ARPA-E Funding $32 Million for 10 Reduced-Energy Vehicle Projects

The U.s. Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is awarding $32 million for 10 projects delivering the latest in connected, autonomous, and electrified technologies for passenger and commercial vehicles.

General Motors, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and eight university research centers have been awarded funds aimed at reducing vehicle energy usage by 20 percent by tapping into advanced technologies coming to market. It’s orchestrated through ARPA-E’s NEXTCAR Program, which is short for NEXT-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Automated On-Road Vehicles.

ARPA-E describes it as “enabling technologies that use connectivity and automation to co-optimize vehicle dynamic controls and powertrain operation, thereby reducing the energy consumption of light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.” These systems, including vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, utilize on-board or cloud-based sensors, data, and computational capabilities to help a vehicle better process and react to its surrounding environment, according to ARPA-E. Plug-in hybrid and all-electric systems are also included in some of the funded projects.

“Today cars and trucks are increasingly being outfitted with new technology that provides information about the vehicle’s environment, mostly to make them safer and to help drivers with basic tasks,” said ARPA-E Director Dr. Ellen D. Williams. “As our vehicles become creators and consumers of more and more data, we have a transformative opportunity to put that new information to the additional use of saving energy in our road transportation system.”

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GM was awarded $4.2 million for a team to develop and incorporate innovative, predictive, “InfoRich” vehicle dynamic and powertrain (VD&PT) technologies for conventional internal combustion engine vehicles. The project covers four application areas: approach to a stopping event, departing from a stopping event, travel routing to maximize energy efficiency, and intelligent cruising that takes into account upcoming road and speed conditions. GM will be tapping into years of experience in connected and autonomous technologies to expedite the development process.

Plug-in hybrid and all-electric light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles are being included in a few of the awarded projects. The Michigan Technological University team is working to improve energy efficiency in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) through a mobile connected cloud computing center. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory team will use a PHEV in a study to exploit connectivity between vehicles and infrastructure through optimal routing and acceleration/deceleration, and on-board the efficiency of the powertrain.

The University of California, Riverside team will design, develop, and test an innovative vehicle-powertrain system for natural-gas-fueled plug-in hybrid electric buses. The University of Michigan team will develop technological solutions for their project that include managing and optimizing propulsive power and auxiliary thermal load, and predictive thermal management of electrified connected and automated vehicles.

Hybrid electric vehicle systems will be part of two other projects. University of Minnesota in Minneapolis is working on cloud connected hybrid delivery vehicles. Vehicle performance will be improved through real-time powertrain optimization using two-way vehicle-to-cloud (V2C) connectivity. Ohio State University in Columbus has been awarded $5 million for a novel ignition and air-management control technology powered by four a four-cylinder engine with a hybrid-electric system.