Inside the PHEV Consortium - Part 2
By Bill Moore
Raser Technologies' David West was the original driving force behind the consortium, approaching ultracapacitor-maker Maxwell Technologies with the idea to work cooperatively to develop both individual components and systems that could work together in future hybrid vehicles, thereby making it easier to get the larger OEMs to adapt the resulting products.
Maxwell's Robert Tressler explained that from his company's perspective, the consortium, "enables technology to get into the mainstream and out of laboratories and on the road.. Allowing people the opportunity to benefit from the vision that David (West) is… establishing as he forms the consortium".
As West explained, the catalyst for forming the core group began at the EDTA's summer legislative conference in Washington, D.C., when West, Stokes, and Maxwell's Richard Smith got together and discovered they shared common goals, as well as common problems. They agreed that component suppliers needed to work together more closely, "so that our technologies could be designed correctly to work together, and also to reduce development costs and development time". They also thought that by forming a united effort, they could also reduce some of the frustrations carmakers were experiencing in developing state-of-the-art electric-drive systems that weren't prohibitively expensive.
"I think all of us have been looking for this opportunity for a long time to see how we can solve these problems, and this became the sensible way to do it", West commented.
Pacific Gas & Electric's (PG&E) Brian Stokes explained it's his wish that within a year the consortium will have a prototype system ready to show to carmakers, using it as a means of opening dialog into the needs and concerns of the OEMs. The approach certainly has logic to it. Carmakers, historically, have been highly skeptical of the grid-connected hybrid-electric car concept, questioning everything from its engineering feasibility to marketability. They have often dismissed it as just a ploy by power companies to sell more American-made electricity, as if that were worse than oil companies selling drivers more imported petroleum.
Assuming in a year's time the consortium is able to begin serious discussions with OEMs, it typically takes at least three years for an idea to find its finally expression on the production line. So, a true plug-in hybrid with an initial 20 miles of electric-only driving range, after which the internal combustion engine would start running and burning liquid fuel, wouldn't makes it debut until at least 2009.
West added that the consortium's first goal is to increase its membership beyond the original core companies: Raser, Maxwell, Electrovaya, and PG&E. Companies interested in joining the consortium should have compatible technologies that can help the program reach its stated objectives.
The consortium's second goal is to develop a feasible design that has been jointly developed with OEM input.
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