The 2012 Department of Energy budget submitted to Congress on Monday includes a 20-page section on Vehicle Technologies (VT), and nearly every word of it refers to vehicle electrification. In language of funding dollars, the VT budget jumps by 80 percent from $325 million to $588 million.
The majority ($229 million) of the VT budget increase goes towards the expansion of the EV deployment and infrastructure rollout. This is a $200 increase in the program that will largely benefit the Clean Cities program where metropolitan areas provide grants for purchasing of EVs and charging equipment.
This is welcome news for EV charging equipment (EVCE) companies who are likely to see increased orders for 2011-12 by local transit agencies and fleets. Pike Research projects that $61 million will be spent across the U.S. on EVCE during 2011.
The other significant area of increased VT funding is in energy storage technology, which doubles from 2010 spending to $188 million. The cost of lithium ion batteries for PEVs is slowly coming down, but the government wants to accelerate the cost-reducing technologies through more material science research and manufacturing funding.
Lithium ion batteries are the primary recipient of funds, although a surprising amount of text is spent on the potential for ultracapacitors. Funding for ultracapacitors isn’t spelled out, but given the ample gushing about the technology, it is likely to be in the multiple millions. The budget report states that while ultracapacitors have poor energy density today and won’t challenge batteries as primary energy storage, they “offer the possibility of improved vehicle performance in a battery-plus-ultra-capacitor hybrid configuration and a 10 to 20 percent fuel economy improvement in city driving if used in a start/stop application.” This reflects the findings in Pike Research’s recent Ultracapacitors report, which projects the market for ultracapacitors in stop-start vehicles will grow from less than a quarter of a million dollars to nearly $50 million by 2015.
The budget more than doubles the funding from 2010 for power electronics and motors to $46.6 million. This area doesn’t get nearly as much attention as vehicle batteries or charging, but improvements in electric drive technology will improve overall vehicle efficiency.
The budget was released just days after the Obama administration hyped the success to date for its plan for 1 million plug-in vehicles to be on the road by 2015. The investments in infrastructure and rollout of EVs will help, but not enough to sway consumer adoption to get to the levels needed to reach its target. Pike Research estimates that 841,000 PEVs will be sold by 2015.
The VT budget contains zero dollars for alternative fuels such as biofuels, natural gas or hydrogen. Biomass and hydrogen/fuel cells have their own sections of the budget where the feedstocks and the efficiency of the fuels are looked at instead of their use transportation. Natural gas as a transportation fuel is not referred to at all in the budget which isn’t good news for Pickens Plan backers. The budget for fossil energy research is slashed by $418 million.
The overall budget for DOE increases by 12 percent in 2012, which won’t please folks who are prioritizing debt reduction. However, the administration’s plan to reduce oil subsides by $43 billion over 10 years will more than offset the increase in the DOE budget.
As my esteemed colleague Lisa points out, ending the oil subsidies would be politically courageous with uncertain results. But it’s sure worth trying.
Article by John Gartner.