US Energy Department Proposes More Spending on Eelectric Transportation

Yesterday the U.S. Energy Department released its first-ever “Quadrennial Technology Review,” saying it wants to increase funding for electrified vehicles and supporting infrastructure.

Its total 2011 budget was $3 billion, and the thinking by the government is it needs a faster return on its investment, so diverting a higher percentage toward electrification could engender more near-term solutions for America’s pressing energy and environmental needs.

“Today, our nation is at a cross road. While we have the world’s greatest innovation machine, countries around the world are moving aggressively to lead in the clean energy economy,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel-winning physicist in an introduction to the 168-page review. “We can either lead in the development of the clean energy economy or we can stand back and wait for others to move forward a sustainable energy future. For the sake of our economic prosperity and our national security, we must lead.”

The Energy Department says it ought not to get too far ahead of the private sector in its research spending, and its proposed 2013 budget gives greater priority to investments that could be feasible in the next 10 years.

“Currently DOE focuses too much effort on researching technologies that are multiple generations away from practical use,” said the review, which surveyed more than 600 stakeholders in industry, academia and government.

At present, the Energy Department said it is “underinvested” in transportation research with only 26 percent of its budget devoted to it.

Electric vehicle research received only 9 percent, and 4 percent went toward making vehicles more efficient. The lion’s share went to advanced fuels, but the Energy Department intends to shift the balance.

For heavy-duty road trucks, the Energy Department will also focus on advanced biofuels instead of “mature” ethanol and fuels that require new fuel station infrastructure.

This year’s spending allocated 51 percent for clean electricity, and here too spending is proposed to be shifted toward projects to help upgrade the aging power grid, and make buildings more energy efficient.

Carbon capture and storage research will also continue receiving funding as this fits with existing power infrastructure. The Energy Department will also focus on engineering support for licensing a new type of nuclear reactor known as the small modular reactor.

“The Department will give priority to research on technologies that can be operated economically with low water consumption, including solar photovoltaic and wind,” the review said.

At least the plan is for all of these proposed priority shifts.

Chu and other DOE officials led the review, and used its results to guide planning for a budget proposal for fiscal 2013 that will be released early in 2012.

The review is modeled on similar efforts by the Defense Department, and the proposal must go through annual negotiations between the executive branch and Congress.

On its Web site, it said the DOE-QTR was written with the purpose to “address our nation’s challenges, energy security and U.S. competitiveness.”

The review, which you can download here, defines six key strategies: increase vehicle efficiency; electrification of the light duty fleet; deploy alternative fuels; increase building and industrial efficiency; modernize the electrical grid; and deploy clean electricity.

Findings of the DOE-QTR include:

• DOE should give greater emphasis to the transport sector relative to the stationary sector.

• Among the transport strategies, DOE will devote its greatest effort to electrification of the vehicle fleet, a sweet spot for pre-competitive DOE R&D.

• Within the stationary heat and power sector, the DOE-QTR finds that the Department should increase emphasis on efficiency and understanding the grid. It states that the Department’s role as a source of information and as a convener of interested parties, two functions that are often underestimated, are unique and indispensable in advancing energy technologies.

• Finally, the DOE-QTR highlights the need for the Department to develop stronger, more integrated policy, economics, and technical analyses of its research and development activities.

“With nearly 90 percent of the energy system owned and operated by the private sector, the DOE-QTR recognizes that the Department is not the sole agent in transforming the system,” said DOE Under Secretary Steven Koonin. “Through discussions with hundreds of energy stakeholders, we have learned that, beyond our technology development activities, the Department’s unique role as a convener and source of accurate techno-economic information is a great public benefit.”

Overall, the Energy Department led by Chu has maintained an optimistic tone.

“The stakes are high for our country, and I am optimistic that we can still lead the world in technological innovation,” he said.

U.S. Energy Department, Automotive News.

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  • Max Reid

    First they should build a Level – 2 EV Charger network with a charger every 10 miles. So this country will require 30,000 chargers.
    300 From East to West
    100 From North to South
    300 * 100 = 30,000

    At the next step, add a Level – 3 EV charger. So the baseic EV charging infrastructure will be in place.

    Later, more Level 2 & Level 3 chargers can be added. All this can be done in few years. After this, everyone will start buying EV or Plugin.

  • Max Reid

    The small modular reactor shown in the link seems to be a very good solution for many small cities. Since its modular, it can be factory built and deployed at many sites much more cheaply.

    Capital cost is a big factor in nuclear plants. Faster deployment means quicker Return on Investment.

    Getting Oil seems to be get very tough now a days. An oil company failed to find oil in Greenland.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    We need to subsidize the industry much more otherwise China will own the jobs for it…


  • James Davis

    This journal and other journals like it has shown that the republicans are hell bent of eliminating clean energy and electrification of cars, , so Chu has his job cut out for him. The Thorium electric car that can get over 300,000 miles, would seem to be the best government investment in electric car research and development. Thorium is plentiful and would be the best fuel source for electric cars and the battery can even be used to provide power to your home or business.

    Thorium could also get us completely away from the dirty kind of fossil fuels like, coal, oil, and natural gas and you would not have to install expensive charging stations. After 300,000 miles, just go and pick up you another battery.

  • James Davis

    Max, I looked at that reactor and you are right; that would fit in every city in America and the 1000 MWe for the larger cities. No more brown-outs for charging your electric car or turning on your TV or computer.

  • AP

    I’m amazed at how calmly everyone reacts to the thought of small nuclear reactors in every city, if it means a no-CO2 way to power EV’s. I wonder about security issues and terrorist protection. It’s hard enough with fewer, larger plants.

    Don’t get me wrong; I think its’ good overall. I’m just used to environmentalists protesting everything, including nuclear power, while with coal we emit more CO2 than gasoline.

    Haven’t heard Jane Fonda protesting yet.

  • James Davis

    AP, a small nuclear reactor like that is easier to hide in a cave or mine shaft and take cautions to keep radiation away from humans and animals

  • AP


    Hiding the main power unit could help.

    Even so, the system can’t be entirely self-contained. You still need cooling towers to reject the waste heat from the process (about twice the electric power produced).

  • Ron McMillon

    We need to get serious and build a level 2 charging station network. From east to west and from north to south. Then we’ll see more electric cars on the road. And maybe finally get these gas guzzlers off the road!

  • James Davis

    AP reread the article on the small nuclear power plant. Westinghouse did an incredible job and if you hide it in a mine shaft; there is always plenty of water in every mine shaft that can take care of the cooling of the rods, and if you use thorium as your fuel, the rods may never melt down even if terrorists find it, there may be little to no radiation leaks, because the great abundance of water in the shaft will keep them cool and absorb the radiation if there is an accident. When it comes to the safety of nuclear power plants, that small one is the best there is.

  • James Davis

    I agree Ron, and Tesla will be placing the best super charging stations for their Model S that will be getting 320 MPC, from one end of I-5 in Mexico to the other end of I-5 in Canada. You can thank Tesla for getting the ball on the road with the charging stations.

  • AP

    I looked at the article again. I imagine you could get the cooling (it still seems like you’d need more than in a well – it would take forever for the heat to make its way out to cooler areas and the water would keep getting hotter).

    The engineer/skeptic in me also wonders about refueling: is it “loaded for life?” It seems like that could be a difficult issue otherwise.

    The other aspects make a lot of sense, though.

  • James Davis

    AP, I think Westinghouse is a little bit ahead of you and me on our thinking…or at least they seem to be. What I like about the small nuclear reactor is its size; it is much more difficult to hit with an airplane because it would be harder to find if it is hid deep in a mine shaft. It doesn’t take that much water to cool one or two rods and the water in a mine shaft continues to replenish itself and will never boil dry.

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