This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

July 10, 2002

U.S. Companies Mark Advances in Hybrid Vehicle Technologies

Although U.S. automotive companies have yet to produce a commercial hybrid electric vehicle, a number of U.S. companies have recently announced advances in hybrid vehicle technologies for both commercial and military applications.

The Paice Corporation, as one example, has developed a "Hyperdrive" hybrid vehicle system that it claims could boost the fuel economy of U.S. vehicles by more than 50 percent. According to Paice, the system combines high-voltage and high-power semiconductors, high-horsepower electric motors, and an internal combustion engine sized for maximum efficiency. The Hyperdrive vehicle will be driven by the engine alone, by the electric motor alone, or by both together. The system was recently described in testimony before the Energy Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representative's Science Committee. See the Paice press release.

AFS Trinity Power Corporation is also advancing hybrid vehicle technologies through its work on flywheels. AFS Trinity announced in mid-June that it has earned a patent on its flywheel storage technology, which uses two flywheels rotating in opposite directions to counterbalance one another. A heavy outer flywheel rotates slowly, while a light inner flywheel rotates quickly. That combination avoids weight penalties associated with standard flywheels. The company won a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in May. See the AFS Trinity press releases.

Yet another hybrid vehicle technology company is UQM Technologies, Inc., which in late June saw its hybrid propulsion technology applied to the Army's High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles - more commonly known as Humvees. Two hybrid electric Humvees were delivered to the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds for performance testing and evaluation. The company is also part of a team that earned a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract on Monday to continue the development of an Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle powered by specially developed high-torque wheel-mounted UQM propulsion motors. See the UQM press releases from June 20th and July 8th.

The Army has a significant interest in hybrid vehicle technologies; its National Automotive Center (NAC) has several ongoing projects involving hybrid technologies. See the NAC Web site.

Last but not least, Satcon Technology Corporation is advancing hybrid vehicle systems for both DOE and the U.S. Army. In mid-June, DOE selected the company to optimize a hybrid electric drive train that incorporates the company's new motor and electronic control technologies. In May, the Army awarded $1.5 million to Satcon for two efforts: one that demonstrates the cost and reliability benefits of silicon-carbide-based inverters for hybrid electric vehicles, and a second effort to develop a continuously variable transmission using the company's magnetorheological (MR) fluid technology. See the SatCon press releases from May 21st and June 18th.

In case you don't have a technical dictionary handy, MR fluids harden in the presence of a magnetic field and then become liquid again when the magnetic field is removed. A transmission based on these fluids would presumably use a magnetic field to engage a fluid drive system. The Lord Corporation, the world's largest supplier of MR fluids, has already commercially applied the phenomenon to shock absorbers, bridge supports, and even space-based braking systems. See the Lord Corporation Web site.