Eight auto and car parts makers will get more than $187 million in federal funds to help them improve the fuel efficiency of heavy-duty trucks and passenger vehicles, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced today. The awards, funded largely through the Recovery Act, come as the auto industry is striving to put its greenest foot forward at the North American International Auto Show, which kicked off this morning in Detroit.
Fuel efficiency represents a key selling point for many of the vehicles at this year’s auto show — Toyota is boasting that its new FT-CH hybrid concept would beat even the popular Prius on fuel efficiency, and Ford CEO Alan Mulally spoke this morning at the event about “one percenters,” or small design tweaks that add up to significant fuel-efficiency gains. The Department of Energy hopes today’s funding awards will help make fuel-saving technologies more of a given in car and truck designs, rather than a bonus.
By 2030, the agency hopes technologies resulting from these projects will reach widespread adoption, reducing gasoline and diesel consumption by more than 100 million gallons per day, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions from on-road vehicles by more than 20 percent. Chu said the awards “will play an important role in building a more sustainable transportation system in the country.”
The bulk of today’s funding — $115 million — will go toward Class 8 trucks, or “SuperTrucks.” The DOE has set a target of improving fuel efficiency for these trucks by 50 percent with three projects. Cummins (based in Columbus, Ind., where Chu announced the funding today), Daimler Trucks North America and Navistar each won awards of about $37 million to $40 million to develop SuperTruck tech.
The three companies will be working on technologies including waste heat recovery systems (the focus of startups including Cleantech Open competitor Alphabet Energy), fuel cell and electric auxiliary power units to reduce engine idling, improved aerodynamics (the focus of another Cleantech Open competitor, FuelSaver), hybridization and tires with reduced rolling resistance.
Another $71 million has been awarded for more efficient engines and powertrain systems for passenger vehicles. Chrysler, Ford and General Motors have nabbed funding in this category, with Chrysler and Ford bringing in $14 million to $15 million each, and GM taking only about $7.7 million. Ford will use the funding to “achieve a 25 percent fuel economy improvement with a gasoline engine in a 2010 mid- to large-size sedan,” while GM will pursue the same level of fuel savings using a 2010 Malibu as a demo. Chrysler will work on tech for its minivan platform.
Delphi Automoitive Systems and Robert Bosch, both major suppliers for the world’s automakers, have been awarded about $7.5 million and $12 million, respectively. The DOE also awarded Cummins another $15 million in the passenger vehicle category to develop a diesel engine that delivers 40 percent better fuel economy over conventional gas engine tech and “significantly exceeds” the Environmental Protection Agency’s emission requirements for 2010. You can find the full project descriptions here.