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The DOE plans to focus more on EVs in the future   (Source: Tesla Motors)
The Quadrennial Technology Review will be used to steer spending for fiscal 2013, and a budget proposal will be released in 2012

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released a new "Quadrennial Technology Review," which reveals the government's alternative energy plans for fiscal 2013.

The Quadrennial Technology Review pushes alternative energy technology that can be commercialized in a 10-year period, and according to its first report, the DOE wants to focus more of its $3 billion research budget on the adoption of electric vehicles and the modernization of the power grid.

The review noted that the DOE "underinvested" in transportation in fiscal 2011, where only 26 percent of spending was dedicated to this particular area. Nine percent went to electric vehicles in fiscal 2011, 4 percent went to adding fuel efficiency to vehicles, and the rest went to alternative fuels.

"Currently, DOE focuses too much effort on researching technologies that are multiple generations away from practical use," said The Quadrennial Technology Review.

The DOE now plans to concentrate on advanced biofuels as well as "technology that does not require new fuel-station infrastructure."

Much of fiscal 2011's budget was devoted to clean electricity at 51 percent of spending, but in addition to transportation, the DOE will put aside more funding in the future for the modernization of the power grid, carbon capture/storage research, building and factory efficiency and technology that can be operated using less water like wind and solar photovoltaic.

The DOE is currently facing scrutiny for a government loan to solar company Solyndra, which recently filed for bankruptcy. The government reportedly knew the company was destined to fail, according to emails the FBI found when raiding Solyndra in early September. The Quadrennial Technology Review does not address loan guarantees private-sector companies, which was a $180 million program in fiscal 2011.

Source: Automotive News

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Sometimes I don't understand them...
By Aikouka on 9/30/2011 1:39:09 PM , Rating: 2
"Currently, DOE focuses too much effort on researching technologies that are multiple generations away from practical use," said The Quadrennial Technology Review.

Isn't it possible to consider electric car technology under this same quote? While we do have electric cars today, I think most people realize that their use is essentially restricted to a short daily commute. With the overall size of the United States, electric cars essentially are not practical.

I also understand where the EPA is coming from as well. They're not wrong in that electric cars have a large advantage in that the fuel distribution network (i.e. our power grid) already exists. If we look at another alternative fuel such as hydrogen, the issue that we run into is that it would require outfitting current gas stations to be able to serve the fuel.

Along those lines, I think that they're overlooking a large problem. A large issue with electric cars now is charging time, and given the relatively low output of a wall socket, we will need hardware to facilitate faster charging times. That means we need to outfit gas stations or other charging locations with devices that are designed to provide more current to the electric vehicles. This is the same problem that other alternative fuels have, and it's a large and expensive problem to fix.

Essentially, electric vehicles still have plenty of kinks to be worked out, and some of its technology is still in a fairly infantile state. Does this mean that electricity is currently a worse means of "fuel" compared to other alternatives? I'll let someone smarter than me figure out the logistics behind that. :)

RE: Sometimes I don't understand them...
By Shig on 9/30/2011 4:46:29 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with you that electric cars are not practical for a lot of typical families. But as far as fleet vehicles go, they can be perfect. There's tens of thousands of government gas guzzlers driving the same short routes day in and day out. Car sharing is another area where electric cars would be very successful, rent a car for a couple hours for ~20$, pay close to nothing in fuel and get your errands done. These types of big companies and organizations will be able to afford the vertical integration of quick chargers at strategic points in pre-planned routes.

Take General Electric for example, they agreed to buy thousands of plug-in electric hybrids and pure electrics because they can make their own solar panels and charging infrastructure. GE can also finance these cars over long periods of time with structured payoff times, after a certain amount of time they'll become essentially free to be driving. Then after the cars are old and used up, they can recycle their batteries back into grid infrastructure (many auto companies are doing this kind of thing too, Ford for example).

Electric cars are also nice because there really isn't that much maintenence to be done. Pure electrics never need oil changes, fluid changes, and all those other nickel and dime costs the average car owner has to pay.

Battery technology is just one of those areas of science that moore's law can't really help. It takes a lot of money and the progress is slow going, but there still is sustained progress through investment.

Electric cars aren't going to be a major part of the US fleet anytime soon, but there are many areas where it does work and works well.

By Solandri on 9/30/2011 6:42:41 PM , Rating: 3
Car sharing is another area where electric cars would be very successful, rent a car for a couple hours for ~20$, pay close to nothing in fuel and get your errands done.

This is something that's puzzled me too. People see $20 to use a car for a day's errands and think "Are you nuts?" They compare to using their own car "for free", and ignore the costs of actually owning the car.

If you buy your car for $25k, use it for 60k miles, and sell it for $10k, that's $0.25 per mile. A $35 oil change every 3500 miles adds $0.01 per mile. A $600 overhaul every 15k miles adds $0.04. $120 annual license and registration adds $0.01 assuming 12k miles/yr. And $400 for new tires after 50k miles is another $0.008. $600 insurance for a year would be $0.05. Add in misc expenses (e.g. car washes) and all told you're looking at about $0.40 per mile to own this car.

Gas at $3.50/gal and 28 mpg is $0.125 per mile. So owning the car costs more than 3x as much as the gas you put into it. Financially, most people should be more concerned about the car's ownership costs than its gas mileage.

Combined you're looking at about $0.525 per mile to drive a car you own. In other words, $20 will get you about 38 miles in a car you own. I'm not saying short-term rental is for everyone. But it seems to me renting $20 only on days you actually need a car, or $50-$75 for a weekend getaway, would make a lot of financial sense for many people. Except people don't think of this because they view any miles they put on a car they own as "free".

By wookie1 on 10/1/2011 12:00:29 AM , Rating: 2
Are you sure that GE isn't buying Volts from GM in order to keep their favored status with Obama? Are you sure he didn't make them a deal that they couldn't refuse in order to make at least some Volt sales so that the GM takeover didn't look like such a disaster?

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