US considering alternative energy sources for transportation

The 5275 The US Department of Energy (DOE) has released its first Quadrennial Technology Review, which identifies six key strategies to address today’s energy challenges. Basically, the review indicates that among transportation strategies, the greatest effort will be devoted to the electrification of light-duty vehicles.

While in fiscal year 2011, only 9% of the DOE’s research budget was devoted to electric vehicles, this area will be further supported in the years to come in order to reduce the long-term dependence on oil in the United States. The review indicates that the electrification strategy will initially focus on mild hybrid electric (HEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles, as these can already access existing infrastructure and can effectively moderate consumption short-term oil. period.

Full electrification versus partial electrification will likely be reassessed once charging infrastructure and battery development have made significant progress. Batteries represent the biggest technical challenge in vehicle electrification, the report says. Major technical barriers such as high cost and low energy density lead to increased vehicle cost and range anxiety. The DOE therefore intends to develop advanced battery technologies through scientific research and engage industry in materials science, electrolyte chemistry, cell manufacturing, and technology performance. A limited research and development program on fuel cells and hydrogen production and storage will also be maintained. Since the high cost and supply constraints of rare earth elements could lead to difficulties and potential inconveniences in the production of electric vehicles, the DOE will work to reduce the size of thermal systems and reduce the content and the cost of rare earths.

Research will focus on high temperature capacitors, low loss soft magnetic materials and new magnetic materials, wide bandgap semiconductor materials, rare earth recycling and power electronics.

The report assesses that a widespread deployment of charging infrastructure under current conditions would put a strain on the network, as many unknowns exist regarding the integration of the transport and electricity sectors. With the increasing adoption of plug-in vehicles, fast charging needs and residential charging infrastructure will need to be considered. The DOE will therefore support research to understand interoperability issues and power management for large-scale deployment.

The review defines six crucial elements of the research strategy of the near future. In addition to vehicle electrification mentioned above, these include clean electricity deployment, grid modernization, building and industry efficiency growth, alternative fuels deployment hydrocarbon fuels and vehicle efficiency improvements.

Based on this review, a first draft budget for 2013 should be published early next year.

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