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Technology innovation and development of electric vehicles in the world

In late October in Chongqing, experts on electric vehicles from eight countries spent two days with over 300 automotive executives and industry analysts to discuss EV technologies, market developments and future trends at the 2009 International Electric Vehicle Technology Innovation and Development Forum organized by China Automotive Engineering Research Institute and Chongqing Chang’an Automotive Co., Ltd. The following are highlights of the Forum. – Editor

C.C. Chan: Three factors are crucial to EV promotion

Thanks to the fast-growing economy, China’s automotive industry has been booming in recent years. However, “China is a big player with impressive growths in output and sales, but it is not a strong player yet,” said C.C. Chan, president of World Electric Vehicles Association and fellow of Royal Academy of Engineering, UK.

China aims to become a strong player in automotive industry by 2020 and Chan believes this can be attained through two routes – improving internal combustion technologies and developing new energy vehicles.

Chan opines that three factors are crucial to the promotion of electric vehicles: good products with high performance and low cost; good infrastructure which is vital to the promotion of pure EVs and PHEVs; and good business model which requires cooperation among governments, power companies, OEMs, key parts and components suppliers and consumers.

Scarcity of talents in both automobile and battery technologies has restrained the EV development in China, said Chan.


Steve Gogeun: Do not put all eggs in one basket

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is conducting a sub-program to develop durable and affordable batteries covering the full range of vehicle applications, from start/stop to full-power hybrid electric, electric and fuel cell vehicles, revealed Steven Gogeun, senior engineer in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Program.

The program aims first to develop a 25kW battery at a cost of around $500 by 2010, and then to develop a 40-mile PHEV system at a cost of $3,000-$4,000, according to Gogeun.

For the development of new energies to reduce oil consumption, Gogeun indicated that there is a diverse portfolio of advanced vehicle technologies, including hybrid electric systems, advanced combustion engines, fuel and material technologies, which all can help reduce the dependence on oil. “Do not put all eggs in one basket,” said Gogeun

DOE has allocated a budget of $333 million for vehicle technologies R&D for the Fiscal Year 2010, $164 million of which are for hybrid electric systems, Gogeun told attendees at the forum.


Jacques Saint-Marc: Electric vehicles are introduced in public transport

Jacques Saint-Marc, general manager of French Interministerial Electric Vehicles and Mobility Group, introduced the EV adoption in the public transport system of France, including electric bicycles, passenger cars, trucks, monorails, buses, garbage trucks and boats. Electric vehicles are also widely used in post office services in the country, said Saint-Marc.

To promote EV purchases, French government offers close to €10,000 ($14,730) to EV buyers and also special discounts and subsidies in power-charging and parking fees. “I drive an electric vehicle, and a subsidy card can save me €1,000 of parking fee a year,” Saint-Marc told the audience at the forum. According to him, charging stations are densely distributed in Paris, even in between the streets. Besides, EV drivers can also recharge their vehicles at home using standard chargers.

Saint-Marc said many efforts have to be made in the next few years to improve EV designs and manufacturing with an aim to extend the operation mileage of most EVs to 150-200 kilometers at one charge. The French government will offer financial support to such endeavors. Currently they are working on solutions for battery safety which is the most crucial issue in battery development.


Simon Carter: Government plays significant role in ultra low carbon vehicle promotion

Simon Frederick Carter, business relationship manager of Automobile Unit of Advanced Manufacturing Industries under Department for Innovation and Skills of the UK government, informed attendees the UK government’s effort to push ultra low carbon vehicles.

The UK government has decided to offer a £400 million ($658 million) stimulus package for the development and take-up of ultra low carbon vehicles, and £30 million of which are already in place. As planned, more than £20 million of the fund are allocated to Technology Strategy Board and Energy Technologies Institute, as well as for procurement of low carbon vehicles for public transport.

Moreover, the stimulus package includes funds for launching a plug-in electric vehicle priced at £2,000-£5,000 in 2011, and another £10 million will be provided for promotion of such vehicle.

The UK government has set two market tasks to promote low-carbon vehicles. One of the tasks is “Electrification of Transport,” aiming to cut carbon emission by 90 percent. “The goal is practical in the long term,” said Carter.

Carter emphasized that government plays a significant role in enabling ultra low carbon vehicles to become the norm driven by forward thinking car companies and consumer desire.


Ren Yong: Hybrid electric vehicle is priority in short term

“Hybrid electric vehicle is the most reasonable choice in the current EV development,” Ren Yong, deputy general manager and senior engineer of Chongqing Chang’an New Energy Co., Ltd., was quoted as saying at the forum.

In his opinion, the present EV R&D focus should be placed on hybrid electric vehicles, which will become norm in the foreseeable future. The weak HEV will be the basic configuration and light HEV the short-term technology roadmap.

In China, most major automakers have involved in the development of new energy vehicles: Chang’an, Chery and Dongfeng work on HEVs, BYD and FAW on plug-in HEVs, Tianjin Qingyuan and Beijing Institute of Technology on pure EVs, and Tongji and Tsinghua universities on fuel cell vehicles.

China’s hybrid electric vehicle market has taken off, said Ren, while pure and plug-in EV market has not started yet; only a small number of fuel cell vehicles are on test runs.

Ren told the audience that Chang’an has started to sell its Jiexun brand hybrid MPV to individuals since this June, and buyers of such vehicle can receive a subsidy of ¥36,000 ($5,290) from the central government. Local buyers of the Jiexun MPV in Chongqing can enjoy another subvention of ¥6,000-¥7,000 for toll charges. “All of the 500 Jiexun MPVs produced in September have been sold out,” a Chang’an salesman told CBU/CAR.


Tsuenehiko Nakagawa: Nissan focuses on EV promotion

Nissan set a long-term goal to reduce CO2 emissions from all new vehicles by 70-90 percent by 2050. “To meet that goal, we must promote EVs,” said Tsuenehiko Nakagawa, vice director of Nissan (China) Investment Co., Ltd.

According to Nakagawa, Nissan will promote EVs by market introduction and new concept proposal. It plans to introduce its new EV Leaf to the China market in 2010.

The Japanese automaker has built a charging network for trial operation in Kanagawa of Japan, and quick chargers have been offered in major cities and on main roads.

Nissan also calls on the government to formulate policies, manage resources sharing and set emission reduction goals in order to promote EVs.


Gernot Spiegelberg: Hybrid is not a good choice

“I do not think that hybrid vehicle is a good choice, because it needs extra components. In addition, a hybrid vehicle still needs combustion engine, which is impossible to reach zero emission,” Gernot Spiegelberg, vice president and chief engineer of Siemens AG, told attendees at the forum.

Spiegelberg believes that a range extender is a reasonable solution for EV to achieve zero emissions.

He introduced a “Smart Grid,” which ensures EV mobility and will give a huge boost to EV development in the future.

Spiegelberg also pointed out that test runs of EVs should be extended to 150 kilometers.


Forrest Jehlik: U.S. is pushing EV infrastructure

Forrest Jehlik, principal mechanical engineer of Center for Transportation Research of Argonne National Laboratory, introduced Argonne’s advanced vehicle technology benchmarking program.

Currently, a few problems stand out in vehicle testing, for example, too much data is proprietary, not enough data to support modeling rapidly advancing technology improvements, new vehicle concepts do not have test procedures suited to their new operations.

Argonne’s solutions to these problems are: to develop a test facility to get at hard-measure component and vehicle-level data; develop the capability to build and test experimental powertrain configurations not yet available (using HIL and simulation for controls); and develop new testing standards to properly characterize HEVs and PHEVs.

Most U.S. households have garages, which provide easy access to battery recharging for EVs. To promote the use of EVs in metro areas, Jehlik revealed in an interview later that the U.S. government is accelerating the construction of charging stations around major enterprises and in communities. “It will take some time to complete the infrastructure, but very soon,” said Jehlik.


Hans Kemper: EVs with REM present great potentials

Hans Kemper, manager of HEV R&D Department of FEV Engine Technology Co., Ltd., holds that EVs with range extender module (REM) are a possible solution to the current problems of EVs.

However, EVs with REM are still faced with some challenges, such as NVH comfort (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) of REM in comparison to an EV; costs, which requires to keep complexity as low as possible; packaging of battery and REM.

In spite of the challenges, EVs with REM still present great potentials. According to Kemper, many automakers in key markets have started plans of EVs with REM to meet the need of these markets.


Heiko Braak: Affordable batteries are key for market success of EVs

Heiko Braak, lead engineer of Department of Hybrid & Electric Vehicle R&D of AVL Schrick GmbH, echoes with Hans Kemper in the issue of EVs with ranger extender module. He said the REM makes vehicle electrification possible and believes that the key for market success of EVs lies in affordable batteries.

Currently, ALV is developing a ranger extender system for a driving distance of at least 250 kilometers. The new system will also ensure NVH comfort, reliability, affordability and performance/efficiency.


Derek Charters: Low carbon and luxury cars

Derek Charters, senior technical expert of MIRA Research Institute, gave a speech on engineering of E-Class sedan with CO2 emission of less than 120g/km.

Charters presented to attendees MIRA’s research achievements in luxury car emission reduction through structuring engineering, electronic drive and battery control system.

Ranger extender or APU (auxiliary power unit) is another solution to emission reduction. Currently, Lotus’s APU adoption has produced some desirable results, according to Charters.

Besides, using lightweight composite parts, such as lighter front seats, rear subframe, front door and rear boot floor, also helps with emission reduction.


Phil Barker: EV development challenges

Phil Barker, chief engineer of Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Product Department of Lotus Engineering, elaborated on the challenges in EV development: first, the torque/power delivery of an electric motor is different from that of an internal combustion engine; second, power transmission of EV is also different from that in a convention internal combustion engine powered vehicle; third is battery effects, namely the temperature and charge effects on EV power/torque delivery; and forth is customer expectations for EVs based on their experience with existing automotive products.

Barker mentioned hybrid vehicle adoption in China’s public transport system, for example, the new energy buses used for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, during which some charging stations have been installed in the capital city. “It is a good start for construction of more charging station,” said Barker.

Barker also opines that China plays an important role in electric powertrain and EV development.


Klaus Kersting: Batteries restrain EV development

Klaus Kersting, project manager of hybrids of IDIADA Automotive Technology SA, introduced EV design in truck, car and scooter projects, as well as durability testing and homologation of EVs. He pointed out that batteries are the top priority in EV development. Battery related challenges include safety, cost, lifetime, energy density, management system and charge time.

In spite of the challenges, EVs still enjoy advantages compared with conventional vehicles. They are independent from energy source, such as fossil fuel and nuclear, and have zero local emissions. EVs also ensure acoustic and NVH comfort and seamless driving without shifts.

Kersting revealed at the forum that EU’s expert team is now drafting EV related laws and regulations.


Redfield: Advanced vehicle technology for improved fuel economy

Hydraulic hybrid is one solution to fuel economy of heavy-duty trucks, said Joe Redfield, manager of Advanced Vehicle Technology Section of Engine, Emission & Vehicle Research Division of Southwest Research Institute, Texas USA.

Redfield believes that drivetrain of series hydraulic hybrid heavy-duty vehicles can provide better fuel economy and larger power than that of an electric hybrid vehicle.

According to initial laboratory results from the tests they conducted on UPS trucks, the hydraulic hybrid vehicle has up to 74 percent mpg improvement in city driving. Initial service results also show a 40-50 percent increase in fuel economy. It has a potential for net lifetime savings over $50,000 with $2.75 per gallon fuel costs, and the 2-3 year payback has attracted attention from fleets.


John Absmeier: Hybrids may take 10 percent of Asian market

High fuel costs, green movement and government incentives and regulations will continue to drive electrification of the powertrain, said John Absmeier, director of business development, manager of advanced engineering for hybrid and electric vehicles and power electronics of Delphi Corporation.

HEVs and EVs will hold 10 percent market share in the Asia-Pacific region, which is still a small market globally. The most optimistic prediction for the market share of HEVs and EVs in the region in the next decade would be 15 percent, according to Absmeier.

Absmeier expects that HEVs and EVs will enter market in quantity in 10 to 15 years, especially in North America market. He also believes that PHEVs and EVs will develop fastest in developing countries such as China and India.

Absmeier stressed that it is import to drive cost and size down through technology innovation and collaboration, which requires smart vehicle makers and smart component manufactures to manage the tradeoffs and targets jointly. And vehicle makers also need to create aggressive but realist cost book in collaboration with suppliers.

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