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Transportation Vehicles

Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology

In today's increasingly electrified world, power conversion-the process of converting electricity between different currents, voltage levels, and frequencies-forms a vital link between the electronic devices we use every day and the sources of power required to run them. The projects that make up ARPA-E's ADEPT program, short for "Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology," are paving the way for more energy efficient power conversion and advancing the basic building blocks of power conversion: circuits, transistors, inductors, transformers, and capacitors.

For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science

The IDEAS program - short for Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science - provides a continuing opportunity for the rapid support of early-stage applied research to explore pioneering new concepts with the potential for transformational and disruptive changes in energy technology. IDEAS awards, which are restricted to maximums of one year in duration and $500,000 in funding, are intended to be flexible and may take the form of analyses or exploratory research that provides the agency with information useful for the subsequent development of focused technology programs. IDEAS awards may also support proof-of-concept research to develop a unique technology concept, either in an area not currently supported by the agency or as a potential enhancement to an ongoing focused technology program. This program identifies potentially disruptive concepts in energy-related technologies that challenge the status quo and represent a leap beyond today's technology. That said, an innovative concept alone is not enough. IDEAS projects must also represent a fundamentally new paradigm in energy technology and have the potential to significantly impact ARPA-E's mission areas.

Next-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Automated On-Road Vehicles

Recent rapid advances in driver assistance technologies and the deployment of vehicles with increased levels of connectivity and automation have created multiple opportunities to improve the efficiency of future vehicle fleets beyond in new ways. The projects that make up ARPA-E's NEXTCAR Program, short for "NEXT-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Automated On-Road Vehicles," are enabling technologies that use connectivity and automation to co-optimize vehicle dynamic controls and powertrain operation, thereby reducing energy consumption of the vehicle. Vehicle dynamic and powertrain control technologies, implemented on a single vehicle basis, across a cohort of cooperating vehicles, or across the entire vehicle fleet, could significantly improve individual vehicle and, ultimately, fleet energy efficiency.

For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2009, ARPA-E issued an open call for the most revolutionary energy technologies to form the agency's inaugural program. The first open solicitation was open to ideas from all energy areas and focused on funding projects already equipped with strong research and development plans for their potentially high-impact technologies. The projects chosen received a level of financial support that could accelerate technical progress and catalyze additional investment from the private sector. After only 2 months, ARPA-E's investment in these projects catalyzed an additional $33 million in investments. In response to ARPA-E's first open solicitation, more than 3,700 concept papers flooded into the new agency, which were thoroughly reviewed by a team of 500 scientists and engineers in just 6 months. In the end, 36 projects were selected as ARPA-E's first award recipients, receiving $176 million in federal funding.

 For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2012, ARPA-E issued its second open funding opportunity designed to catalyze transformational breakthroughs across the entire spectrum of energy technologies. ARPA-E received more than 4,000 concept papers for OPEN 2012, which hundreds of scientists and engineers thoroughly reviewed over the course of several months. In the end, ARPA-E selected 66 projects for its OPEN 2012 program, awarding them a total of $130 million in federal funding. OPEN 2012 projects cut across 11 technology areas: advanced fuels, advanced vehicle design and materials, building efficiency, carbon capture, grid modernization, renewable power, stationary power generation, water, as well as stationary, thermal, and transportation energy storage.

For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2015, ARPA-E issued its third open funding opportunity designed to catalyze transformational breakthroughs across the entire spectrum of energy technologies. ARPA-E received more than 2,000 concept papers for OPEN 2015, which hundreds of scientists and engineers thoroughly reviewed over the course of several months. In the end, ARPA-E selected 41 projects for its OPEN 2015 program, awarding them a total of $125 million in federal funding. OPEN 2015 projects cut across ten technology areas: building efficiency, industrial processes and waste heat, data management and communication, wind, solar, tidal and distributed generation, grid scale storage, power electronics, power grid system performance, vehicle efficiency, storage for electric vehicles, and alternative fuels and bio-energy.

For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.

Achates Power, Inc.

Gasoline Compression Ignition Medium Duty Multicylinder Opposed Piston Engine Development

The team led by Achates Power, Inc. will develop an internal combustion engine that combines two promising engine technologies: an opposed-piston (OP) engine configuration and gasoline compression ignition (GCI). Compression ignition OP engines are inherently more efficient than existing spark-ignited 4-stroke engines (potentially up to 50% higher thermal efficiency using gasoline) while providing comparable power and torque, and showing the potential to meet future tailpipe emissions standards. GCI uses gasoline or gasoline-like fuels in a compression ignition engine to deliver thermal efficiency on par with diesel combustion. However, unlike conventional diesel engines, this technology does not require the added expense of high-pressure fuel injection equipment and sophisticated aftertreatment systems. The OP/GCI engine technology is adaptable to a range of engine configurations and can be used in all types of passenger vehicles and light trucks. By successfully combining the highly fuel efficient architecture of the OP engine with the ultra-low emissions GCI technology, the resulting engine could be transformational, significantly reducing U.S. petroleum consumption and carbon dioxide.

Arkansas Power Electronics International, Inc.

Low-Cost, Highly Integrated, Silicon Carbide Multi-Chip Power Modules for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Currently, charging the battery of an electric vehicle (EV) is a time-consuming process because chargers can only draw about as much power from the grid as a hair dryer. APEI is developing an EV charger that can draw as much power as a clothes dryer, which would drastically speed up charging time. APEI's charger uses silicon carbide (SiC)-based power transistors. These transistors control the electrical energy flowing through the charger's circuits more effectively and efficiently than traditional transistors made of straight silicon. The SiC-based transistors also require less cooling, enabling APEI to create EV chargers that are 10 times smaller than existing chargers.

Delphi Automotive Systems, LLC

Gallium-Nitride Advanced Power Semiconductor and Packaging

Delphi is developing power converters that are smaller and more energy efficient, reliable, and cost-effective than current power converters. Power converters rely on power transistors which act like a very precisely controlled on-off switch, controlling the electrical energy flowing through an electrical circuit. Most power transistors today use silicon (Si) semiconductors. However, Delphi is using semiconductors made with a thin layer of gallium-nitride (GaN) applied on top of the more conventional Si material. The GaN layer increases the energy efficiency of the power transistor and also enables the transistor to operate at much higher temperatures, voltages, and power-density levels compared to its Si counterpart. Delphi is packaging these high-performance GaN semiconductors with advanced electrical connections and a cooling system that extracts waste heat from both sides of the device to further increase the device's efficiency and allow more electrical current to flow through it. When combined with other electronic components on a circuit board, Delphi's GaN power transistor package will help improve the overall performance and cost-effectiveness of HEVs and EVs.

Electron Energy Corporation

Solid State Processing of Fully Dense Anisotropic Nanocomposite Magnets

EEC and its team are developing a new processing technology that could transform how permanent magnets found in today's EV motors and renewable power generators are fabricated. This new process, known as friction consolidation extrusion (FC&E), could produce stronger magnets at a lower cost and with reduced rare earth mineral content. The advantage of FC&E over today's best fabrication processes is that it can be applied to unconsolidated powders as opposed to solid alloys, which can allow magnets to be compacted from much smaller grains of two different types, a process which could double its magnetic energy density. EEC's process could reduce the need for rare earth mineral in permanent magnets by as much 30%.

General Electric

Transformational Nanostructured Permanent Magnets

GE is using nanomaterials technology to develop advanced magnets that contain fewer rare earth materials than their predecessors. Nanomaterials technology involves manipulating matter at the atomic or molecular scale, which can represent a stumbling block for magnets because it is difficult to create a finely grained magnet at that scale. GE is developing bulk magnets with finely tuned structures using iron-based mixtures that contain 80% less rare earth materials than traditional magnets, which will reduce their overall cost. These magnets will enable further commercialization of HEVs, EVs, and wind turbine generators while enhancing U.S. competitiveness in industries that heavily utilize these alternatives to rare earth minerals.

General Motors

InfoRich VD&PT Controls

General Motors will lead a team to develop "InfoRich" vehicle technologies that will combine advances in vehicle dynamic and powertrain control technologies with recent vehicle connectivity and automation technologies. The result will be a light duty gasoline vehicle that demonstrates greater than 20% fuel consumption reduction over current production vehicles while meeting all safety and exhaust emissions standards. On-board sensors and connected data will provide the vehicle with additional information such as the status of a traffic signal before a vehicle reaches an intersection, as well as traffic, weather, and accident information. This preview information enables the vehicle (and the driver) not only to react to current road conditions but also to plan for expected future conditions more efficiently. A proposed supervisory vehicle dynamic and powertrain controller will incorporate all the information available through connectivity and on-board sensors into an upper-level optimizer that determines the most fuel-efficient and safest vehicle operation. The upper-level optimizer sends brake, steering, speed, and torque requests to the two lower-level controllers: the vehicle dynamics controller (i.e. steering, acceleration and braking) and powertrain (i.e. engine, transmission) controller. The lower-level controllers, in turn, optimize their individual requests and send out commands to control the vehicle and powertrain. Overall energy efficiency increases by forecasting stopping events as early as possible, smoothing and reducing heavy acceleration, harmonizing speed, and optimizing the vehicle when approaching hills. The project combines General Motors' advanced vehicle/powertrain controls with Carnegie Mellon University's expertise in autonomous vehicles. Extensive real-world driving data available from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Transportation Secure Data Center and on-road tests will be used to validate improvements in fuel efficiency and assess real-world impacts.

Inventev LLC

Commercial Truck Transmission-Integrated Utility-Grade Power Generation from Natural Gas

Inventev, LLC is developing a proof-of-concept for a commercially viable generator system that is integrated with a truck transmission. The project will involve the design and fabrication of transmission and power electronics subsystems, integration of those systems into a Ford F550 chassis-cab truck, and conversion of the standard gasoline engine to a low-pressure natural gas engine. The project aims to create a 120kW low-cost, low-emission mobile power generator using natural gas with a cost target of 6-to-7 cents per kilowatt-hour. Of particular significance is the ability to use the same devices (i.e. electric machine motor/generators) that electrically propel a vehicle to become generators for exporting 3-phase grid-quality power. If successful, this technology could be used to create fleets of trucks with inherent power generating capability that could be deployed to enable electrical grid resiliency from interruptions or used short-term for low-cost nimble and localized generating capacity.

Michigan Technological University

Connected and Automated Control for Vehicle Dynamics and Powertrain Operation on a Light-Duty Multi-Mode Hybrid Electric Vehicle

Michigan Technological University (MTU), in partnership with General Motors (GM), will develop, validate, and demonstrate a fleet of connected electric vehicles and a mobile cloud-connected computing center. The project will integrate advanced controls with connected and automated vehicle functions and enable: eco-routing, efficient approach and departure from traffic signals and cooperative driving between multiple vehicles, including speed harmonization. Use of the new vehicle dynamic and powertrain controls will allow a 20% reduction in energy consumption and a 6% increase in all-electric driving range through the first-ever implementation and connection of route planning, powertrain energy management, and model-predictive control algorithms. The selected vehicle for the fleet, the 2017 Chevrolet Volt, contains a unique powertrain architecture with multiple operating modes, including all-electric (EV) and hybrid-electric (HEV) modes, allowing the team to optimize numerous powertrain components. This project will use eight Chevrolet Volts in order to demonstrate the idea of platooning in a future automated highway system. In a platoon, vehicles follow closely together at a constant speed, thus reducing drag and lowering energy consumption and emissions. The MTU Mobile Lab (ML) will serve as a control center, vehicle-to-cloud communication hub, and mobile charging station for the fleet of Volts. The ML, a specially designed 18-wheeler, can travel with the fleet and enables real-time traffic simulation and eco-routing. The MTU team includes expertise in powertrain engineering, vehicle controls, algorithm design, and traffic simulation, while the GM team includes experts in the control and engineering of advanced electric powertrains who, if the project is successful, can facilitate the integration of the new control technology into future GM vehicles.

Ohio State University

Fuel Economy Optimization with Dynamic Skip Fire in a Connected Vehicle

The Ohio State University will develop and demonstrate a transformational powertrain control technology that uses vehicle connectivity and automated driving capabilities to enhance the energy consumption of a light duty passenger vehicle up-fitted with a mild hybrid system. At the core of the proposed powertrain control technology, is the use of a novel cylinder deactivation strategy called Dynamic Skip Fire which makes instantaneous decisions about which engine cylinders are fired or skipped thus significantly improving vehicle energy efficiency. Connected and automated vehicle technologies will allow route-based optimization of driving. Route terrain information including road slope, curvature, and speed limits will be used to calculate an energy-optimal speed trajectory for the vehicle. Traffic condition information based on V2I communication (such as traffic lights) will be used to further optimize route selection and optimize the vehicle and powertrain control. The vehicle will interact with traffic lights using Dedicated Short Range Communications and will stop and start from intersections using an energy-optimal speed trajectory. The integrated radar/camera sensor and V2V connectivity will be used to determine the immediate traffic around the vehicle. Finally, machine learning algorithms will be used to make intelligent powertrain and vehicle optimization decisions in continuously changing and uncertain environments.

Pajarito Powder, LLC

Precious Metal Free Regenerative Hydrogen Electrode

The team led by Pajarito Powder, LLC will develop a reversible hydrogen electrode that would enable cost-effective hydrogen production and reversible fuel cells. Both electrolyzers and fuel cells, generally operate in acidic conditions that rely on expensive precious metal catalysts to avoid corrosion. Running the electrochemical cell in alkaline conditions reduces the requirements for the oxygen electrode, but effective and inexpensive electrocatalysts for the hydrogen electrode still need to be developed. This project aims to develop a bi-functional (i.e. two way) low-cost catalyst that runs in alkaline conditions capable of oxidizing or reducing hydrogen depending on whether power is needed immediately, or needs to be stored. By integrating the electrolyzer and fuel cell into one system, the overall cost could be drastically reduced, which would open an entire suite of new applications including grid load-leveling and long-term energy storage applications. The system will be compatible with intermittent energy sources because it can operate at lower temperatures than competiting technologies, thus allowing startup times on the order of seconds.

Pennsylvania State University

Maximizing Vehicle Fuel Economy through the Real-Time, Collaborative, and Predictive Co-Optimization of Routing, Speed, and Powertrain Control

The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) will develop a predictive control system that will use vehicle connectivity to reduce fuel consumption for a heavy duty diesel vehicle by at least 20% without compromising emissions, drivability, mobility, or safety. The technology will work to achieve four individual and complementary goals that co-optimize vehicle dynamic and powertrain control. First, it will exploit connected communication to anticipate traffic/congestion patterns on different roads, traffic light timing, and the speed trajectories of surrounding vehicles. Second, the system will coordinate with surrounding vehicles to achieve platooning on the highway, coordinated departures/arrivals at intersections, and consistency in the speed trajectories both within vehicle platoons and among neighboring vehicles that are not in a platoon. Platooning will allow vehicles to collectively reduce their aerodynamic losses, thereby reducing their fuel consumption. Coordinating vehicle departures and arrivals at intersections will minimize energy loss due to braking, idling, and inefficient departures. As its third goal, the technology will optimize vehicle dynamic control decisions such as the choice of route, the trajectory of vehicle speed versus time in a given road segment, and the choice of whether the vehicle is in an acceleration, deceleration, or coasting state at different points in time. Optimal routing will reduce fuel consumption by avoiding the fuel penalties associated with congestion and/or hilly terrains as much as possible. Finally, the technology will also optimize powertrain control decisions to eliminate unnecessary engine idling. Software for each of the goals will constitute a standalone product that can be commercialized independently of the others, but together, they will operate in an integrated manner to achieve co-optimized and coordinated vehicle control. If successful, this will result in vehicles that operate in a predictive manner, taking into account all the available data and information to produce the best outcome for vehicle fuel consumption, drivability, mobility, emissions, and safety.

Princeton Optronics

Development of a New Type of Laser Ignition System for Next Generation High Efficiency, Low Exhaust Emission Combustion Engines

Princeton Optronics will develop a low-cost, high-temperature capable laser ignition system which can be mounted directly on the engine heads of stationary natural gas engines, just like regular spark plugs are today. This will be done using a newly developed high-temperature Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (VCSEL) pump combined with a solid-state laser gain material that can operate at temperatures typically experienced on a stationary natural gas engine. The key innovations of this project will allow the laser pump and complete laser ignition system to deliver the required pulse energy output at the engine block temperature and create a solution that is entirely exchangeable with a conventional spark plug. This avoids the need for an expensive and complicated fiber optics system to deliver the laser energy to the engine's combustion chamber from an off-board, cooled location. If successful, the high temperature laser ignition system will provide a reliable solution to extend the lean limit of combustion and increase the efficiency of stationary natural gas engines, resulting in significant fuel savings and emissions reductions.

Purdue University

High-Efficiency Control System for Connected and Automated Class 8 Trucks 

Purdue University will develop an integrated, connected vehicle control system for diesel-powered Class 8 trucks. Improvements from this system are expected to achieve 20% fuel consumption reduction relative to a 2016 baseline Peterbilt Class 8 truck. Class 8 trucks are large (over 33,000 lbs) vehicles such as trucks and tractor-trailer combinations like 18-wheelers. While these large trucks represent only 4% of all on-road vehicles in the U.S., they are responsible for almost 22% of global on-road fuel consumption. The Purdue team's work is based on a system-of-systems approach that integrates hardware and software components of the powertrain, vehicle dynamic control systems, and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, supported by cloud computing. Communication between vehicles relies on short range radio, while cloud communications will operate over the LTE cellular network. This approach will provide the data needed to optimize single vehicle or two vehicles closely following each other in a platooning formation - reducing the platoon's overall energy consumption using technologies such as predictive cruise control and coordinated gear shifting. The proposed technology can also be applied to lighter class of trucks as the same performance shortcomings for Class 8 truck engines and transmissions also exist in lighter vehicle classes.

Southwest Research Institute

Model Predictive Control for Energy-Efficient Maneuvering of Connected Autonomous Vehicles

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) will develop control strategies and technology to improve the energy efficiency of a 2017 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid electric vehicle through energy-conscious path planning and powertrain control. The team will modify the vehicle to take advantage of connected, autonomous vehicle information streams and develop systems that co-optimize the control of vehicle speed and engine power to minimize energy consumption, maintain safety, and deliver expected performance. Modern automobiles are designed to provide the maximum possible performance to the driver in terms of response time and acceleration. Because of this, manufacturers design engines for all possible scenarios a driver may encounter - often conflicting with efficiency needs. The SwRI team will approach this problem by augmenting the vehicle with the necessary hardware for V2V and V2I connectivity along-with leveraging the production Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) feature of the vehicle. GPS will work with cellular data to optimize planned driving routes. Eco-approach and departure will work with traffic signals at intersections to optimize vehicle braking and acceleration for improving energy efficiency. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are capable of charge-depleting, and charge-sustaining modes, or combination of these two modes depending on how much the vehicle uses the electric battery or the internal combustion engine. The team will develop control algorithms that will use the new information streams to optimize the battery state of charge for both overall trip efficiency and for driving power. Vehicle testing will occur in two phases. First, it will provide the driver with information about the next plug-in opportunity and suggested route and speed profiles. Next, the project will take advantage of DRCC to fully automate longitudinal control including regulating speed and ensuring safe operation by maintaining adequate spacing between vehicles.


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