Considering the magnitude of the challenges facing the program, PNGV is making good progress. As the program has evolved, the PNGV technical teams have become more effective and have developed good working relationships. In addition, the USCAR partners have created substantial vehicle engineering teams devoted to the development of the concept vehicles, which were unveiled in January and February 2000. PNGV has also responded positively to most of the committee’s recommendations in the fifth report. In general, the committee congratulates the PNGV partners on their progress in the past year.

Concept Vehicle Milestone

The PNGV has met its 2000 concept vehicle schedule and milestone with the unveiling, in January and February 2000, of the USCAR partners’ concept vehicles (DaimlerChrysler’s ESX3, Ford’s Prodigy, and GM’s Precept). Meeting this milestone represents an outstanding industry effort. The concept vehicles are intended to establish the functional benefits of their designs but may include components for which validated manufacturing processes and affordable costs have not yet been demonstrated. As expected, each manufacturer has taken a somewhat different approach, but the concept cars all share technology and know-how developed in PNGV, some of which is finding its way into current production vehicles (as called for in Goal 2).

All of the concept vehicles incorporate hybrid-electric drive trains designed around small, turbocharged, compression-ignition, direct-injection (CIDI or diesel) engines that shut down when the vehicles come to rest. These hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) have been constructed according to sophisticated structural optimization techniques with high strength-to-weight materials, such as aluminum and composites, in both bodies and interiors. Every aspect of these cars, including wheels, tires, interior components, front, back, and side windows, rear vision devices, and aerodynamic drag, has been designed to reduce weight and increase efficiency. Friction has been reduced in almost every rotating component. All three cars are expected to achieve 70–80 mpg (gasoline equivalent), the ESX3 at 72 mpg, the Prodigy at 70 mpg, and the Precept at 80 mpg, although tests have not been run to confirm these figures. Emissions are targeted at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Tier 2 standards, but the after-treatment systems required to achieve these standards have not been defined.

In summary, the concept cars represent a major milestone toward meeting the PNGV Goal 3, and each contributes significantly to our understanding of the challenges this goal represents. In addition, GM has built a fuel-cell version of the Precept, which is packaged in the same basic chassis and body and includes a hydride hydrogen storage system. The fuel-cell Precept is expected to achieve a gasoline-equivalent fuel economy of more than 100 mpg when supplied with hydrogen. A fully functional version of this car is expected by the end of 2000.

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