DoE Awards $20M For Automotive Electronics

January 06, 1999 by Jeff Shepard

The US Department of Energy (DoE) announced a $20.0 million research and development initiative to develop electric power systems for future advanced automobiles. The DoE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy selected SatCon Technology Corp. (Cambridge, MA) and Silicon Power Corp. (Malvern, PA) to receive about $10 million each over three years. The firms will begin negotiating details of the agreement, under which each company will spend an additional $10 million each."This initiative will develop the smarter, smaller and less expensive electric power system needed for the 'car of the future,'" stated Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. "These power systems have steadily improved from the size of a large suitcase to less than half the size of a shoe box, and, under this initiative, we plan to reduce the $10,000 cost to less than $500."Under the initiative, the companies will develop a family of electric power modules that will manage the generation, storage and use of electrical power in hybrid gas-electric, diesel-electric and fuel cell vehicles. Each firm will provide prototype modules to a test facility within 15 months and final prototypes within 36 months. Testing will be carried out at DoE national laboratories and facilities of DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors under the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles."This project is an extension of our work on the Power Electronic Building-Block Switch (PEBBS) for a major automotive manufacturer's line of production electric vehicles as well as our work with the US Navy and DoE," stated SatCon President David Eisenhaure. "We believe this technology could be the basis for all automotive power electronics sold in the future. It also has applications in the HVAC, air compressor and machine tool markets and could play a major role in distributed power applications as they become more prevalent with utility deregulation. Earlier technological advancements achieved by the Navy's Power Electronic Building Block program helped reduce the size of the electric power systems. This technology puts us on the path to manufacturing efficient, inexpensive, environmentally sound electronics for all electronic motors. This is truly a major breakthrough."