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China and US set to slug it out on EVs

Chinese EV: The Lexus RX-inspired BYD S6 Dual Mode Hybrid at the 2011 Detroit motor show.

Washington and Beijing put the pedal down in drive for green car leadership

General News logo24 May 2011


THE Chinese government has rolled out a secret electric car action plan with initial financial backing for 77 projects in what Chinese industry insiders describe as “an important guide for the industrialisation of China’s electric vehicles”, according to a Chinese media report.

Across the Pacific, the United States government this week announced a new-look partnership between Washington and major US automotive, electricity and oil companies to pool information to drive a similar development of cutting-edge green cars.

Both moves signal an intention by the world’s two biggest economies to take the high ground in the development of new-generation vehicles, including the vital electric vehicle batteries that are expected to spawn an $11 billion industry by 2020.

In China, production costs of automotive batteries are tipped to halve by 2015 as the nation tips massive resources into ‘pure’ EVs for both the domestic market and export.

The China Car Times reports that the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has launched the secret five-year action plan in the past month, injecting 780 million yuan ($A113 million) into 77 projects in phase one of the project.

Quoting “an expert from the electric vehicle industry”, the website says more funds are in the pipeline for a second wave of grants for fresh applications from companies working on EV research.

80 center imageFrom top: Tesla Model S, Chevrolet Volt, Dodge Ram.

“It (MOST) plans to make breakthroughs in the key technologies relating to electric vehicles in the next five years, including battery, electric motor and battery management systems, with small pure electric vehicles the development focus in the short term,” China Car Times says.

“By 2015, the production costs of batteries are expected to be 50 per cent of the current costs, and the number of electric vehicles on road is expected to reach one million.”China Car Times says the plan has long been rumoured in China, with the main points previously revealed by an unnamed MOST official.

It said the plan had been secretly implemented in the past month, with the government deciding not to go public with it “after disputes aroused by the release of the 10-year draft planning for new energy vehicles”.

“The delayed release of the final version makes MOST choose to be low-key in its 2011-2015 planning,” China Cars Times says.

In the US, the Energy Department has announced a high-level partnership with major corporate stakeholders to share information and cut duplication of research efforts in a bid to accelerate American advances in environmentally friendly vehicles.

The department said the collaboration would help to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure that publicly-funded research delivered high-value results and overcame “high-risk barriers to technology commercialisation”.

Called US DRIVE – standing for United States Driving Research and Innovation for Vehicle efficiency and Energy sustainability – the collaboration not only includes the ‘Big Three’ Detroit car-makers – General Motors, Ford and Chrysler – via their US Council for Automotive Research organization – but also leading EV innovator, Tesla Motors.

As well, the electricity industry is represented by DTE Energy Company, Southern California Edison Company and the Electric Power Research Institute, while a who’s who of oil companies is also on board. These include BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell Oil Products US.

The oil companies appear to have been included to gain their support for a transition to other, more environmentally sound fuels such as hydrogen.

Apart from EV research, the consortium will share knowledge on advanced combustion control, fuel cells, vehicle systems, EV-to-grid interaction, lightweight materials, hydrogen systems and “fuel pathway integration”.

Meantime, a US website reports that Chrysler is set to deliver 140 plug-in hybrid Ram pick-ups to the Energy Department as part of a $100 million ($A94m) joint research project running to 2014.

Pickup.com says the first batch of 10 Rams will be handed to the department in Arizona, with others delivered around the country to test various driving conditions and climate extremes.

The pick-ups are said to be armed with 5.7-litre Hemi V8s mated with a GM-made two-mode hybrid transmission powered by a 12.9kWh lithium ion battery.

The trucks reportedly can run for more than 30km on electric power alone before firing up the petrol V8.

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