Read Full Report
Date: June 30, 2010
Contacts: Molly Galvin, Media Relations Officer
Luwam Yeibio, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail <
For Immediate release
Clean Vehicle Research Initiative Should Continue to Include Hydrogen
Technologies Along With Advanced Combustion Engines and Electric Vehicles
The FreedomCAR (Cooperative Automotive Research) and Fuel Partnership is a research collaboration among the U.S. Department of Energy, the United States Council for Automotive Research – whose members are the Detroit automakers -- five major energy companies, and two electric utility companies. The partnership seeks to advance the technologies essential for components and infrastructure for a full range of affordable, clean, energy efficient cars and light trucks. Until recently, the program primarily focused on developing technologies that would allow
"The FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership has made significant progress in all of the technologies it is developing, including hydrogen-based technologies," said committee chair Vernon P. Roan, retired director of the Center of Advanced Studies in Engineering and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville. "Although it's important to work on near-term technologies, it's equally important for the partnership to perform the type of high-risk research in areas such as hydrogen that would not otherwise be taken on by the private sector, especially as the economy is still recovering."
The report, the third in a series of reviews on the FreedomCAR program, reiterates the findings of a letter report issued by the committee last year. At that time, the U.S. Department of Energy's 2009 budget request to Congress essentially eliminated the hydrogen and automotive fuel-cell portions of the program in favor of developing nearer-term technologies. Congress has since reinstated most of that funding. The new report calls for the partnership's sustained support of a balanced portfolio of nearer-term and longer-term options, including research on fuel cells and hydrogen technologies. This research could provide sufficient information for the auto industry to make decisions about the marketability of hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2015.
The partnership should also intensify long-term, high-risk research to improve materials and systems for high-energy batteries, both for plug-in and battery electric vehicles, the report says. This research has taken on a new importance in response to the Obama administration's goal of putting 1 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on the road by 2015. The partnership's budget for battery technologies has increased, with about 75 percent directed to near- and mid-term development. Although the fleet of commercial hybrid vehicles has grown dramatically and the commercial launch of plug-in hybrids is imminent, long-term, high risk research is still needed for these cars to meet the performance and cost goals set out by the partnership, the report says.
Focused R&D Efforts
The report provides guidance for advancing research and development in several areas. Advancing combustion engines is "clearly important," the report says, since they will be dominant in the marketplace for many years or even decades. The partnership, which is focusing on developing technologies that can reduce fuel consumption, should also work with government researchers outside of the program who are studying biofuels. In addition, assessment of energy sources and distribution methods should be expanded beyond hydrogen to include biofuels for advanced combustion engines and electricity generation and distribution requirements for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.
For battery or plug-in electric vehicles, lithium-ion battery technologies show promise for achieving performance requirements at lower costs than other battery systems, the report says. The partnership should investigate a standardized approach to evaluating the safety of these battery packs during vehicle operation as well as during charging, and initiate a research program for recycling of advanced batteries.
Fuel cells -- along with the hydrogen they consume -- have been a long-term focus of the partnership. However, despite significant progress in improving performance and decreasing costs, no single fuel-cell technology has been able to meet the partnership's performance and cost goals, the report says. DOE should assess the progress of current fuel-cell technology pathways and ensure that there is adequate support for alternative pathways.
The ability to store hydrogen is one of the most critical components for enabling fuel-cell-powered vehicles. The partnership should ensure that hydrogen storage research continues to be funded, the report says. A goal of the program is developing a vehicle that can travel more than 300 miles between refuelings while meeting other requirements for vehicle cost, weight, packaging, and performance. More storage capability should be a primary focus of research; current high-pressure storage tanks work for some applications but do not meet program goals. Efficient, low-cost ways of producing, delivering, storing, and dispensing hydrogen will also be needed.
In addition, the materials team of the partnership should determine the most cost-effective way to cut the weight of hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles up to 50 percent, which is critical for reaching FreedomCAR goals for energy consumption and emissions.
The study was sponsored by U.S. Department of Energy. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering,
Copies of Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, Third Report are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above). In addition, a podcast of the public briefing held to release this report is available at http://national-academies.org/podcast.
# # #
[ This news release and report are available at http://national-academies.org ]
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
Board on Energy and Environmental Systems
Committee to Review the FreedomCAR and Fuel Research
and Development Partnerships, Phase 3
Center for Advanced Studies in Engineering and Professor Emeritus of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
David L. Bodde
Senior Fellow and Professor
Kathryn R. Bullock
President and Founder
Harry E. Cook1
Department of Engineering
Glenn A. Eisman
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
W. Robert Epperly
Epperly Associates Inc.
William D. Ernst
Phil and Jean Myers Professor
Leverett Professor of Physics
Delphi Research Laboratories (retired)
Professor of Chemical Engineering and
Engineering Systems Division
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Chevron Technology Ventures (retired)
Senior Vice President
Engineerging Technologies and Regulatory Affairs
Chrysler LLC (retired)
Director, Materials and Processes Lab
General Motors Corp. (retired)
Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff
LGS Innovations LLC
Center for Earth Systems, Engineering,