BOX 3–6 Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles

The Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) was formed in 1993 with three goals: (1) develop by 2004 production-prototype, midsize sedans with up to 80 mpg while meeting all regulated emission requirements, (2) improve U.S. competitiveness in manufacturing technology, and (3) implement as soon as possible improvements in conventional vehicle efficiency and emissions. The participants in the partnership are DOE, the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) (Ford, GM, and DaimlerChrysler), the national laboratories, automotive suppliers, and universities.

DOE was expected to concentrate on long-range, high-risk, more basic research while industry participants carried out the applied development of actual products. The DOE to date has spent about $600 million, with a nominal 50 percent in matching funds from industry. There has been large in-house additional private funding by the car manufacturers.

In 2000, a significant milestone was reached when the three car manufacturers demonstrated concept cars with fuel economies of 70 to 80 mpg and most of the performance, comfort, and convenience of current vehicles. However, they did not reach the affordability and emissions goals of the program. A principal feature of these concept cars was a hybrid power train comprising a small diesel engine and an electric propulsion motor working in parallel.

Hybrid diesel or gasoline engine power trains are now ready for production except for problems with cost and, in the case of diesel engines, emissions. However, the manufacturers are proceeding with plans to market vehicles using hybrid power trains in some market segments (mostly sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks) in the next 3 or 4 years. These vehicles are not expected to have 80 mpg but rather will have 10 to 40 percent improvements in fuel economy over comparable conventional vehicles. Their market penetration remains to be seen.

Fuel cell vehicles have been the subject of intense R&D. They would significantly reduce emissions but have serious problems remaining, both technical and economic. The fuel supply and preparation are also still uncertain, affecting overall efficiency and the required infrastructure.

PNGV has had very few realized benefits of any kind to date. However, it could save a huge amount of petroleum consumption if overall success is achieved, a significant benefit even if the other goals are only partially attained. The price of these petroleum consumption benefits is liable to be of negative economic benefit to the nation, since PNGV vehicles will probably cost more than conventional vehicles. From the experience of PNGV, it is clear that partnerships of DOE with industry can be very beneficial, with joint selection and guidance of a portfolio of projects, including early consideration of marketing issues and the appropriate termination of projects showing inadequate progress toward goals.

are using them in other applications (as Army tank auxiliary power units and turbogenerators, respectively).

  • Structural ceramics for automotive turbines (1978 through 1997; $100 million). This program supported the automotive gas turbine development efforts and was terminated at the same time. Some of the ceramic materials research was transferred to OIT and continues today. The industry has benefited from the research on designing with ceramics, processing techniques, and joining technologies.

  • Ultracapacitor energy storage (1990 through 1997; $7 million). This research was terminated because the cost of the materials (ruthenium oxide) needed to make high-power capacitors was not potentially competitive with alternatives in the high-volume auto market. Also, competing high-power energy storage technologies based on batteries offered more promise. The developers continued ultracapacitor development for application in power electronics and stationary energy storage, among other uses.

  • Flywheel electromechanical energy storage (1993 through 1996; $26 million). Flywheel work was terminated because of concerns about the safety of the high-speed rotors and because the stage of flywheel development was incompatible with the PNGV time frame for producing concept vehicles and prototypes. The flywheel developers have continued to attempt to commercialize them for stationary power storage such as for uninterruptible power systems and critical computer systems.

  • Diesel bottoming cycle (1970s through 1985). The research was discontinued because of the cost and complexity of the engine and auxiliary systems. In addition, competing enhancements to conventional diesel engines showed more promise for increasing power density, efficiency, and durability. The developers did not continue the research after DOE support was discontinued.

  • Electric vehicle program (1977 through 1990; $85 million). The research was discontinued because of the shift toward hybrid electric vehicle development. Electric vehicle battery research continued with the USABC, but DOE efforts to develop electric vehicle drive trains were halted. Ford, GM, and the other automotive companies continued electric vehicle development without further government funding and eventually offered them for sale in California and to fleet operators nationwide. Derivatives of some of the drive train components that were developed in the DOE program are used in those vehicles. General Motors discontinued production of its EV-1 electric vehicle in 2000 due to poor acceptance by the public (see case study “Advanced Batteries for Electric Vehicles” in Appendix E).

At the present time, PNGV is DOE’s largest effort in the transportation sector and is scheduled to continue until 2004. Hybrid electric power trains with either diesel or gasoline engines are being actively pursued as the near-term choice for highly efficient vehicles, and fuel cells (see Box 3–7) are

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