2
Overall Evaluation

The R&D plan for the OAAT, Energy Efficient Technologies for 21st Century Vehicles, is a long-range planning document that addresses research needs for the development of energy-efficient light vehicles (DOE, 1997). The plan comprises four main sections: (1) Introduction; (2) Goal and Objectives; (3) Technical Plan; and (4) Management Plan. The technical plan is divided into eight sections, one section on vehicle systems and seven sections on individual technology areas, namely, advanced engines, fuel cells, high power energy storage, power electronics and electric machines, advanced automotive materials, alternative fuels, and electric vehicle batteries. R&D proposed for the technical areas will be conducted primarily by industry and the national laboratories, although small businesses and universities will also have an opportunity to participate. The committee's detailed assessment of the technical plan and related recommendations are provided in Chapter 3. The present chapter provides the committee's comments on the overall plan, as well as on the specific items in the statement of task, namely, goals and objectives, assumptions, potential benefits, strategies for overcoming technical barriers, metrics for measuring progress, priorities, and resource allocation and management in light of budget uncertainties. The chapter concludes with recommendations for improving the plan.

General Comments

The committee considers the OAAT R&D Plan (the plan) to be a commendable effort with the potential to result in long-term benefits to the United States in terms of reducing petroleum consumption and the adverse environmental effects from automobiles. In the committee's view, much of the research described in the



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 14
--> 2 Overall Evaluation The R&D plan for the OAAT, Energy Efficient Technologies for 21st Century Vehicles, is a long-range planning document that addresses research needs for the development of energy-efficient light vehicles (DOE, 1997). The plan comprises four main sections: (1) Introduction; (2) Goal and Objectives; (3) Technical Plan; and (4) Management Plan. The technical plan is divided into eight sections, one section on vehicle systems and seven sections on individual technology areas, namely, advanced engines, fuel cells, high power energy storage, power electronics and electric machines, advanced automotive materials, alternative fuels, and electric vehicle batteries. R&D proposed for the technical areas will be conducted primarily by industry and the national laboratories, although small businesses and universities will also have an opportunity to participate. The committee's detailed assessment of the technical plan and related recommendations are provided in Chapter 3. The present chapter provides the committee's comments on the overall plan, as well as on the specific items in the statement of task, namely, goals and objectives, assumptions, potential benefits, strategies for overcoming technical barriers, metrics for measuring progress, priorities, and resource allocation and management in light of budget uncertainties. The chapter concludes with recommendations for improving the plan. General Comments The committee considers the OAAT R&D Plan (the plan) to be a commendable effort with the potential to result in long-term benefits to the United States in terms of reducing petroleum consumption and the adverse environmental effects from automobiles. In the committee's view, much of the research described in the

OCR for page 14
--> plan is likely to be valuable, whether or not the ultimate goals and objectives in the plan are achieved. Cost-benefit issues relating to the development of advanced automotive technologies are discussed later in the context of potential benefits. Choice of Technologies Technologies that could reduce petroleum consumption in personal automotive transportation are being thoroughly evaluated within the framework of an overall plan. The committee recognizes that the OAAT did not have complete control over which technologies were included in the plan; some were inherited from pre-existing programs, and some were included in response to congressional mandates. Nevertheless, the choice of technologies in the plan is generally consistent with assessments by other organizations (see, for example, OTA, 1995). The technologies that were omitted are generally considered less likely to be successful or are already being developed in the private sector (for example, steam engines, rotary engines, spark-ignited engines with variable valve timing, engines that run on liquefied petroleum gas, and continuously variable transmissions). The committee is not aware of any additional technologies with high promise that require OAAT funding. Research and Development Partnerships The partnership approach to R&D outlined in the plan brings together the major automobile companies, suppliers, national laboratories, universities, the U.S. Department of Energy, and other federal government agencies to develop precompetitive automotive technologies. In the committee's view, the partnership agreements—including the sharing of program costs—are highly desirable because they concentrate the talents, motivations, and resources of the various partners on the OAAT goal and objectives. Therefore, the committee strongly supports the overall partnership concept embraced by OAAT. In the course of product realization—from basic scientific research through the various phases of engineering to production and marketing—the appropriate roles of government and industry must be defined and adhered to. In the committee's view, private industry is unlikely to conduct most of the research on advanced automotive technologies described in the plan without government encouragement and support because of the high technical risk, the long time lag before benefits are likely to be realized, and the lack of market incentive. (For example, consumers attach little importance to fuel efficiency as long as fuel prices are low.) Nevertheless, the potential benefits to society could be significant. Therefore, government involvement, especially in the early stages of preproprietary research and engineering development, will be necessary. However, as the commercialization of a product approaches, the government role will no longer be necessary, and private industry should take over. Developing

OCR for page 14
--> production prototypes, manufacturing the product, and marketing are obvious roles for industry, which has considerably more expertise and experience than the federal government in these areas. Commercial—as well as societal—benefits also come into play in the manufacturing and marketing stages. The dividing line between government and industry roles in technology development is not easy to define and becomes even less distinct when industry and government share the associated costs. The committee suggests that the OAAT approach this ''grey area'' very carefully. In the committee's judgment, the OAAT plan assigns an inappropriate role to government in some technology areas where industry is either already doing proprietary work on its own (e.g., ethanol-fueled vehicles and CIDI engines) or is likely to undertake proprietary work in the expectation of a return on its investment. Nevertheless, the committee considers that the funding and coordination of precompetitive R&D by the OAAT are important for the overall success of developing high-risk automotive technologies with high potential payoffs. Scope of the Program and Relationship to Other Programs In the committee's view, the relationship of the OAAT program and the PNGV program should be clarified in the plan. The OAAT should explain that more than 85 percent of its program is implemented in PNGV and that most of the rest is implemented in USABC. OAAT should then explain who directs the R&D and how. OAAT goals and objectives that differ from those of other programs must be clarified. For example, the PNGV Goal 3 is to develop vehicles with "up to three times the fuel efficiency of comparable 1994 sedans" (generally said to be 80 miles per gallon [mpg]). The corresponding OAAT objective is to develop and validate "automotive technologies which will enable the achievement of 80 mpg in a six-passenger sedan." The OAAT should explain why the words "up to" were omitted, given that vehicles with fuel efficiencies of 40 or 60 mpg would considerably reduce petroleum consumption. The PNGV program is scheduled to end in 2004 with the development of production prototype vehicles, and the OAAT plan covers the five years from 1997 through 2001. It is not clear from the plan what will happen between 2001 and 2004 or how the OAAT plan relates to technical targets and objectives of PNGV after 2001. The scope of the OAAT plan includes "automobiles and light trucks (pickups, mini-vans, and sport utility vehicles) under 8,500 lb. GVW [gross vehicle weight]."1 However, the plan does not directly address light trucks. The experience of committee members has shown that there are significant differences in the targets and technologies for passenger cars and light trucks. This opinion is supported by a statement from the NRC Standing Committee to Review the 1   Light vehicles are defined as passenger vehicles and light trucks under 8,500 lb. GVW in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency's system of vehicle classification.

OCR for page 14
--> Research Program of the PNGV, "As decisions to narrow the technology focus are made, care must be taken not to discard technologies that are not suited for a midsized car but are capable of providing improvements that meet Goal 3 requirements in a different segment of the light-duty vehicle fleet." By the same token, some technologies suited for midsize cars may not meet the requirements for light trucks. Consequently, the OAAT plan must either address the requirements for light trucks specifically or eliminate them from the plan. The committee believes eliminating them would be a serious mistake, however, because light trucks, many of which are heavier and consume more fuel than most passenger cars, have become an important part of the market.2 In the course of its assessment of CIDI engine technologies (see Chapter 3), the committee determined that DOE's Office of Heavy Vehicle Technologies (OHVT) has a CIDI program for the sport utility market. A better explanation of how R&D in the OHVT relates to R&D in the OAAT would be helpful for the reader. The committee acknowledges that the strategic plan of DOE's Office of Transportation Technologies (OTT), within which the OAAT is located, addresses some issues related to fuel supply and infrastructure for advanced technology vehicles (DOE, 1996b). However, omitting these issues from the OAAT plan raises some concerns because problems in these areas could be "showstoppers" for some technologies, especially for alternative fuels and electric vehicles. Therefore, fuel supply and infrastructure must be taken into consideration in OAAT's systems studies. Goals and Objectives The committee recognizes that DOE's goal of increasing energy productivity would strengthen the U.S. economy and improve living standards; reduce the country's vulnerability to sudden changes in energy prices and supplies; and reduce the adverse environmental effects associated with energy production, delivery, and use. The committee also acknowledges the desirability of slowing the rate of growth of petroleum consumption, provided this can be done without serious adverse effects. In the committee's judgment, the possible adverse economic, social, and other consequences of reducing the rate of growth of petroleum consumption could outweigh the benefits, depending on how the reduction was accomplished. Energy productivity would be increased if the level of today's transportation services from petroleum-fueled vehicles could be maintained using less petroleum, notably by increasing vehicle efficiency. In addition, the rate of growth of 2   Total U.S. sales of new light trucks (including sport utility vehicles) increased from about 20 percent of the passenger automobile and light truck market in 1976 to about 40 percent in 1994 (DOE, 1996a). Preliminary sales data indicate that the market share for new light trucks in 1997 had increased to 46 percent (Automotive News, 1997).

OCR for page 14
--> petroleum use would decrease if alternative fuels or electric vehicles came into widespread use. Therefore, the OAAT has set a goal of researching, developing, and validating technologies that will enable the introduction to the domestic market of vehicles with several times the fuel efficiency of current, comparable conventional vehicles and/or alternative fuel sources.3 Advanced technology vehicles will have to meet all future emissions standards and will have to be competitive with conventional vehicles in other ways. In the committee's view, these are commendable goals although the probability of success appears to be small, at least within the time frame defined in the plan. (The target is an 80 mpg, six-passenger sedan that could be successfully marketed by 2008.) The performance goals alone represent severe challenges, and the likelihood of success from a marketing standpoint will be small unless conventional vehicles become much more costly to purchase and operate than they are today. This opinion is supported by the findings and conclusions of the NRC Standing Committee to Review the Research Program of the PNGV, which noted that "there continues to be a wide gulf between the current status of system and subsystem development and the performance necessary to meet major PNGV milestones" (NRC, 1997). The PNGV review committee also concluded that, when incorporated into a vehicle "none of the energy converters/power trains will come close to meeting the cost objectives within the time frame of the PNGV program." The PNGV Goal 3 (up to 80 mpg) is less demanding than the corresponding OAAT objective (80 mpg) in a six-passenger sedan. The goal of the PNGV is to develop production prototype vehicles by 2004. The OAAT goal includes a requirement that vehicles be fuel flexible, apparently to allow the use of alternative fuels. In the committee's judgment, this requirement is ill-advised if it applies to individual vehicles, although it would be helpful for the overall transportation system to be fuel flexible so that alternative fuels could gradually meet more of the demand. Individual fuel-flexible vehicles would have advantages in a time of transition from gasoline to alternative fuels but would make meeting all other performance requirements more difficult. Attaining the high performance needed to meet the challenging fuel efficiency goal and other targets will be less difficult if individual vehicles are optimized for a well defined and well refined fuel. Electric vehicles are not addressed specifically in the OAAT goal, although they are included in the objectives and technical plan. Several terms in the OAAT's stated goal for fuel efficiency (80 mpg) should be changed. "Cost" is a better term than "price" because price is determined by many nontechnical factors. ''Fuel efficiency" is less ambiguous than ''fuel economy," particularly in reference to alternative fuels. "Gasoline equivalent fuel consumption per mile" might be even better because it provides a better perspective 3   Alternative fuels include ethanol, compressed natural gas (CNG), dimethyl ether, and, in the case of electric vehicles, coal and nuclear fuel.

OCR for page 14
--> on energy productivity than targets expressed in mpg.4 For example, reducing fuel consumption by going from 50 mpg to 100 mpg would save only half as much fuel as going from 25 mpg to 50 mpg. The plan should include a preamble to the objectives explaining that fuel efficiency numbers refer to a six-passenger sedan as a test bed for the advanced technologies but that the technologies (with some adaptations) could be applicable to other light vehicles under 8,500 lb. GVW, for which the numbers for fuel efficiency would be different. As the committee noted earlier, the plan should be changed to include a list of the target fuel efficiencies for light vehicles other than automobiles and a discussion of the differences in technology requirements for light trucks and automobiles. The terms "commercially viable," "could be successfully marketed," and "could be marketed" used in the OAAT objectives must be defined better. It is not clear whether or not the three expressions are synonymous. In the committee's view, the expression ''technically capable of being marketed'' might be more appropriate in all three cases. Even this phrase should be qualified unless fuel procurement and infrastructure requirements, which are not included in the plan, are taken into account in system studies to define marketability. The committee agrees that dates when performance goals will be achieved should be specified but has concerns about using dates to specify when vehicles will be "capable of being marketed." Dates when the marketing becomes feasible are beyond OAAT's control and depend on the timing of a variety of market factors coming into play. In this context, a report from the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) notes that the extent to which a U.S. technological lead in advanced automotive technologies will be translated into early commercialization "will depend on future government policies as well as how the vehicles perform and how much they cost relative to steadily improving conventional vehicles of the same generation" (OTA, 1995).5 An important criterion for marketability is cost competitiveness, but it is impossible to predict when the price of gasoline or diesel fuel will rise to the level that would make advanced technology vehicles cost competitive. As OTA noted, "the cost effectiveness of fuel economy technologies and customer preference for efficient vehicles will vary with gasoline prices." The dates for meeting the 80 mpg and 100 mpg performance targets and for marketing the associated technologies in the Executive Summary and the Goal and Objectives section of the plan differ. For example, the Executive Summary refers to the development and validation "by 2004" of technologies that will 4   The energy content of gasoline is generally influenced by the energy content of additives present in significant volumes, such as oxygenates. Any determination of gasoline equivalent fuel consumption needs to take into account the variability in energy content due to additives. 5   Future government policies might address air quality and potential global climate change through revised emissions standards.

OCR for page 14
--> enable the achievement of 80 mpg in a six-passenger sedan that could be successfully marketed by the year 2008. The Goal and Objectives section of the plan makes no reference to the milestone in 2004, although it does refer to the 2008 milestone for successful marketing. Similarly, a milestone in 2011 (in the Executive Summary) for the development and validation of technologies that "use non-petroleum-based fuels and achieve zero emissions while obtaining 100 mpg" does not appear in the Goal and Objectives section. The committee considers objectives relating to technology development and validation to be more relevant to the OAAT plan than objectives relating to marketability, which is out of OAAT control and strongly dependent on a range of market factors. Thus, the omission of the technology development and validation milestones from the Goal and Objectives section of the plan should be rectified. The plan includes separate objectives relating to the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) and ethanol as alternative fuels. The objective for CNG refers to the use of this fuel in conventional automobiles "to achieve full range and performance capability by 1999," although no target is specified for fuel economy.6 In the committee's opinion, reductions in CNG refueling costs and the convenient availability of quality fuel are more critical for market penetration than vehicle range. The objective for ethanol requires "80 mpg (gasoline equivalent) in demonstration automobiles by 2008." Given that at least two automotive companies are already producing ethanol-fueled vehicles that use substantially less petroleum than conventional vehicles, the committee does not believe the OAAT should be pursuing incremental improvements in vehicle performance. (These concerns are addressed in detail in the section of Chapter 3 on alternative fuels.) Dimethyl ether (DME) is not mentioned explicitly in the objectives although technology relating to its use is included in the section of the technical plan on alternative fuels. Assumptions The plan implies that industry will determine when advanced technology vehicles will be marketed. The underlying assumption is that something, somehow, some time will produce a "market pull" that will enable advanced technology vehicles to be commercialized. The basis of this assumption is not stated, but it appears to involve a significant rise in petroleum prices either as the result of a world shortage or some other political or economic event, or because of increased concerns about the environmental impact of air pollution and global climate change. Thus, advanced technology vehicles, which are likely to be more costly than current conventional vehicles, might become cost competitive at some time in the future. 6   The absence of a fuel economy target for CNG-fueled vehicles appears to be inconsistent with the goal of achieving "several times the fuel economy of current, comparable conventional vehicles."

OCR for page 14
--> The committee's experience indicates that most readers of the plan are likely to conclude that the term "cost competitive," which is used throughout the plan, means competitive with today's comparable conventional vehicles. PNGV Goal 3 targets a total cost of ownership and operation comparable to the cost of a 1994 family sedan when adjusted for economics. The OAAT plan is less explicit about cost targets, referring to light vehicles with "attributes, such as price, that render them competitive with conventional products." In the committee's view, almost every technology in the plan is likely to increase the cost of the vehicle, in some cases significantly. A statement in the body of the plan explains that "competitive cost" means "competitive at the time the vehicles are marketed." Therefore, the committee interpreted "competitive cost" to mean that the overall cost of ownership and operation of an advanced vehicle over the vehicle life would be equal to or less than the cost of a conventional vehicle at some given date in the future. In the committee's view, the term "cost competitive" should be explained clearly prior to the discussion of the technical plan to avoid the misconception that advanced technology vehicles are likely to be cost competitive with comparable conventional vehicles in today's market. The economics of synthetic fuel production provide a useful analogy. Synthetic fuels have the potential to be cost competitive if petroleum prices rise because of disruptions in the supply, as they did during the oil crisis of the 1970s. However, synthetic fuels are not cost competitive with petroleum at today's prices, despite considerable efforts to improve production technology and reduce costs. Potential Benefits In the committee's view, the National Needs section of the plan provides a satisfactory description of the potential benefits to society of advanced automotive technologies. However, a prioritization of the benefits would be helpful. The plan should state whether reducing petroleum consumption is the major focus or whether energy efficiency, economics, air pollution from hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and oxides of nitrogen, and global climate change are equally important. The distinction is important because advanced technologies may have different effects on overall energy consumption and emissions over the fuel cycle and may also increase costs. The plan should also acknowledge that benefits are subject to diminishing returns as technologies are refined and that reductions in petroleum consumption resulting from gains in fuel efficiency could be overwhelmed by the increase in vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Records show that VMT has increased for all vehicle classes in the United States, and continued increases in VMT are projected for the next 20 years, although at a slower rate than during the period from 1970 through 1993 (DOE, 1996b). Fuel efficiency gains are likely to be offset some-

OCR for page 14
--> what by an increase in VMT in response to the lower net fuel cost per mile.7 The different time frames for reductions in petroleum consumption and the possible environmental benefits of advanced automotive technologies should also be discussed. In this context, distinguishing between air pollution and global climate change would be helpful for clarifying their short-term and long-term characteristics and their relative priorities. Although the National Needs section of the plan identifies benefits that could accrue from the implementation of advanced automotive technologies, it does not include a discussion of related costs. In the committee's view, a discussion of cost-benefit issues would enhance the credibility of the plan and create realistic expectations about advantages and costs. Unfortunately, projections of petroleum prices have been notoriously unreliable in the past and will probably remain so in the future. The future need for advanced automotive technologies and the costs of those technologies are uncertain. Developing technologies as an insurance policy against future needs is a legitimate pursuit, but the costs of this insurance policy must be weighed against the likelihood of the need. In the committee's opinion, the potential impact on the U.S. economy of disruptions in petroleum supplies, the potential costs of air pollution and global climate change, and the relatively modest costs of the proposed R&D, justify the OAAT plan as an insurance policy. One point that is not adequately addressed in the plan is that a higher than "competitive" cost for advanced automotive technologies might be justified by the societal benefits, such as less air pollution, a reduced threat of global climate change, enhanced national security, or a lower trade deficit. There is a strong likelihood that, unless petroleum prices rise or there are other market incentives, the plan's goal for cost competitiveness may not be achieved within the time frame of the plan, or in the foreseeable future thereafter. Nevertheless, some societal benefits of advanced automotive technologies could be provided immediately. Important environmental benefits, for example, could be gotten for incremental increases in cost. The American public is already paying for certain air pollution controls and safety features that are included in the price of automobiles.8 The public must be convinced, however, that the social benefits justify further increases in cost. Determining how much of an increase in vehicle cost is justified on the basis of societal benefits is a public policy issue that falls beyond the scope of OAAT's mandate. Nevertheless, some mention of cost-benefit issues in the plan would put the proposed R&D in a broader social context and would be particularly helpful for those responsible for making public policy decisions. 7   As the price of gasoline increases and the cost per mile of transportation services rises, consumers respond by reducing miles traveled (NRC, 1992). 8   Estimates of anticipated price increases for new cars as a result of Tier I emissions controls to meet the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 vary widely from a few hundred dollars to $1,600 per car (NRC, 1992).

OCR for page 14
--> Strategies for Overcoming Technical Barriers The committee found that the structure of the technical plan was excellent, with a logical flow from goals and objectives to technical targets and barriers to proposed technical approaches, which encompass technical tasks, milestones, and Go/No Go decision points. The technical barriers are particularly well identified throughout the plan and, with a few exceptions, accurately identify the most significant hurdles to development in each technology area. The barriers appear to be suitably prioritized, at least in terms of inclusion (or not) in the plan. In presentations to the committee (see Appendix B), DOE representatives indicated that the barriers are listed in order of importance for each technology, but this is not explained in the plan. Defining barriers and establishing targets, however, do not by themselves constitute a meaningful R&D plan. Although the technical barriers are well defined, the strategies for overcoming them vary considerably. In some cases, the technical approaches do not identify courses of action but simply repeat the barrier in different words. For example, "seeking lower cost material" is not a satisfactory description of a technical approach to overcoming the barrier of high-cost materials. In other cases, the approach details activities rather than defines a strategy. For the plan to be credible, specific courses of action must be identified, especially for overcoming technical barriers that have persisted for many years despite considerable efforts to overcome them. If strategies for overcoming barriers are not available, OAAT might request proposals from the larger technical community (similar to requests issued by the NRC's Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis [IDEA] program). The IDEA program funds projects—each less than $100,000—for technology development and demonstration related to intelligent transportation systems, highways, and mass transit.9 A similar approach to overcoming the technical barriers defined in the OAAT R&D plan might result in some innovative solutions and nontraditional technologies. In general, the committee found that the subject of reducing the costs of the various technologies is not addressed adequately in the technical plan. The emphasis throughout is on performance (principally fuel efficiency), and few effective technical strategies are suggested for reducing costs (see further discussions in Chapter 3). However, cost will be a crucial factor in industry's decision to market advanced automotive technologies. Metrics for Measuring Progress The intermediate targets, milestones, and Go/No Go decision points provide an excellent set of metrics for measuring progress. The committee particularly 9   The NRC allocates project funds provided by the Highway Trust Fund through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

OCR for page 14
--> commends OAAT for including Go/No Go decision points. However, the criteria for determining if milestones have been met are not always clear. Nor is it clear how intermediate targets were set, in particular whether they correspond to a steady rate of progress, require breakthroughs, or reflect diminishing returns. The dates for meeting the intermediate targets differ from one technology to another, but the reasons for these differences are not explained. During discussions at the first committee meeting, representatives of OAAT explained that the technical targets are based on a combination of performance data and projections and will be refined as more data are generated. The evolving nature of the targets is not adequately described in the plan. The committee is also concerned that targets for various technologies are not always defined on the consistent basis necessary to facilitate comparisons of components that perform the same function but are based on different technologies. For example, the cost and efficiency of a fuel cell power plant should include the reformer (if used), motor, and other necessary accessories for comparison to the cost and efficiency of a CIDI engine and transmission. For the plan to be successful in the face of budget constraints, OAAT must establish specific criteria for making Go/No Go decisions and adhere to them. OAAT should specify actions that will be taken if fuel efficiency or other targets are not met, but progress toward meeting them has been made. Will significant progress that does not meet the targets trigger a No Go decision? Priorities The priorities of the various technologies are not evident in the plan. Without knowing what the priorities are, how they were derived, and the criteria on which they were based, the committee was unable to comment in detail on OAAT priorities, as requested in the statement of task. Nevertheless, the committee assumed that the inclusion or exclusion of specific technologies from the plan was indicative of general priorities. On this basis, the committee believes that most of the technology areas selected for further R&D are appropriate (see discussion in Chapter 3). During the oral presentations, OAAT representatives indicated to the committee that priorities are implied in the plans for individual technologies, notably in the ranking of technical barriers. The OAAT staff also informed the committee that prioritization across technologies will be part of the PNGV technology selection process for concept vehicles to be constructed by the year 2000, which will involve extensive discussions with interested parties. The committee recognizes that setting priorities, particularly across technology areas, is difficult and requires judgment. In some cases a lack of adequate data to support decisions adds to the difficulty, and priorities may need to be revised as more data are obtained. The committee recognizes that it may not be desirable to articulate priorities in the plan if they are likely to change more frequently than the rest of the plan. The

OCR for page 14
--> situation with budget levels is somewhat analogous. Because the plan is a long-range planning document, explicit budget levels are not defined in the plan. Nevertheless, the committee emphasizes that good management requires that OAAT establish clear priorities, even if they are not articulated in the written plan. Criteria that might be used to set priorities include potential payoffs, probabilities of success, levels of risk, whether a technology is on a critical path (a showstopper), and the likelihood that industry would develop the technology without government funding. The committee believes the development of improved systems analysis tools for assessing performance requirements and trade-offs would support the establishment of technically robust priorities. Vehicle systems R&D requirements are discussed in more detail in Chapter 3. Resource Allocation and Strategies for Managing the Plan The plan does not include budget figures to indicate the allocation of resources to different activities. The budget information in Table 2–1 was provided to the committee by the OAAT staff. The committee concluded that in FY 1997 about 86 percent of OAAT funds was expended in the PNGV program and about 14 percent in the USABC program. However, the OAAT funding comprises only part of the total funding for PNGV and USABC. Thus, the expenditures listed in the OAAT budget do not represent the total distribution of resources in the different technology areas and give an incomplete picture of OAAT's technology priorities. The OAAT budget request for FY 1998 showed a 17 percent increase over the total FY 1997 appropriations. Increases in individual technology areas were primarily for R&D on fuel cells, high power energy storage, and hybrid propulsion systems. A statement in the Preface declares that the plan, "is not tailored to explicit budget levels" although the activities described in the plan "have been conceived to be implemented within realistic, plausible budget levels." The plan also notes that "in the event that appropriated budget levels will not support all of the activities reflected in the plan, available funding will be concentrated on the highest-priority technical barriers in the development path of the subject technologies." No mention is made of prioritizing activities across technology areas, thereby suggesting that work would continue in all eight technology areas but at reduced levels. In the committee's judgment, the absence of clear priorities is a serious problem that could jeopardize the implementation of the plan within anticipated budget constraints. Priorities among the various technology areas and programs are necessary for the allocation of resources and the selection of technologies for further development, especially in the likely event of budget reductions. Extending timelines in the face of budget reductions is generally not a good practice, nor is a uniform, across-the-board percentage reduction, although both of these procedures may be acceptable temporary measures. A better practice in

OCR for page 14
--> TABLE 2-1 OAAT Budget Technology Area FY 1997 Appropriation Vehicle Systems   Hybrid propulsion systems (including analyses) 38,850 Advanced vehicle competitions 850 Subtotal 39,700 Advanced Heat Engines   Piston engines 7,600 Gas turbines 5,000 Propulsion system materials 6,500 Subtotal 19,100 Fuel Cells   Systems development 12,150 Component R&D 4,500 Reformer and storage 4,500 Subtotal 21,150 High Power Energy Storage   High power batteries 5,135 Ultracapacitors 2,165 Flywheels 700 Subtotal 8,000 Power Electronics and Electric Machines 3,000 Advanced Automotive Materials   Lightweight materials 13,871 Subtotal 13,871 Alternative Fuels 2,370 Electric Vehicle Battery   Advanced battery development 15,320 Exploratory technology research 2,500 Subtotal 17,820 TOTAL 125,011 most cases is to select projects for further work based on clear priorities and put others on hold or eliminate them. Another possibility would be to adjust industry's share of the costs. A refusal by industry to increase its cost share would be a clear indication of its judgment of the likely success and marketability of the technology. In their presentations to the committee, OAAT representatives indicated that decisions about priorities, technical barriers, and the directions of R&D are made after numerous discussions internally within DOE and, importantly, with representatives of industry and the national laboratories. The committee believes this approach is appropriate in view of the subjective nature of predicting technology development.

OCR for page 14
--> Recommendations Recommendation. The relationship between the OAAT R&D plan and the PNGV and USABC programs should be explained clearly in the plan, particularly with regard to the different goals and objectives, budgets, and responsibilities for program management. Recommendation. The OAAT should modify its R&D plan to recognize the benefits of the partial attainment of goals and objectives. Recommendation. The OAAT should seek to limit its funding of R&D to areas where industry is not already doing, or is not likely to do, proprietary work on its own. Recommendation. Because the OAAT plan includes R&D for "light trucks under 8,500 lb. GVW," the requirements and technical targets for these vehicles should be included in the plan. Recommendation. Requirements for fuel procurement and infrastructure should be included in systems studies and should be factored into decisions regarding the viability of the various advanced automotive technologies. Recommendation. The dates indicating when advanced technology vehicles could be marketed should be either eliminated from the plan or qualified to indicate that they depend on many unknown, nontechnical factors. Recommendation. To ensure that expectations of the cost competitiveness of advanced technology vehicles are realistic, the OAAT should clearly define "cost competitiveness" in terms of some future date when the overall costs of ownership and operation of comparable conventional vehicles might be considerably higher than they are today because of higher petroleum prices or new environmental regulations. Recommendation. The concept of developing advanced automotive technologies as an insurance policy against disruptions in oil supplies or more stringent environmental regulations should be clearly articulated. Cost-benefit issues and the time frames in which benefits (increased energy efficiency, reduced petroleum consumption, reduced air pollution, and reduced emissions of greenhouse gases) may be realized should be discussed in the plan. Recommendation. The OAAT should apply more effort to reducing the costs of advanced automotive technologies and should be more specific in explaining the technical approaches to cost reduction for individual technologies.

OCR for page 14
--> Recommendation. OAAT should define the technical approaches to achieving its objectives in terms of specific actions. Suggested approaches to overcoming technical barriers might be solicited from the larger technical community, particularly when innovations or nontraditional technologies are needed. Recommendation. To enhance the overall credibility of the plan, OAAT should do the following: clearly state the bases for the technical targets explain the proposed procedures for updating and refining targets as more data become available ensure that targets for the various technologies are defined consistently in terms of efficiencies and functional units Recommendation. To ensure implementation of the plan in the face of budget uncertainties, the OAAT should prioritize R&D both within and across technology areas. References Automotive News. 1997. Preliminary U.S. car and light-truck sales, model year 1997 vs. 1996. N5334:38. DOE (U.S. Department of Energy). 1996a. Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 16. Prepared by Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the DOE under Contract No. DE-AC05-96OR22464. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy. DOE. 1996b. Office of Transportation Technologies Strategic Plan. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy. DOE. 1997. Energy Efficient Technologies for 21st Century Vehicles: Research and Development Plan for the Office of Advanced Automotive Technologies. Final Draft, June 17, 1997. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy. NRC (National Research Council). 1992. Automotive Fuel Economy: How Far Should We Go? Energy Engineering Board. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. NRC. 1997. Review of the Research Program of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, Third Report. Board on Energy and Environmental Systems and Transportation Research Board. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. OTA (Office of Technology Assessment). 1995. Advanced Automotive Technology: Visions of a Super-Efficient Family Car. OTA-ETI-638. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.