Our own Circle Track project...
Our own Circle Track project car runs on race gas-for now. Could cellulosic ethanol be in our future? Absolutely.
We've got a materials group. Just like with a race car, one of the best ways to go farther, faster, and with less fuel is to reduce weight in that car. So, if you can pull out a component that's made of steel today and replace it with a new material that provides just as much strength if not more, better durability, better life, and do it for similar cost, you're going to save fuel because the vehicle has now lost weight.
We also have activities, large scale activities working on hybridization and electric drive. We're working on advanced battery chemistries. The batteries you see in the hybrid vehicles today such as Toyota Pruis, Ford Escape, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, and others are batteries that the DOE developed 10 years ago.
We've got work going on and had it going on for years in advanced lithium batteries. Now these are the batteries that you're going to start seeing later this year when Chevy brings out the Volt and Nissan comes out with the Leaf. The chemistry for the battery in that vehicle resulted from work that we've been doing.
More than 30 years after Teague...
More than 30 years after Teague took that picture, the epic battles between Chevy drivers like Darrell Waltrip (No. 11), Harry Gant (No. 33), Dale Earnhardt (not pictured), and Ford drivers such as Bill Elliott (No. 9), Geoff Bodine (No. 15), and Cale Yarborough (No. 28) sent sales of the Monte Carlo SS and Thunderbird through the roof. Circle Track Archives
So DOE is really working ahead of the curve so to speak?
Yes, for example, even though those cars are not on the market yet, we're working on technologies to replace those batteries down the road to make batteries with a lower cost, lighter weight, more power, and more energy.
And then we're working with electric motors, controls, and power electronics-just about anything you would need to integrate advanced efficient technologies into a vehicle. We also do a lot of work with demonstrations.
We're working right now in eight different demonstration projects that will result in close to 20,000 electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle recharging sites around the country with over half of those being public access stations. And we're going to have in excess of 11,000 electric-drive vehicles, those being a mix of battery electrics and plug-in hybrids. When it's all in place in the next 16 months, it will be the largest demonstration of electric-drive vehicles ever in this country. We'll have more EV's on the road than there were back in the early 1900's when electric vehicles could be bought at Sears and Roebuck.
CT: Why is the DOE investigating so many different technologies?
LS: We don't want to force anybody to buy one technology. I would never want to go tell someone you have to buy that vehicle with that E85 engine in it, or you have to go buy that electric vehicle, or that plug-in hybrid. The point is depending on how people use their vehicles, different technologies will be more properly suited for them. So we want to make sure that all these options are available for the people so that they're not forced to compromise what they need and to compromise how they work, how they live just around a vehicle. They'll be able to go and choose something that doesn't rely on gasoline but relies on the technology of fuel that is actually produced here in the U.S., whether it's electricity from the grid, natural gas coming out of the wells in many locations around the country, or if it's an ethanol or a biodiesel that could be developed anywhere. For example, the algae that could be harvested down here in Florida is a huge source of potential fuel.