49 The PNGV programme impetus for change

On 29 September 1993, the Clinton Administration and the US Council for Automotive Research (USCAR), a consortium of the three largest US automobile manufacturers, formed a cooperative research and development partnership aimed at technological breakthroughs to produce a prototype 'super-efficient' car. The 'Big Three' (Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors), eight federal agencies, and several government national defence, energy, and weapons laboratories have joined in this Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV). It is intended to strengthen US auto industry competitiveness and develop technologies that provide cleaner and more efficient cars. The 1994 PNGV Program Plan called for a 'concept vehicle' to be ready in about six years, and a 'production prototype' to be ready in about 10 years. Research and development goals included production prototypes of vehicles capable of up to 80 miles per gallon - three times greater fuel efficiency than the average car of 1994.

Background drivers of the initiative include a combination of high gasoline prices, and government fuel economy regulation caused new car fuel efficiency to double since 1972. However, fuel economy standards for new cars peaked at 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) in 1989 and the average fuel efficiency of all on-road (new and old) cars peaked at 21.69 mpg in 1991, then dropped slightly in 1992 and again in 1993. Further, the large drop in real gasoline prices since 1981 and the increasing number of cars on the road are eroding the energy and environmental benefits of past gains in auto fuel efficiency. The public benefits that could derive from further improvements in auto fuel efficiency include health benefits from reduced urban ozone, 'insurance' against sudden oil price shocks, reduced military costs of maintaining energy security, and potential savings from reduced oil prices.

The Declaration of Intent for PNGV emphasizes that the programme represents a fundamental change in the way government and industry interact. The agreement is seen as marking a shift to a new era of progress through partnership and cooperation to address the nation's goals, rather than through the confrontational and adversarial relationship of the past. Its intent is to combine public and private resources in programmes designed to achieve major technological breakthroughs that can make regulatory interventions unnecessary. The partnership agreement is a declaration by USCAR and the government of their separate, but coordinated, plans to achieve goals for clean and efficient cars. A further objective is to curb gasoline use by 7 billion gallons per year in 2010 and 96 billion gallons per year in 2020, while creating 200 000 to 600 000 new jobs by 2010.

At the time the agreement was struck, the president and executives from the Big Three said they hoped that PNGV research breakthroughs would ultimately make auto emissions and mileage regulations unnecessary. Chrysler's former PNGV director, Tim Adams, noted that the partnership represents the opportunity to address more efficiently fundamental national objectives than the regulatory mandate approach. Further, car-makers say the Supercar's advanced technologies are outside their short-term research focus, and unjustified by fuel costs or market demand for fuel efficiency. They argue that the North American market forces alone would not drive them to create an 80 mile per gallon mid-sized sedan.

Examples of applied technology would be the development of lightweight, recyclable materials, and catalysts for reducing exhaust pollution; research that could lead to production prototypes of vehicles capable of up to three times greater fuel efficiency. Examples would be lightweight materials for body parts and the use of fuel cells and advanced energy storage systems such as ultracapacitors. Using these new power sources would produce more fuel-efficient cars. Further initiatives included lightweight, high-strength structural composite plastics that are recyclable, that can be produced economically in high volume, and that can be repaired. Hybrid drive control electronics and hardware were also cited alongside regenerative braking systems to store braking energy instead of losing it through heat dissipation; also fuel cells to convert liquid fuel energy directly into electricity with little pollution.

Such advances are aimed at more efficient energy conversion power sources, viable hybrid concepts as well as lighter weight and more efficient vehicle designs. The contributions of US government agencies include the following: at its ten National Laboratories, the Department of Energy has technical expertise, facilities, and resources that can help achieve the goals of the partnership. Examples include research programmes in advanced engine technologies such as gas turbines, hybrid vehicles, alternative fuels, fuel cells, advanced energy storage, and lightweight materials. The DOE's efforts are implemented through cost-shared contracts and cooperative agreements with the auto industry, suppliers, and others. Technologies covered include fuel cells, hybrid vehicles, gas turbines, energy storage materials and others. The Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) is focused on medium-duty and heavy-duty drivetrains for military vehicles which could, in the future, be scaled down to light-duty vehicles. ARPA funds research on electric and hybrid vehicles through the Electric/Hybrid Vehicle and Infrastructure (EHV) Program and the Technology Reinvestment Project (TRP). EHV is a major source of funding for small companies interested in conducting advanced vehicle research that is not channelled through the Big Three auto-makers. NASA will apply its expertise to PNGV in three ways: by applying existing space technologies such as advanced lightweight, high strength materials; by developing dual-use technologies such as advanced batteries and fuel cells to support both the automotive industry and aerospace programmes; and by developing technologies specifically for the PNGV such as advanced power management and distribution technology. The Department of Interior involvement in PNGV-related research includes research to improve manufacturing processes for lightweight composite materials and recycling strategies for nickelmetal hydride batteries. The DOI's Bureau of Mines has developed a system for tracking materials and energy flows through product life cycles. Life-cycle assessment of advanced vehicles and components can help to anticipate problems with raw materials availability, environmental impacts, and recyclability. This includes the worldwide availability of raw materials, environmental impacts of industrial processes, and strategies for recycling of materials.

The US OTA considers that the most likely configuration of a PNGV prototype would be a hybrid vehicle, powered in the near term by a piston engine, and in the longer term perhaps by a fuel cell. It notes that there is no battery technology that can presently achieve the equivalent of 80 mpg. Thus, the proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell is seen as the more likely candidate. The DOE further stresses that meeting the fuel economy goal will require new technologies for energy conversion, energy storage, hybrid propulsion, and lightweight materials.

Solar Stirling Engine Basics Explained

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The solar Stirling engine is progressively becoming a viable alternative to solar panels for its higher efficiency. Stirling engines might be the best way to harvest the power provided by the sun. This is an easy-to-understand explanation of how Stirling engines work, the different types, and why they are more efficient than steam engines.

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