DEARBORN, MI --- The United States Council for Automotive Research LLC (USCAR), whose members are Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., have welcomed the addition of electric utility partners to the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership.
DTE Energy and Southern California Edison were named as new members of the partnership by U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander (Andy) Karsner. Karsner said the announcement "demonstrates a shared public-private sector commitment to accelerate the research, development and deployment of plug-in hybrid vehicles from the laboratory to the marketplace."
Speaking on behalf of USCAR and the U.S. automakers, Gerhard Schmidt, chief technical officer and vice president for research and advanced engineering at Ford, acknowledged the importance of PHEVs while noting they are just one of many alternative-fuel vehicles being researched and developed by the Detroit Three.
"Our production-focused research includes everything from increasingly efficient cars and trucks with advanced gasoline and clean diesel engines to hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engines and fuel cells," Schmidt said. "It also includes vehicles powered by biofuels and ethanol, hybrid-electric vehicles and, of course, plug-in hybrids. Clearly, there is no silver bullet approach."
This multiple pathways approach to future transportation is at the heart of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, whose vision is a "clean and sustainable transportation energy future that reduces U.S. dependence on foreign oil and minimizes regulated emissions and CO2, yet preserves freedom of mobility and vehicle choice for consumers."
At USCAR, the focus is on pre-competitive R&D that results in enabling technologies. Individually, the U.S. automakers are putting these technologies and their own research budgets to work to provide consumers with a broad range of transportation options:
-- Chrysler LLC created the ENVI division to lead development of electric- powered vehicles for the automaker. The company will participate in a $30 million program with the DOE to develop plug-in hybrid technology in collaboration with General Electric.
Chrysler will launch its first hybrid electric vehicles this fall with the HEMI Hybrid Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen SUVs. The HEMI hybrid, which combines an advanced two-mode hybrid system with the HEMI engine with fuel-saving Multiple Displacement System, will provide hybrid fuel efficiency combined with full-size SUV performance, capability and utility. The vehicle will deliver more than 25 percent overall fuel economy improvement and nearly 40 percent fuel economy improvement in city driving.
-- Ford Motor Co.'s blueprint for sustainability includes the introduction of a range of global environmental technologies that will provide customers more fuel-efficient vehicles that emit fewer greenhouse gases without compromising their expectations for safety, interior room or performance. The cornerstone of Ford's near-term plan is a new generation of smaller-displacement turbo-charged gasoline engines with advanced fuel-saving direct injection technologies called EcoBoost.
The new family of engines will provide customers with a fuel savings up to 20 percent, emit up to 15 percent less CO2, and provide superior performance versus a larger displacement engine. Ford is currently producing 20 Escape plug-in hybrid electric vehicles as a test fleet with Southern California Edison and the Electric Power Research Institute.
The first of the vehicles is already being road tested in southern California, with additional vehicles to be delivered this year. The partnership seeks to advance the commercialization of PHEVs through development of the technology, as well as greater understanding of the connectivity between vehicle and electric grid, customer usage patterns, technical standards and viable business models.
Ford also continues to advance the technology of hydrogen fuel cells as a future transportation alternative. Currently, the company has a fleet of 30 Focus fuel cell vehicles deployed in the United States, Germany and Iceland, already having logged more than 700,000 miles in testing.
-- GM's advanced propulsion technology strategy embraces a portfolio of advanced propulsion systems and alternative energy resources, including gasoline and diesel, biofuels, electricity and hydrogen fuel cells. GM has pledged a broad commitment to producing electrically driven vehicles that help diversify energy sources, reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency. Vehicles include hybrids, plug-in hybrids, extended range electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Over the next four years, GM will introduce 16 new hybrid models --- an average of one every three months. GM has also launched "Project Driveway," the largest market test of fuel cell vehicles in the world. More than 100 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicles are being given to everyday drivers, celebrities and others to gauge interest, consumer reaction and vehicle performance.
GM's E-Flex System, highlighted by the Chevy Volt, is an all-electric vehicle architecture, which consists of a common drivetrain system that uses grid electricity stored in a lithium-ion battery. An on-board range extender, which can be a gasoline/E85-powered engine, diesel engine or hydrogen fuel cell system, creates additional electricity to extend the vehicle's range when needed.
Established as the FreedomCAR Partnership in 2002 and expanded to include fuel companies in 2003, the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership is a public-private partnership between the U.S. DOE; five major energy producers, including BP America, Chevron Corporation, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil Corporation, and Shell Hydrogen LLC; USCAR, whose members include Chrysler, Ford and General Motors; and now, major utilities -- DTE Energy and Southern California Edison.