Green Car Congress reports today that the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and DaimlerChrysler moving forward on the development of what would likely be the first commercial avialable plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).
According to GCC, EPRI and DiamlerChrysler are about to enter the fleet feasibility testing phase of their investigation into plug-in hybrids with the pending deployment of six Sprinter vans of different configurations in different locations.
Dr. Mark Duvall of EPRI provided GCC with a brief update on the project at the recent SAE Hybrid Vehicle Technologies Symposium.
The article continues:
The Sprinter program has a number of objectives:
The project is using six vans with different combinations of engine (either 2.7-liter gasoline or a 2.3-liter diesel) and battery (NiMH or Li-Ion). All use the same 90 kW motor.
The battery packs in these vehicles are large: 14 kWh. By comparison, the Prius has a 1.5 kWh pack. Preliminary estimates give the Sprinter electric performance of 2 miles/kWh.
The motor, at 91 kW peak power (72 kW continuous) and 275 Nm peak torque (130–180 Nm continuous) was selected to support the program’s focus on urban driving—i.e., little if any higher speed driving that would require a motor of > 125 kW.
Optimizing the operating strategies for the vehicles will be a major component of the testing, the goal being to maximize stored battery energy, while balancing operation with low operating costs.
There are a number of possible triggers for mode changes, including vehicle speed, the state of charge (SOC) of the battery, acceleration, location and system temperature.
For this project, the team decided to limit electric operation to speeds below 50 km/h (31 mph) and with a battery SOC from 20%—100%. Although the system could support higher speeds, the battery would deplete more quickly.
On the question of CO2 emissions per electric mile travelled, EPRI estimates that in 2010, the national average CO2 emissions from power plants will be slightly more than 500 grams/kWh.
With the current Sprinter PHEV design, that would work out to about 250 grams per electric mile, or 157.5 g/km of CO2.
According to EPRI, in a base case for future power generation, with no additional nuclear, no carbon capture, and no new renewables, the 500 g/kWh will decline to about 350 g/kWh by 2050.
Depending upon technology and regulatory drivers, that could drop (as a national average) to as low as about 150 g/kWh—clearly offering great potential for simultaneous reductions in both utility and transportation sector CO2.
Clearly, though, the gating factor is the battery.
If you've been to Watthead before, you're probably aware that I have high hopes for plug-in hybrids which I consider to be an excellent near-term solution to drastically cut our oil use, replacing it with domestically produced electricity and opening the way for our transport fleet to be powered by clean renewable electricity like wind and solar.
I'm thus quite excited to see DiamlerChrysler moving forward towards commercialization of their Sprinter PHEV. As I am unaware of any other major auto makers working seriously towards a commercially avaiable plug-in, it's likely that the Sprinter will be the first PHEV to hit the market and when it does, it will go a long way towards proving that plug-ins are a viable and effective technology (Mitsubishi's MIEV architecture could be used in a PHEV or full EV but probably won't come to market until at least 2010) .
The Sprinter is a very popular model, in Europe and North America and the plug-in option is well suited to fleet applications and urban delivery driving cycles. I hope that the Sprinter PHEV not only encourages additional deployment of plug-in technology in delivery vehicles (UPS and Fed Ex should be paying attention to this!) but since its also only a step larger than a personal vehicle, I would hope to see the Sprinter serve as a catalyst for a plug-in personal vehicle as well.
Props to DiamlerChrysler for moving forward on plug-ins. My only question is, what are Toyota and Honda waiting for? They seem to be focusing on straight hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell technologies respectively. Perhaps then, plug-ins represent a chance for other car manufacturers who are lagging behind Toyota and Honda in their 'green' offerings to leap frog the two by bringing a PHEV to market and perhaps turn around flagging sales in other market segments - I'm looking at you GM and Ford. Mitsubishi seems to have gotten the picture...