-cooled fuel cell systems for a range of industry sectors including automotive. The joint venture provides Suzuki with access to Intelligent Energy’s air-cooled fuel-cell technology through partnering and licensing.
Suzuki and Intelligent Energy executives with a fuel-cell-powered Suzuki Burgman scooter cutaway, showing propulsion system components. Note the low-central location of the hydrogen storage pressure tank.
On an equivalent energy basis, motor gasoline (which contains up to 10% ethanol) was estimated to account for 99% of U.S. light-duty vehicle fuel consumption in 2012, according to new information released on the U.S. Energy Information Administration website. Over half of the remaining 1% was from diesel; all other fuels combined for less than half of 1%, according to the EIA. The widespread use of these fuels is largely explained by their energy density and ease of onboard storage, as no other fuels provide more energy within a given unit of volume. Compared to gasoline and diesel, other options may have more energy per unit weight, but none have more energy per unit volume.
The data points represent the energy content per unit volume or weight of the fuels themselves, not including the storage tanks or other equipment that the fuels require. For example, compressed-gaseous fuels require heavy storage tanks, while cooled fuels require equipment to maintain low temperature.
The Fuel Cell Technologies Office under the U.S. Department of Energy has issued a request for information (RFI) seeking feedback from stakeholders regarding proposed cost and durability targets for automotive fuel cells. The proposed cost targets are $40/kW for automotive fuel-cell system cost in 2020 and $30/kW in 2030. The proposed durability target is 5000 h (corresponding to about 150,000 mi/240,000 km). While the automotive industry represents a large market opportunity for fuel cells, further technological improvements are required to make them competitive with incumbent technologies, according to the RFI. The information obtained is to be used in refining already established targets. Feedback should address one or more of the following:
• Appropriateness of target values
• Comparison of targets to baseline and competing technologies (both gasoline internal-combustion engine and hybrid or other advanced systems)
• Status of fuel-cell technologies in comparison to targets
• Recommendations for testing conditions and protocols
• Assumptions used for targets and status (e.g., platinum loading and platinum price).
Comments are due by April 1 and must be provided as an attachment to an e-mail message addressed to: FCcosttargets@go.doe.gov.
With the expectation of launching "the world's first affordable, mass-market fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs)" as early as 2017, Daimler, Ford, and Nissan on Jan. 28 announced an agreement to work together in that cause. Specifically the automakers will collaborate on a common fuel-cell stack and related propulsion technologies, with the aim of reducing development time and costs. Each company will invest equally towards the project. Together, the automakers have more than 60 years of experience developing FCEVs. Their FCEV demonstrators have logged more than 10 million km (6.2 million mi) globally in real-world customer testing. The common powertrains ultimately will be used in highly differentiated, separately branded FCEVs. According to the companies the collaboration, which follows a similar recent announcement by BMW and Toyota, "sends a clear signal to suppliers, policymakers, and the industry to encourage further development of hydrogen refueling stations and other infrastructure necessary to allow the vehicles to be mass-marketed."
FCEV demonstrators from Daimler, Ford, and Nissan have logged more than 10 million km (6.2 million mi) in customer test-drive programs.
In what they term a "strategic partnership," bearing maker SKF will provide "critical components" to Protean Electric for the latter's in-wheel electric drive technology. The five-year agreement also calls for the companies to "look at additional new areas of collaboration for the hybrid and electric vehicle market." The initial focus of the partnership will be on a custom-designed SKF wheel bearing system with integrated sealing and sensors developed specifically for Protean. The bearing system is engineered to optimize performance of the in-wheel motor, which operates in a harsh environment. Protean claims its technology offers superior regenerative braking performance—energy recovery of up to 85%, among other attributes.
Protean Electric says its in-wheel motor with micro inverters has a mass of 31 kg (68 lb) and generates 81 kW and 800 N·m—"powerful enough for hybrid, PHEV, or used as the only source of traction drive for EV applications."
The number of patents and patent applications related to automotive alternative powertrains has increased dramatically in the past few years, according to a report by Thomson Reuters. Published patent applications and granted patents for alt-powered vehicles totaled 22,255 in 2011, the last year for which figures were available. In comparison, the total for vehicle and engine design in 2011 was 15,301, second most on the list of 10 technology areas. In 2006, the first year covered in the report, vehicle engine and design led the patent and patent-applications list with 12,346, with alt-powered vehicles in fourth place at 7904. The increase for alternative-powered vehicles over the study period was 182%; for vehicle engine and design it was 24%. Behind alternative-powered vehicles and vehicle engine and design in the patents race for 2011 were vehicle navigation (13,221), seats, seatbelts, and airbags (11,204), safety systems (10,829), transmission systems (7569), suspension systems (7383), steering systems (6776), security systems (5777), and braking systems (5525).
Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system (shown here in the 2013 Avalon Hybrid) presumably accounted for a significant number of the automaker's 1901 published patent applications and granted patents in 2011.
Cars being driven on battery power represent a danger to pedestrians—especially the blind and visually impaired—because the vehicles produce no engine noise. To mitigate that danger, NHTSA (U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) will require that electrified vehicles emit sound at low speed (less than 18 mph). The regulation is only a proposal at this time, and the agency will seek public comment once it is published in the Federal Register (FR). Publication in the FR is when a proposal becomes official, and it typically follows by a week or so a less formal announcement (press release and unofficial version of the proposal) by NHTSA of its intentions on a particular subject. As proposed unofficially by NHTSA on Jan. 7, this rule would spell out minimum requirements for sound, but give vehicle makers flexibility in engineering it. An act of Congress requires that the agency issue a final sound regulation no later than Jan. 4, 2014, and that it be phased in over several years.
Annual global sales of electrified vehicles will reach 3.8 million by 2020, Pike Research forecasts in a new report. The company, part of Navigant's Energy Practice, projects the compound annual growth rate for hybrid vehicles at 6% for the remainder of the decade. The growth rate for PEVs—which include full electric vehicles (also called battery electric vehicles, or BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs—is projected at nearly 40%. That compares to a growth rate for the overall auto industry of about 2%, according to Pike. It believes PHEVs will outsell EVs in North America and Latin America, while the reverse will be the case in most other regions.
Ford says the 2013 Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid electric vehicle will deliver more than 100 mpg-equivalent.
IAV Automotive Engineering expects to continue experiencing strong growth in U.S. next year and will hire an additional 40 engineers to do so. The company recently announced that sales have increased by more than 50% every year since 2009, when it opened its new headquarters in Northville, MI. For 2013, it expects revenues to have quadrupled since 2010. Part of the global IAV Group, IAV Automotive Engineering is an engineering consultancy serving the automotive industry. It received an AEI Tech Award (click here to see article) earlier this year for its work in hybrid powertrain research.