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$5.43M in contracts express USCAR and DOE collaboration

There was a time when collaboration between automakers implied suspicion of collusion and potential price fixing; not anymore, and not with the government. The U.S. DOE's mission to advance the national, economic and energy security of the United States has made cooperation between American automakers much easier.

The United States Council for Automotive Research LLC (USCAR), is a collaboration of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors which allows American automakers in Detroit to deal with one voice with the government, mostly represented by the Department of Energy or DOE.

Fact is, few within the automotive industry would deny that the technical complexity of cars and trucks has been growing at an exponential rate. And, while some may assume the existence of organizations like SAE should be suffcient, the SAE's purpose is help the industry create and publish technical standards which has increasingly become difficult. Furthermore, SAE does not generally award research contracts.

The DOE's Vehicle Technologies Program enables research, as it now works with industry, academia and national laboratories to develop advanced transportation technologies that reduce the nation's use of imported oil and increase our energy security. Electrochemical energy storage, for example, has been identified as a critical enabling technology for advanced, fuel-efficient, light and heavy-duty vehicles.

According to the "Power of Automotive Collaboration" brochure, a document published by USCAR, the goal of the collaboration is to address some of society's toughest automotive transportation challenges. That collaboration is in play, because the successful technology advances and breakthroughs of late have been the direct result from its collaboration with the U.S. Government.

Recent Monetary Awards

Take, for example, the United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), a subsidiary of USCAR. Representing the advanced research collaboration among Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Company, approximately $5.43 million in advanced battery development and technology assessment contracts have recently been awarded to five firms.

Of course, the competitively bid contract awards were funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and included a 50 percent cost-share from each of the contracted companies.

USABC needed to award the contracts to develop and assess advanced energy storage technologies for hybrid-electric vehicles (HEV), a lower-energy energy storage system (LEESS) for power-assist hybrid-electric vehicles (PAHEV) and electric vehicle (EV) applications. The research costs are thus shared.

According to the press release, two companies received advanced battery development contracts:

Envia Systems Inc. of Newark, Calif., which was awarded a $3.65 million contract for a three-year project to develop a high-energy cathode material for vehicle applications and pouch cells that exhibit performance metrics that meet or exceed the minimum USABC EV goals.

Quallion LLC of Los Angeles, Calif., which was awarded a $1.41 million contract for an 18-month demonstration of its Matrix™ battery design, a hybridized battery pack using a mixture of high power and high-energy lithium-ion cells, and to demonstrate the performance of the packs against USABC EV goals.

Furthermore, three companies received technology assessment contracts:

ActaCell Inc. of Austin, Texas, which was awarded $179,015 for a 16-month technology assessment contract to evaluate the company's high-power lithium-ion cells for increased cycle and storage life against USABC PAHEV goals.

Leyden Energy Inc. of Freemont, Calif., which was awarded a $117,733 contract for an eight-month technology assessment of its lithium-ion technology for EV applications in a pouch cell and to evaluate them against USABC EV battery goals.

K2 Energy Solutions Inc. of Henderson, Nev., which was awarded a $73,644 contract for a 12-month technology assessment of the company's 51 amp-hour (Ah) cells and planned 45 Ah cells configured in "flat-pack" modular batteries and large laminated cells in relation to USABC EV battery targets.

Bottom line is, collaboration is a power that the American auto industry and the U.S. government seems finally willing to engage. For the record, Japan, Korea, Germany and other countries have been doing it for decades.