DOE awards $18M to cutting edge vehicle technology projects

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The U.S. Department of Energy announced Thursday that it awarded a total of $18 million to four projects that will help passenger vehicles operate more efficiently, reduce energy consumption, and lower carbon emissions.

The funding is part of Phase II of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Next Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Automated On-Road Vehicles (NEXTCAR) program.

“The same nifty features that are making cars easier to drive can also make them way more efficient, use less gas, and save drivers money at the pump,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “These technologies are a win-win for drivers, and they’re also going to lead to more jobs, a cleaner transportation sector, and rapid progress towards our carbon-free future.”

Launched in 2016, ARPA-E’s NEXTCAR program focuses on developing Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) technologies that optimize vehicle dynamic control and powertrain operation, which helps reduce vehicle energy consumption by allowing a vehicle to automatically process and react to the surrounding environment and traffic conditions.

Phase I of the NEXTCAR program zeroed in on developing CAV technologies in all vehicle classes, with the goal of a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption. Teams moving forward in Phase II of NEXTCAR will build on those goals with a specific focus on light-duty passenger vehicles and a 30 percent energy consumption reduction while taking the vehicles to Level 4 of automation, where a vehicle can perform all of its driving operations on its own with an optional human override.

“Michigan workers, manufacturers, and universities are the best in the world and continue to lead the development of next generation vehicles. Michigan Tech is one of those institutions leading the way in creating longer range electric and autonomous vehicles, improving safety, and making our cars more energy efficient. This investment will ensure Michigan remains a global leader,” U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said.

The awards include $3.4 million to the University of California Berkeley to adapt and expand their eco-route, eco-drive, and eco-charge controls in electric vehicles; $4.4 million for Michigan Technical University to expand its set of test vehicles to identify additional opportunities for efficiency and range optimization; $4.9 million for Ohio State University to integrate advanced system-level optimization and control technologies with Level 4 automation; and $5.25 million for Southwest Research Institute to adapt and expand its predictive eco-routing, eco-driving, and hybrid power control strategies.