Johnson Controls-Saft Wins U.S. Grant To Research Plug-In Hybrids (PHEV)

By dancurranjr On August 13th, 2008

Johnson Controls-Saft will research the commercial viability of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles under an $8.2 million federal grant announced Tuesday.

The grant will be used on research beyond the battery itself as the Glendale-based hybrid joint venture works to develop a battery that can be suitable for mass production of plug-in hybrids, called PHEVs.

“We are working on the development of the complete PHEV system, which includes high-energy capacity cells, battery management electronics, control software and an efficient thermal management system, all optimally packaged for safety and efficient integration into the vehicle,” said Mary Ann Wright, who leads the Johnson Controls-Saft joint venture and is vice president and general manager for the Johnson Controls hybrid battery business.

This contract aims to research improvements to battery designs to enable plug-in hybrid cars to drive either up to 10 miles or up to 40 miles on the electric battery only, before the gasoline internal combustion engine kicks in.

The grant, funded by the U.S. Energy Department, was announced by the Advanced Battery Consortium, a joint government-auto industry program whose members include Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. In 2006, Johnson Controls-Saft was awarded a similar contract focused on lithium-ion battery systems for hybrid electric vehicles. Johnson Controls-Saft is a joint venture that has brought together Johnson Controls Inc. — the world’s leading supplier of automotive batteries — with Saft, an advanced energy storage solutions provider.

Wright testified last year that the U.S. government needs to step up its financial support for the U.S. auto industry to help make mass production plug-in hybrid vehicles a reality. She repeated that call at an industry conference in Michigan Tuesday, according to Bloomberg News.

“There is a sort of strange flaw in the thinking at the federal level that encourages development but not U.S. production of these technologies,” said K.G. Duleep, managing director of Arlington, Va.-based Energy and Environmental Analysis, a research group that consults automakers and the government on advanced vehicle technologies. “The feds haven’t paid attention to the manufacturing side.”

The department is seeking $52.9 million to support development and commercialization of plug-in hybrids and advanced lithium-ion batteries in fiscal 2009, up from $41.2 million in fiscal 2008 and just $1.4 million in fiscal 2006, spokeswoman Jennifer Scoggins said.

The agency supports plug-in hybrids, hydrogen-fueled cars, biofuels and other advanced technologies, Scoggins said.

“GM, Ford and Chrysler aren’t competing against each other, they’re competing against the world,” Wright said. “We have to look at it as national survival. Nobody is going to do this on their own.

Source: JS Online

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