Thus, relatively small differences in the probability of research success or in the market penetration rate—both of which are difficult to estimate with certainty—result in large differences in estimates of overall benefits. Consequently, the panel cautions that the quantitative results presented in its report should be considered in the context of a range of potential outcomes, not as a precise prediction of the results and benefits of the research program.

SUMMARY OF DOE PROGRAM ON LIGHT-DUTY VEHICLE HYBRID TECHNOLOGY

DOE’s R&D on technologies for light-duty hybrid vehicles with ICE power trains is conducted under the auspices of the FCVT program in EERE. The mission of the FCVT program is to “develop more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly highway transportation technologies that enable America to use less petroleum” (DOE, 2005c, pp. 1-13). Within the broad context of the FCVT program, light-duty hybrids with gasoline or diesel-fueled ICE power trains are seen as a step on the transition pathway toward the ultimate goal of fuel-cell-powered vehicles running on hydrogen.

Because the FCVT program comprises much more than R&D for light-duty ICE hybrids, the panel’s first step in analyzing the materials received from DOE was to decide which parts of the program to include in its assessment. The FCVT budget for R&D related to passenger vehicles covers work on energy storage (high power energy storage, advanced battery development, and exploratory technology research), advanced power electronics and electric motors, materials (automotive lightweight materials and automotive propulsion materials), advanced combustion and fuels, and systems.1 The panel selected three of these areas on which to base its assessment: high power energy storage, automotive lightweight materials, and advanced combustion and fuels.

The reasons for selecting these three technical areas are twofold. First, in the panel’s judgment, these areas are concerned with critical technologies for more fuel-efficient light-duty vehicles. Second, they consistently received the largest share of the FCVT funding for passenger vehicles in FY02, when the FCVT program was initiated, through FY05.2 Over that 4-year period, high power energy storage received 20 to 22 percent of each year’s funding (a total of $69 million), automotive lightweight materials received 18 to 21 percent of annual funding (a total of $62 million), and advanced combustion and fuels received 25 to 30 percent of annual funding (a total of $88.5 million). DOE’s FY06 budget request indicates a continuing emphasis on these three technology areas.3

At the second panel meeting, DOE representatives questioned the panel’s decision to focus on three technology areas rather than on the entirety of EERE’s R&D on lightduty vehicles with ICE power trains. The panel considers its approach appropriate for the purposes of the present assessment, in which reduced fuel consumption is the metric of success. The technology areas selected are critical if light-duty hybrid vehicles are to achieve greater commercial success. DOE’s research in these three areas could result in faster and/or broader market penetration by hybrid vehicles, and important fuel savings could result.4 The panel sees DOE’s role as focused on high-risk R&D on critical technologies, while leaving to others relatively low-risk technology development and the integration of vehicle subsystems into a marketable product.

DOE PERFORMANCE GOALS AND PANEL ASSESSMENTS OF THE TECHNICAL AND MARKET RISKS

DOE and its industry partners have developed performance goals for activities under the FCVT program. These goals comprise target dates, technical characteristics, and cost. The panel identified this last factor as particularly important, because the biggest challenge to market acceptability of hybrid vehicles is likely to be the incremental vehicle cost of achieving adequate vehicle performance, safety, and durability. As noted in the recent review of the research program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership (NRC, 2005b), the cost savings projected to be attributable to the higher fuel mileage of HEVs will probably not offset the higher initial cost of the vehicle at foreseeable fuel prices. Thus, further cost reductions may be necessary for hybrid vehicles to gain widespread acceptance and have a significant impact on fleet fuel mileage. The following sections identify the relevant DOE performance goals and discuss the panel’s assessments of technical and market risk for each of the three technical areas identified earlier—namely, high power energy storage, automotive lightweight materials, and advanced combustion and fuels.5

1

Ed Wall, director DOE Office of FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies, “Prospective Benefits of DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Fossil Energy R&D Programs (Phase Two),” Presentation to the panel, October 3, 2005, Washington, D.C.

2

Ed Wall, director DOE Office of FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies, “Prospective Benefits of DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Fossil Energy R&D Programs (Phase Two),” Presentation to the panel, October 3, 2005, Washington, D.C.

3

The next largest budget category from FY02 through FY05 was advanced power electronics and electric motors, which received 16 to 17 percent of the budget each year (a total of $54 million). Other categories each received less than 10 percent of annual funding.

4

As discussed below, improvements in energy efficiency resulting from DOE’s program may be manifested in the marketplace as vehicle attributes that are even more attractive to the consumer than greater fuel economy.

5

The benefits of DOE’s R&D may extend to vehicles with conventional power trains.



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