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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
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1
Introduction

BACKGROUND

The rate at which the world’s economies are becoming globalized as well as the industrialization of countries including China and India are bringing an increased demand for energy. Although the forecasting of supply and demand for energy is uncertain, projections of growth in energy use for the next 30 years suggest that for the United States, as well as the rest of the world, it will be a challenge to supply the energy demanded by these economies (NPC, 2007). All sectors of the economy will be affected. The U.S. transportation sector accounted for approximately 28 percent of total U.S. energy use and approximately 71 percent of U.S. petroleum consumption in 2008 (EIA, 2009a). In addition, net U.S. imports of petroleum and refined products have remained high and have accounted for about 56 percent of U.S. petroleum consumption from 2007 to 2009, while U.S. domestic crude oil production has declined. Petroleum prices have also exhibited substantial volatility in the past few years. For example, the preliminary estimate of the crude oil refiners’ average acquisition cost in 2008 was $94.74/bbl, a 39 percent increase over the 2007 cost of $67.94/bbl (EIA, 2009a, Table 5.21).1 Oil and petroleum-derived fuel prices tended to decline in late 2008 and 2009 because of reduced demand caused by the worldwide recession, resulting in an average refiners’ acquisition cost of $59.27/bbl in 2009. Diversifying the energy carriers used in mobility systems beyond petroleum-based products and develop-

1

The crude oil refiners’ acquisition cost is the cost to refiners, including transportation and other fees. The average cost is calculated from the sum of the total purchasing (acquisition) costs of all refiners divided by the total volume of all refiners’ purchases.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
×

ing new sources for them can be important components of the U.S. energy options and clearly are important national issues.

In addition to energy considerations, the U.S. transportation sector accounts for about 28 percent of total U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), an important greenhouse gas. Concerns about climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions have been receiving extensive attention from the administration, Congress, the states, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as a number of other countries. Legislation has been under consideration by Congress for dealing with CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. Developing vehicles with improved fuel economy that use petroleum-derived gasoline or diesel fuel, or that can use non-petroleum-based energy (e.g., hydrogen fuel, biomass-based fuels, or electricity), have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector in addition to reducing the nation’s dependence on petroleum (NAS/NAE/NRC, 2009a,b; NRC, 2009a).

As President Bush said in his 2001 State of the Union address, hydrogen, as an energy carrier, would have many advantages if it could be developed for the mobility market. However, the challenges of doing so are great. The FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership was established to address these challenges and to advance the technology enough so that a decision on the commercial viability of hydrogen vehicles can be made by 2015. This report reviews the status and progress of this Partnership. In addition, as discussed in this report, increasing attention under President Obama’s administration is being directed toward the use of electricity to power light-duty vehicles with emphasis on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and all-electric vehicles (or battery electric vehicles [BEVs]).

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has been involved for more than 30 years in research and development (R&D) programs related to advanced vehicular technologies and alternative transportation fuels. During the 1990s, much of this R&D was conducted under the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) program. This initial peacetime government/auto industry partnership was formed between the federal government and the auto industry’s U.S. Council for Automotive Research (USCAR).2 Building on the PNGV program, in January 2002, the Secretary of Energy and executives of DaimlerChrysler, Ford,

2

USCAR, which predated PNGV, was established by Chrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors Corporation. Its purpose was to support intercompany, precompetitive cooperation so as to reduce the cost of redundant R&D, especially in areas mandated by government regulation, and to make the U.S. industry more competitive with foreign companies. Chrysler Corporation merged with Daimler Benz in 1998 to form DaimlerChrysler. In 2007, DaimlerChrysler divested itself of a major interest in the Chrysler Group, and Chrysler LLC was formed, which is now Chrysler Group LLC.

The PNGV sought to improve the nation’s competitiveness significantly in the manufacture of future generations of vehicles, to implement commercially viable innovations emanating from ongoing research on conventional vehicles, and to develop vehicles that achieve up to three times the fuel efficiency of comparable 1994 family sedans (NRC, 2001; PNGV, 1995; The White House, 1993).

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
×

and General Motors announced a new government-industry partnership between DOE and USCAR called FreedomCAR, with “CAR” standing for “Cooperative Automotive Research.” In September 2003, FreedomCAR was expanded to also include five large energy companies—BP America, Chevron Corporation, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil Corporation, and Shell Hydrogen (U.S.)—to address issues related to supporting the fuel infrastructure. With the recent changes in the automotive industry, USCAR is now USCAR LLC, and the three automotive companies are Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors Company. The expanded partnership is called the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership.3 With the recent increased interest in technologies for PHEVs and BEVs, which are designed to be plugged into the electric grid to charge up an onboard battery, the electric power sector has become of interest to the Partnership. As a result, a Utility Operations Group has been formed, and two electric utility companies, DTE Energy (Detroit) and Southern California Edison, have joined the Partnership (see Figure 1-1). The long-term vision of the Partnership is a clean and sustainable energy future, in the near term supporting a wide range of hybrid electric vehicles and with a long-term strategic goal of developing technologies for hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles that are not dependent on oil and with no harmful emissions or greenhouse gases (DOE, 2004a,b,e). Furthermore, “the aim is to achieve this technology shift without sacrificing mobility or freedom of choice for American consumers” (DOE, 2004e, p. 18).

The Partnership addresses the development of advanced technologies for all light-duty passenger vehicles: cars, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), pickups, and minivans. It also addresses technologies for hydrogen production, distribution, dispensing, and storage, and now, with the interest in electric vehicles (primarily since the change in administrations), it is addressing the interface and infrastructure issues associated with the electric utility industry.

The Partnership started with a presidential commitment to request $1.7 billion over 5 years (FY 2004 to FY 2008), with appropriations thus far of about $243 million, $307 million, and $339 million for FY 2004, FY 2005, and FY 2006, respectively. Funding for FY 2007 was about $401 million, FY 2008 was about $419 million, and FY 2009 funding was about $474 million; appropriations for FY 2010 are about $467 million (see Chapter 5). In addition, although under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, or the “Recovery Act”; Public Law 111-5) funds have not been appropriated directly to the Partnership, $2.8 billion of funding has been provided to related activities including

3

 In February 2003, before the announcement of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, President Bush announced the FreedomCAR and Hydrogen Fuel Initiative to develop technologies for (1) fuel-efficient motor vehicles and light trucks, (2) cleaner fuels, (3) improved energy efficiency, and (4) hydrogen production and a nationwide distribution infrastructure for vehicle and stationary power plants, to fuel both hydrogen internal combustion engines and fuel cells (DOE, 2004a). The expansion of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership to include the energy sector after the announcement of the initiative also supports the goal of the FreedomCAR and Hydrogen Fuel Initiative.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
×
FIGURE 1-1 The organizational structure of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership.

FIGURE 1-1 The organizational structure of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership.

NOTE: OEM, original equipment manufacturer. SOURCE: P. Davis and S. Satyapal, DOE, “Overview of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership,” Presentation to the committee, August 4, 2009, Southfield, Michigan.

automotive battery manufacturing facilities and transportation electrification.4 Funding for research, development, and demonstration activities goes to universities, the national laboratories, and private companies. Especially in the case of development activities, projects are often cost-shared between the private sector and the federal government (see Chapter 5 for further discussion).

The Partnership plays an important role in the planning, pursuit, and assessment of high-risk, precompetitive R&D for many of the needed vehicle and fuel technologies. Federal funds enable this work to move forward. However, with the change in administrations along with the economic problems of the automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), it appears that much of the emphasis could shift to PHEV and BEV technologies, which are apparently viewed by the new administration as nearer-term. The Partnership also serves as a communication mechanism for those interested, including government, the private sector, the national laboratories, universities, the public, and others. In addition, the success of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership can serve as an inspiration and motivation for the next generation of scientists and engineers, and thus contribute to restoring American leadership in research and its application for the public good.

In late 2008 the National Research Council (NRC) formed the Committee on Review of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Research Program, Phase 3 (see Appendix A for biographical information on the members). Its report represents the third

4

S. Satyapal and P. Davis, “Review of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, Phase 3,” Presentation to the committee, April 27, 2009, Washington, D.C.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
×

review by the NRC of the research program of the Partnership. The main charge to the committee for the Phase 3 report is to review activities between Phases 2 and 3, which included very little related to PHEV, BEV, or biofuel technologies. The first review was conducted during 2004-2005 and the second review during 2007-2008, resulting in the Phase 1 and Phase 2 reports (NRC, 2005, 2008a). (The first review will be referred to as the Phase 1 review or report and the second review as the Phase 2 review or report.)

COMMITTEE’S INTERIM LETTER REPORT

Unlike the experience with the Phase 1 and Phase 2 reviews, this committee was asked to provide an interim letter report that broadly reviewed the strategy and structure of the Partnership before undertaking the full in-depth technical review of the Partnership. The committee held a meeting on April 27-28, 2009, to hear presentations from the Partnership and to work on its letter report, which was addressed to Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy, and Cathy Zoi, Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The letter report, issued on July 10, 2009, is contained in Appendix B.

The committee’s major messages in its interim report (NRC, 2009b, pp. 1-2) are as follows:

The committee recognizes and agrees with the new Administration’s focus on nearer-term technologies. However, it also emphasizes the need for continued investment in longer-term, higher-risk, higher-payoff vehicle technologies that could be highly transformational with regard to reduced use of petroleum and reduced emissions. Such technologies include advanced batteries, technologies for hydrogen storage, and hydrogen/fuel cells. The committee has also concluded that for researchers, contractors, and investors to be willing to make long-term commitments to these and other potentially important developing technologies, a consistent year-to-year level of support must be provided.

The committee has further concluded that, given increasing concerns about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and world climate change, the Partnership should incorporate in its planning a broader-scope, “cradle-to-grave” analysis rather than a “well-to-wheels” approach, to better consider total emissions and the full environmental impact of using various fuels and technologies. In addition, the Partnership should consider broadening the scope of technical approaches being considered within each of what the committee considers to be the three major fuel and vehicle pathways—biofuels/internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs)/battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and hydrogen-fueled fuel cell vehicles.

Finally, the committee concluded that several measures should be considered by DOE to assist in implementing these suggestions. One is to provide temporary reductions in cost-share requirements to ease the burden on prospective researchers. Otherwise, there could be a significant number of potential worthy contributors who cannot afford the matching funds. Another implementation suggestion, occasioned by the obvious financial problems of the automotive companies (OEMs), is to consider providing direct funding to them to help keep important in-house research programs active. Other suggestions are included in the balance of the report.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
×

GOALS AND TARGETS

The long-term goal of the Partnership is to enable the transition to light-duty passenger vehicles that operate free of petroleum and free of harmful emissions (DOE, 2004b). Taking steps to begin to reduce the nation’s dependence on imported petroleum is central to this goal. The current plan envisions a pathway starting with more fuel-efficient internal combustion engines (ICEs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), including PHEVs, potential use of all-electric-drive vehicles, the deployment of biofueled ICE vehicles, and, ultimately, the addition of an infrastructure for supplying hydrogen fuel for fuel-cell-powered vehicles (DOE, 2004b).5 Although not part of the original FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership charter, the existence of an adequate electrical infrastructure to provide recharging energy for PHEVs and BEVs is clearly essential for the Partnership goals. To this end, the Partnership works with other DOE offices and also sponsors some research to ensure that such infrastructure is in place when needed, or to learn what it will take to ensure that it can be in place when needed. If biofuels are to supply a significant portion of the U.S. transportation fuel needs, the infrastructure for the harvesting of biomass, its conversion, and its wide-scale distribution, probably by pipelines, will have to be put in place (NAS/NAE/NRC, 2009b; NRC, 2008b). Thus hydrogen-fueled fuel cell vehicles, plug-in or all-electric vehicles, and biofueled vehicles all will have to face infrastructure issues and hurdles to varying degrees. Heretofore, the infrastructure issues associated with PHEVs, BEVs, and biofuels have not been part of the FreedomCAR and Partnership charter, but those issues are essential to meeting Partnership goals.

To address the technical challenges associated with this envisioned pathway, the Partnership has established quantitative technology and cost targets6 for 2010 and 2015 in eight areas:

  • Fundamental combustion and emission control R&D for ICEs,

  • Fuel cell power systems,

  • Fuel cells,

  • Hydrogen storage systems,

  • Energy storage systems for hybrid vehicles,

  • Hydrogen production and delivery systems,

  • Electric propulsion systems, and

  • Materials for lightweight vehicles.

5

J. Sakioka, R. Modlin, and B. Peirce, “Automotive OEM Perspective on FreedomCAR and Fuels Program,” Presentation to the committee, August 4, 2009, Southfield, Michigan.

6

All references to cost imply estimated variable cost (or investment, as appropriate) based on high volume (500,000 annual volume) unless otherwise stated. “Cost” refers to the cost of producing an item, whereas “price” refers to what the consumer would pay.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
×

These goals and the research related to their attainment are discussed later in this report. Given some of the changes in focus of the Partnership, some goals and targets for individual technologies are being reevaluated by the Partnership. Technical teams, as noted in the next section, “Organization of the Partnership,” specify and manage technical and crosscutting needs of the program.

ORGANIZATION OF THE PARTNERSHIP

The Partnership consists of a number of oversight groups and technical teams that have participants from government and industry (see Figure 1-1). The Executive Steering Group, which is responsible for the governance of the Partnership, is made up of the DOE assistant secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and a vice-presidential-level executive from each of the Partnership companies. The FreedomCAR Operations Group, made up of DOE program managers and directors from USCAR member companies, is responsible for directing the technical teams and prioritizing research issues. The Fuel Operations Group, made up of DOE program managers and energy company directors, is responsible for the direction of the fuel technical teams. And recently, in February 2009, the Utility Operations Group was added to the organization with two utility companies, DTE Energy (Detroit) and Southern California Edison, to address the coordination between electric-based vehicle technology and the electric utility infrastructure (DOE, 2009). In the past, the FreedomCAR Operations Group and the Fuel Operations Group have periodically held joint meetings to coordinate fuel and power plant issues and to identify strategic or policy issues that warrant attention by the Executive Steering Group (DOE, 2004c). With the addition of the Utility Operations Group, the committee expects that joint meetings among all of the operations groups will take place.

The Partnership has formed industry-government technical teams responsible for setting technical and cost targets as well as focusing appropriate R&D on the candidate subsystems (see Figure 1-1). Most of these technical teams focus on specific technical areas, but some, such as codes and standards and vehicle systems analysis, focus on crosscutting issues. A technical team consists of scientists and engineers with technology-specific expertise from the USCAR member companies, energy partner companies, utility industry companies, and national laboratories, as well as DOE technology development managers. Team members may come from other federal agencies if approved by the appropriate operations group(s). A technical team is responsible for developing R&D plans and roadmaps, reviewing research results, and evaluating technical progress toward meeting established research goals (DOE, 2004c). Its discussions are restricted to nonproprietary topics.

Members of the fuel cell and vehicle technical team come from the USCAR partners and the DOE. They handle fuel cells, advanced combustion and emissions control, systems engineering and analysis, electrochemical energy storage,

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
×

materials, and electrical systems and power electronics. The three fuel technical teams address hydrogen production, hydrogen delivery, and fuel/vehicle pathway integration, each of which has members from the energy companies and the DOE. There are two joint technical teams connecting the fuel teams and the vehicle teams: an onboard hydrogen storage team and a codes and standards team. The utility interface issues have resulted in new technical teams related to electricity, namely, grid interaction, codes and standards, and production/delivery.

At the DOE, primary responsibility for the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership rests with the EERE.7 The two main program offices within EERE that manage the Partnership are the Vehicle Technologies (VT) program and the Hydrogen, Fuel Cells, and Infrastructure Technologies program (HFCIT; this is now called the Fuel Cell Technologies [FCT] program).

The VT program has the following specific goal: to support “R&D that will lead to new technologies that reduce our nation’s dependence on imported oil, further decrease vehicle emissions, and serve as a bridge from today’s conventional power trains and fuels to tomorrow’s hydrogen-powered hybrid fuel cell vehicles” (DOE, 2004b, p. ES-2). The VT also includes the 21st Century Truck Partnership.8

The FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership activities in the VT program are organized into these areas:

  • Vehicle systems analysis and testing to provide an overarching vehicle systems perspective to the technology R&D subprograms and other activities in the VT and FCT programs;

  • Advanced energy-efficient, clean ICE power trains using various petroleum and non-petroleum-based fuels, including hydrogen and/or electricity;

  • Electrochemical energy storage technologies (batteries and ultracapacitors);

  • Advanced power electronics and electric machines;

  • Materials technology for lightweight vehicle structures and for propulsion system components, including power electronics and ICEs; and

  • Fuel technologies that enable current and emerging advanced ICEs and emission control systems to be as efficient as possible while meeting future emission standards and that reduce reliance on petroleum-based fuels.

7

The EERE has a wide variety of technology R&D programs and activities related to renewable energy technologies, ranging from the production of electricity from solar energy or wind and the production of fuels from biomass, to the development of technology to enhance energy efficiency, whether for vehicles, appliances, buildings, or industrial processes. It also has programs on distributed energy systems (see Appendix C for an EERE organizational chart).

8

The DOE supports several other programs related to the goal of reducing dependence on imported oil. The 21st Century Truck Partnership supports R&D on more-efficient and lower-emission commercial road vehicles. The NRC Committee to Review the 21st Century Truck Partnership has reviewed that program (NRC, 2008c).

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
×

The FCT program directs activities in hydrogen production, storage, and delivery and integrates these efforts with transportation and fuel cell development activities. The proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell R&D is undertaken in the FCT program, which is focused on the following:

  • Overcoming technical barriers through R&D on hydrogen production, delivery, and storage technologies, as well as on fuel cell technologies for transportation, distributed stationary power, and portable power applications;

  • Addressing safety concerns and developing model codes and standards;

  • Validating and demonstrating hydrogen fuel cells in real-world conditions; and

  • Educating key stakeholders whose acceptance of these technologies is critical to their success in the marketplace (DOE, 2004a,b).

The manager of FCT is the overall DOE hydrogen technology program manager.

Some activities related to the FCT program focus are not within the EERE. The Office of Fossil Energy (FE) supports the development of technologies to produce hydrogen from coal and to capture and sequester carbon. The Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) supports research into the potential use of high-temperature nuclear reactors to produce hydrogen, while the Office of Science (SC) supports fundamental work on new materials to store hydrogen, catalysts, fundamental biological or molecular processes for hydrogen production, fuel cell membranes, and other related basic science areas (DOE, 2004d,e). Within the EERE there also is an Office of Biomass Energy, which is not part of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership. However, biomass is of interest to the Partnership, both as one possible source of hydrogen as well as of biomass-based liquid transportation fuels (e.g., ethanol) and as part of a strategy to diversify energy sources for the transportation sector; thus there is cooperation between the Partnership and the biomass program. The committee believes, as discussed in the report, that improving ICE vehicles using biomass-based fuels is an important part of the portfolio of vehicle technologies that need to be addressed, as mentioned in the committee’s interim letter report (see Appendix B; NRC, 2009b). And now with the importance of understanding the interface between electric vehicle technology and the electric utility sector, DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Reliability, whose focus is on the U.S. electric transmission and distribution system, is another office that needs to interface with the Partnership’s efforts. This office is a separate office, as is the EERE, within the Office of the Undersecretary of Energy.

RECENT INITIATIVES

External developments that may affect the Partnership program have continued to emerge since the publication of the Phase 1 and 2 reviews by the NRC

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
×

(2005, 2008a). Some of these are enumerated in the committee’s interim letter report (NRC, 2009b; see Appendix B). For many years there has been concern, now growing rapidly, on the part of both the Congress and the administration with regard to the security implications of U.S. dependence on imported energy, especially petroleum. Adding to these concerns are the issues of the emissions of greenhouse gases and the apparent effects on global warming. Increases of about 40 percent by 2016 in the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for light-duty vehicles are being implemented, and Congress has supported legislation that requires increasing the production of fuels from renewable, bio-based sources and other alternative fuels as part of this effort to reduce petroleum-based gasoline consumption.

Congress has supported the expanded production of fuel ethanol, which increased rapidly during the past few years and reached about 9 billion gal/yr in 2008, and is providing incentives for much more expansion.9 Although ethanol production in the United States is now mostly from corn, eventually ethanol is expected to be produced from cellulose (e.g., grasses, woody plants, and agricultural and wood wastes). Such processes are not yet developed and will require substantial R&D to be successful. Other potential alternative fuels include gasoline or diesel liquids derived from coal or oil shale. Many alternatives are being explored, but which fuels and to what extent and at what cost they will be able to enter the marketplace over the coming decades remain very uncertain (NAS/NAE/NRC, 2009a,b).

In addition, there are numerous bills in Congress aimed at achieving significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. If passed, these bills will create incentives either to improve the fuel economy of vehicles or to stimulate the adoption of fuels that produce less greenhouse gases than those from gasoline and diesel fuel. The Environmental Protection Agency has also announced that it plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

There has also been increasing interest in PHEVs, which would contain an ICE and a battery that could be charged from the electric grid when not in use. Depending on the battery capacity and control logic, a version of this car could be driven between 10 and 40 miles on battery power alone, which covers the distance that most people drive to work every day and much of all daily travel in the United States. A cost-effective, durable battery of adequate capacity would enable the electric grid to supply a significant part of the energy for U.S. vehicles. Since virtually no petroleum is used to produce electricity in the United States, this would reduce demand for petroleum in the transportation sector but would not necessarily decrease the amount of CO2 production. During the Phase 2 review, the committee noted that, depending on the mix of fuels used to supply electricity for such vehicles, this could lead to increased natural gas imports and consumption of coal, with implications for greenhouse gas emissions. However, recent forecasts

9

See the Renewable Fuels Association Web site at <http:www.ethanolrfa.org/industry/statistics/#D>.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
×

by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on a better outlook for domestic natural gas production leads the EIA to forecast a decline in U.S. imports for natural gas over the next two decades (EIA, 2009b). The extent to which penetration of PHEVs into the marketplace would affect U.S consumption and imports of natural gas is uncertain at this time. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-58) called for a research program on such vehicles as well as flexible-fuel vehicles (e.g., vehicles that can use gasoline or ethanol or a mixture of both). The Phase 1 and Phase 2 reviews of the Partnership also called for increased research on such high-energy storage batteries. The Obama administration has also stressed PHEVs as what it views as a lower-risk, nearer-term technology and has as a goal to have 1 million PHEVs on the road by 2015.10 In fact, as discussed in the committee’s interim report, the administration’s focus on what it considers to be the nearer-term technologies led it to eliminate funding for the Partnership’s R&D on hydrogen-fueled fuel cell vehicles in the congressional budget request for the FY 2010 budget. However, Congress appropriated somewhat reduced funds to these technology areas in the FY 2010 appropriations bills, and the administration has requested even further reduced funding for FY 2011.

As discussed in the committee’s interim letter report, the turmoil in the automotive industry is also of concern. The bankruptcy of the General Motors Corporation and Chrysler and their restructuring, as well as the sharp decline in demand for new vehicles throughout the U.S. and world economies, have led to a significant constraint on resources, not only for the three U.S. automotive manufacturers but also for automotive suppliers as well as foreign companies. It is not yet clear what the extent of this economic downturn will be in the automotive sector with regard to constraining investments in high-risk, long-term automotive technologies, including activities within the Partnership.

This increased interest on the part of the public, Congress, and the administration in reducing petroleum use, and hence energy imports and greenhouse gas emissions, could further stimulate interest in the development of hydrogen-fueled vehicles. But it will likely also stimulate interest in biofuels, alternative liquid fuels, PHEVs, and all-electric vehicles, thus creating a funding competition for hydrogenfueled fuel cell vehicles. As noted in recent NRC reports and in the committee’s interim letter report, a balanced portfolio of R&D on a variety of long-range options will be needed (NRC, 2008b; NAS/NAE/NRC, 2009a,b; NRC, 2009a,b). In addition, it is likely that different vehicle technologies will have different competitive advantages in different market segments. For example, all-electric vehicles may find a more suitable market in intra-urban transportation where a limited vehicle driving range may be acceptable to the automotive purchaser.

10

See, for example, “Obama-Biden New Energy for America” on the Web at <http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/factsheet_energy_speech_080308.pdf>. Predicting whether 1 million PHEVs will be on the road by 2015 is difficult since it depends on many uncertainties including technical performance, cost, consumer behavior, subsidies, policies, and other factors.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
×

VEHICLES AND FUELS

The Phase 1 review of the Partnership contains some general discussion of the importance of linking vehicles, fuels, and infrastructure to ensure that the impacts on the commercial market will be significant and widespread. (That discussion is not repeated here; the reader is referred to the Phase 1 report for that background [NRC, 2005, Chapter 1].) Successful examples of new fuels include the introduction of unleaded gasoline in 1971 and the introduction of reformulated gasoline in the 1990s. But efforts to introduce alternative fuels such as methanol, ethanol, and compressed natural gas (CNG) on a wide scale, with the exception of small percentages of ethanol as a gasoline additive, have all foundered. Alcohol fuels, such as 85 percent methanol (M85) or 85 percent ethanol (E85), work well in vehicles designed to accept them, and although there are several million vehicles on the road that can use these fuels, no extensive fueling infrastructure has developed. In spite of its clean-burning properties and its relatively low unit energy costs, CNG vehicles have also enjoyed limited success. They are mainly found in fleets and in niche markets. This need for both the acceptance of new vehicle technology that relies on nontraditional fuel and the widespread availability of that fuel in the marketplace is the reason that the Partnership supports R&D for both vehicles and fuels and, now, for the interface with the electric utility industry. The program seeks ultimately to enable the widespread deployment of a number of different vehicle options. The primary long-term focus up until recently was on fuel cell vehicles fueled by convenient, competitively priced hydrogen. The Partnership is structured to address the obvious barriers to achieving this goal for both the fuel cell vehicle and the hydrogen fuel production and delivery systems. Other alternative fuels, such as cellulosic-based ethanol, also will require extensive infrastructure investments if they become a significant part of the light-duty-vehicle fuel supply (NAS/NAE/NRC, 2009a).

There is now more focus on PHEVs, however, especially in the nearer term, since the U.S. infrastructure for electricity supply, transmission, and distribution is already in place. Other alternative fuels, such as cellulosic-based ethanol, also will require extensive infrastructure investments if they become a significant part of the light-duty-vehicle fuel supply (NAS/NAE/NRC, 2009a).

Hydrogen represents a completely new fuel for the transportation sector, and a completely new infrastructure will have to be put in place—creating a chicken-and-egg situation. Even if successful and cost-competitive fuel cell vehicles are developed, they cannot be sold in great numbers if no fuel infrastructure exists. Likewise, an extensive hydrogen fuel infrastructure cannot be economically justified to service the first few fuel-cell-powered vehicles that might be built. The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs (NRC/NAE, 2004) and Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies—A Focus on Hydrogen (NRC, 2008b) emphasized the importance of the distributed production of hydrogen: for example, using natural gas and the existing natural gas infrastructure to produce hydrogen at fueling stations; or using renewable energy—for

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
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example, wind to electric systems—to generate hydrogen through electrolysis at the fueling stations using the existing electrical grid infrastructure. Generating hydrogen at the fueling station would avoid the need initially to install a vast hydrogen distribution infrastructure. The DOE has focused significant efforts on this transition concept, as discussed in Chapter 4. Nevertheless, even assuming a maximum practicable number of hydrogen-fueled fuel cell vehicles beginning to enter the marketplace in 2015, it would take a couple of decades for significant impacts on reductions in petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (NRC, 2008b).

The other major nonpetroleum approach to fueling light-duty vehicles is to produce liquid fuels (e.g., ethanol) from cellulosic biomass, from coal, or from a combination of coal and biomass. The NRC recently completed a study on the various technologies and costs for producing these fuels and the timescale and potential impacts on petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (NAS/NAE/NRC, 2009a). These studies consider the full fuel cycle from source to wheels to calculate emissions and cost to drive a vehicle a mile. Such analyses must take into account the volumetric energy density of the fuel since, for example, a gallon of ethanol has about two-thirds of the energy of a gallon of gasoline. Thus, a car, all other things being equal, could drive a greater distance on a gallon of gasoline compared to a gallon of ethanol. Such factors are taken into account in ongoing analyses by the Partnership on the full fuel cycle analyses of energy, CO2 and other emissions, and costs for light-duty vehicles (DOE, 2004b). Even assuming that technical and cost barriers were overcome, such approaches to fueling the transportation sector would take two to three decades to make a significant impact.

With regard to PHEVs, another NRC committee completed a recent study that investigated the potential costs and impacts on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and petroleum consumption from 2010 to 2050 (NRC, 2009a). The study shows that PHEV-40 vehicles are likely to be quite costly initially, at about $18,000 more than an equivalent conventional vehicle, although a PHEV-10 will have a much more modest cost increment of about $6,300.11 There will also be required some modest electrical system upgrades for some homes, and millions of light-duty-vehicle owners do not live in houses, or houses with garages. The scenarios in the NRC (2009a) study indicate that PHEV-40s are unlikely to achieve cost-effectiveness before 2040 at gasoline prices below $4.00/gal, but PHEV-10s can achieve it before 2030. Thus, it would be several decades before lifetime fuel savings started to balance the higher first cost of the vehicles, and subsidies of tens to hundreds of billions of dollars over several decades would be needed for the transition. Another conclusion of that study is that PHEVs will have little impact on oil consumption before 2030, although more substantial reductions could be achieved by 2050.

11

 A PHEV-10 has a battery that can provide an all-electric driving range of 10 miles; a PHEV-40 has an all-electric driving range of 40 miles.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
×

In addition, although PHEV-40s are more effective than PHEV-10s compared to conventional vehicles with regard to the emissions on a total “source-to-wheels” basis, the greenhouse gas benefits are small for a couple of decades unless the electrical grid is decarbonized with renewable energy, nuclear plants, or fossil-fuel-fired power plants with carbon capture and storage (CCS, also referred to as carbon capture and sequestration) systems.

Consequently, by far the greatest contribution to reduced energy use (especially that of petroleum) and emissions reductions by and from the U.S. vehicle fleet over the next 20 years and beyond will come from continued improvement in ICEs, hybrid electric vehicles, and their fuels. To reduce transportation fuel use, current industry-wide efforts to improve the efficiency of ICEs and to develop the corresponding fuels further must continue or, even better, accelerate. This is true regardless of the degree to which HEV power trains proliferate or whether advanced diesel engines achieve customer acceptance and meet emissions standards. The urgency of this task is amplified by the reality that, with the current reduced new-vehicle sales of about 10 million in the United States every year, it would take about 20 years to turn over the national fleet of roughly 225 million light-duty vehicles. If the U.S. marketplace recovers to new-vehicle sales of about 16 million per year as it was before the current worldwide recession, the turnover time would be about 15 years.

While much of the Partnership activity is devoted to fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen fuel, advanced vehicles such as PHEVs and BEVs, and biofueled vehicles, further improvement in conventional ICEs and HEVs could contribute significantly to the goals of energy independence and reduced carbon emissions and should benefit from the continued collaboration between industry engineers and the DOE national laboratories in this area. The status of Partnership efforts to develop ICEs and emission control technologies is discussed in Chapter 3.

The goal toward low emissions, whether of CO2 or various air and water pollutants that arise as a result of the full fuel cycle and life cycle of vehicles and their fuels, will require fundamental changes in the manner in which vehicle fuels (or electricity) are produced. If a transition to hydrogen-fueled fuel cell vehicles is to result in low emissions for the full fuel cycle, then hydrogen will have to be produced with processes having low emissions—for example, in central plants fueled by coal or natural gas with CCS, or by using renewable energy or nuclear energy technologies (NRC, 2008b). For PHEVs or BEVs, the manner in which electricity is produced will determine to what extent such vehicles will reduce carbon emissions. Thus, the electric power system will have to transition to much greater use of low-carbon systems, such as fossil fuel plants with CCS, renewable energy, or nuclear energy (NRC, 2009a). The same argument holds true for biofuels, which have the advantage that the biomass crops absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, and thus fuels derived from biomass have the potential to have a lower carbon footprint (NAS/NAE/NRC, 2009a). Other liquid fuels, for example those produced from coal, could have CO2 emissions equivalent to petroleum if CCS

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
×

is used, or, in the case of mixtures of coal/biomass conversion plants with CCS, fuel could have substantially lower CO2 emissions than those from petroleum-based fuels (NAS/NAE/NRC, 2009a). Thus, no matter which advanced vehicles are considered, the production of either the fuel or the electricity to supply the vehicles will have to be substantially changed to meet significant reductions in emissions, especially of carbon.

COMMITTEE APPROACH AND ORGANIZATION OF THIS REPORT

The statement of task for this committee is as follows:

The National Academies’ National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, Phase 3, will address the following tasks [Note that the committee’s interim letter report issued on July 10, 2009, addressed Item 6 in the statement of task.]:


(1) Review the challenging high-level technical goals and timetables for government and industry R&D efforts, which address such areas as (a) integrated systems analysis; (b) fuel cell power systems; (c) hydrogen storage systems; (d) hydrogen production and distribution technologies necessary for the viability of hydrogen-fueled vehicles; (e) the technical basis for codes and standards; (f) electric propulsion systems; (g) electric energy storage technologies; (h) lightweight materials; and (i) advanced combustion and emission control systems for internal combustion engines (ICEs).

(2) Review and evaluate progress and program directions since the Phase 1 and 2 reviews toward meeting the Partnership’s technical goals, and examine ongoing research activities and their relevance to meeting the goals of the Partnership.

(3) Examine and comment on the overall balance and adequacy of the research and development effort, and the rate of progress, in light of the technical objectives and schedules for each of the major technology areas.

(4) Examine and comment, as necessary, on the appropriate role for federal involvement in the various technical areas under development, especially in light of activities ongoing in the private sector or in the states.

(5) Examine and comment on the Partnership’s strategy for accomplishing its goals, especially in the context of ongoing developments in biofuels, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, electric vehicles, the recent enactment of legislation on corporate average fuel economy standards for light-duty vehicles, and possible legislation on carbon emissions. Other issues that the committee might address include (a) program management and organization; (b) the process for setting milestones, research directions, and making Go/No Go decisions; (c) collaborative activities needed to meet the program’s goals (e.g., among the various offices and programs in DOE, the U.S. Department of Transportation, USCAR, the fuels industry, electric power sector, universities, other parts of the private sector [such as venture capitalists], and others); and (d) other topics that the committee finds important to comment on related to the success of the program in meeting its technical goals.

(6) As a first step in examining the Partnership’s strategy, and given the changes that may take place with the new Administration, the committee at its first full committee meeting will address potential changes in the program strategy and program structure. The committee will write a short interim letter report with suggestions and recommendations on program strategy and structure and aim to deliver it to the sponsor within 1 month after the meeting. The date of delivery of the letter report will be contingent on when

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
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the meeting is scheduled and timely input of information from the representatives of the Partnership.

(7) Review and assess the actions that have been taken in response to recommendations from the NRC Phase 2 review of the Partnership.

(8) Write a final report documenting its conclusions and recommendations.

The committee met three times to hear presentations from DOE and industry representatives involved in the management of the program and to discuss insights gained from the presentations and the written material gathered by the committee. It met a fourth time to review drafts of the report sections (see Appendix E for a list of committee meetings and presentations). The committee also had one meeting in April 2009 before writing its interim report (see Appendix B). The committee established subgroups to investigate specific technical areas and formulate questions for the program leaders to answer. The subgroups also met with the Partnership technical team leaders to clarify answers to questions and better understand the team dynamics, and several committee members visited the General Motors Honeoye facility in New York State to view its fuel cell vehicle developments. The Partnership also provided responses to the recommendations from the Phase 2 report, and these are included in the National Academies’ public access file.

The Summary presents the committee’s main conclusions and recommendations. This chapter (Chapter 1) provides background on the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, on its organization, and on the dual nature—vehicle development and fuel development—of the program. Chapter 2 examines the important crosscutting issues that the program is facing. Chapter 3 looks more closely at R&D for the various vehicle technologies, and Chapter 4 examines R&D for hydrogen production, distribution, and dispensing, as well as issues related to the use of biofuels in internal combustion engines. Finally, Chapter 5 presents an overall assessment. In addition to the appendixes referred to above (committee biographical information, the interim letter report, the EERE organizational chart, and the list of meetings and presentations), two additional appendixes are included: Appendix D contains the Phase 2 recommendations, and Appendix F defines the report’s acronyms and abbreviations.

REFERENCES

DOE (Department of Energy). 2004a. Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and Infrastructure: Multi-Year Research, Development and Demonstration Plan. DOE/GO-102003-1741. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Available on the Web at <http://www.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/mypp/>.

DOE. 2004b. FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies Multi-Year Program Plan. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Available on the Web at <http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/resources/fcvt_mypp.html>.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2010. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12939.
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DOE. 2004c. Partnership Plan. FreedomCAR & Fuel Partnership. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Available on the Web at <http://www.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/pdfs/program/fc_fuel_partnership_plan.pdf>.

DOE. 2004d. Basic Research Needs for the Hydrogen Economy: Report of the Basic Energy Sciences Workshop on Hydrogen Production, Storage, and Use, May 13-15, 2003. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science. Available on the Web at <http://www.er.doe.gov/production/bes/hydrogen.pdf>.

DOE. 2004e. Hydrogen Posture Plan: An Integrated Research, Development and Demonstration Plan. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy. Available on the Web at <http://www.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/pdfs/hydrogen_posture_plan.pdf>.

DOE. 2009. “Addendum to the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership Plan to Integrate Electric Utility Industry Representatives.” February. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy. Available on the Web at <http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/pdfs/program/fc_fuel_addendum_2-09.pdf>.

EIA (Energy Information Administration). 2009a. Annual Energy Review 2008, Washington, D.C. Available on the Web at <http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/FTPROOT/multifuel/038408.pdf>.

EIA. 2009b. Annual Energy Outlook for 2009 with Projections to 2030: Updated Annual Energy Outlook 2009 Reference Case with ARRA. Washington, D.C. Available on the Web at <http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/servicerpt/stimulus/excel/aeostimtab_13.xls>.

NAS/NAE/NRC (National Academy of Sciences/National Academy of Engineering/National Research Council). 2009a. Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass: Technological Status, Costs, and Environmental Impacts. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

NAS/NAE/NRC. 2009b. America’s Energy Future: Technology and Transformation. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

NPC (National Petroleum Council). 2007. Facing the Hard Truths About Energy: A Comprehensive View to 2030 of Global Oil and Natural Gas. Executive Summary, July 18. Available on the Web at <http://downloads.connectlive.com/events/npc071807/pdf-downloads/Facing_Hard_Truths-Executive_Summary.pdf>.

NRC (National Research Council). 2001. Review of the Research Program of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, Seventh Report. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

NRC. 2005. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, First Report. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

NRC. 2008a. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, Second Report. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

NRC. 2008b. Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies—A Focus on Hydrogen. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

NRC. 2008c. Review of the 21st Century Truck Partnership. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

NRC. 2009a. Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies—Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

NRC. 2009b. Letter Report on Review of the Research Program of the FreecomCAR and Fuel Partnership, Phase 3. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

NRC/NAE (National Research Council/National Academy of Engineering). 2004. The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

PNGV (Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles). 1995. Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles Program Plan (draft). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, PNGV Secretariat.

The White House. 1993. Historic Partnership Forged with Automakers Aims for Threefold Increase in Fuel Efficiency in as Soon as Ten Years. Washington, D.C.: The White House.

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The public-private partnership to develop vehicles that require less petroleum-based fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gases should continue to include fuel cells and other hydrogen technologies in its research and development portfolio. The third volume in the FreedomCAR series states that, although the partnership's recent shift of focus toward technologies that could be ready for use in the nearer term—such as advanced combustion engines and plug-in electric vehicles—is warranted, R&D on hydrogen and fuel cells is also needed given the high costs and challenges that many of the technologies must overcome before widespread use.

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 U.S. automakers to make production and marketing decisions by 2015 on hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles. These vehicles have the potential to be much more energy-efficient than conventional gasoline-powered vehicles, produce no harmful tailpipe emissions, and significantly reduce petroleum use. In 2009, the partnership changed direction and stepped up efforts to advance, in the shorter term, technologies for reducing petroleum use in combustion engines, including those using biofuels, as well as batteries that could be used in plug-in hybrid-electric or all electric vehicles.

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