Could green SUV revive U.S. auto plants, save jobs?

RP news wires, Noria Corporation
Tags: energy management

AFS Trinity Power Corporation on January 26 announced that the company's XH-150 SUV prototypes introduced a year ago at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit have been substantially upgraded with new technology expected to move America closer to commercial production of 150 mile per gallon full size plug-in hybrid electric SUVs, cars and trucks – vehicles that are not only super fuel-efficient, practical, and spacious enough for family and commercial use, but powerful enough for use by local, state and federal law enforcement and fire departments as well as the military and other emergency responders.


Among the advances announced January 26 by AFS Trinity are two new driving modes that offer a previously unavailable combination of fuel economy and performance. Unlike electric vehicles whose range is limited by the capacity and durability of their batteries, the new prototypes, designated the XH-150S, have a virtually unlimited range. In one of its operating modes – its world leading all-electric mode – zero gasoline is burned for the first 40 miles enabling 11.5 second zero-60 acceleration and 90 MPH highway speed. The second operating mode – the powerful but fuel-efficient gas hybrid mode – automatically switches on when the batteries are 80 percent depleted. However, the driver can also opt to put the vehicle in gas hybrid mode whenever desired or required, resulting in what is for an SUV a stunning zero-60 acceleration of 6.9 seconds, equal to a Porsche Cayenne, but delivering fuel economy in an SUV of 35 to 65 miles per gallon, depending on whether charge sustaining or charge depleting hybrid operation is enabled.


Reopening U.S. auto plants and saving UAW jobs

AFS Trinity is in the process of applying for $2.5 billion of the $25 billion U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) "green retooling" funding, which new DOE regulations specify is to be spent for " ... re-equipping, expanding, and establishing manufacturing facilities in the U.S. to produce advanced technology vehicles and components that demonstrate meaningful improvements in fuel economy."


AFS Trinity CEO Ed Furia observed, "To reduce excess capacity U.S. automakers are expected to close at least a dozen of their 53 factories. AFS Trinity would use $2.5 billion of the DOE funding to retool one or more such factories and put laid-off UAW workers back to work to produce AFS Trinity's 150 MPG Extreme Hybrids, resulting in the retention of thousands of auto industry jobs."


Americans saw the first generation XH-150 prototypes at last year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit where CNN called it "possibly the car of the future." Throughout 2008 Congressman, Governors, private citizens as well as vehicle fleet managers in numerous U.S. cities drove these first generation prototypes.


As soon as manufacturing commences and the vehicles become available, first purchasers of the XH-150S are expected to be fleets of law enforcement, fire, military and other business and government users who need a previously unavailable combination of high mileage and high power. The company also expects that many consumers will find Extreme Hybrid drive train vehicles superior to models currently available.


‘Let's face it – nothing comes close to this’

"If our officers were able to make their daily rounds using XH-150S cars, most of the time they would be quietly patrolling our communities burning no gasoline at all and getting the equivalent of 150 miles per gallon each week compared to our current vehicles in which we get only 14-18 miles per gallon," said Medina, Washington chief of police Jeffrey Chen, one of the first U.S. law enforcement leaders to drive the XH-150S. "In an emergency response situation, with the push of a button, in less than two seconds we would be able to put the full 370 horsepower of the XH-150S to work for us but still get 65 miles per gallon."


"Let's face it," Chief Chen said, "nothing else comes close to this. If my officers had cars to drive like the XH-150S that I've just driven, we would enjoy an unprecedented combination of fuel efficiency, quiet operation and power-on-demand."


Furia said, "Our proprietary technology will now make possible cars, trucks and SUVs that reduce oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions without giving up utility, comfort or performance. And we believe this combination of competitive advantages can be central to returning the U.S. auto industry to world leadership," he said.


"It would be a mistake to underestimate the American consumer's attraction to the SUV," said Furia. "Americans didn't stop buying SUVs because they didn't like them. Just the opposite – they loved SUVs; they just didn't like the way their wallets and purses hemorrhaged dollars to fill them. With gas selling for half of last year's prices, consumers with jobs who can get financing are cautiously buying a few SUVs again. This tepid revival of interest will be replaced by a stampede if and when the economy turns around and ultra fuel-efficient, high performance SUVs like the XH-150S become available."


Tapping lithium battery ‘sweet spot’

According to AFS Trinity, the dual energy storage system at the heart of the XH-150S uses off-the-shelf lithium-ion batteries, buffered by fast, electronic energy storage devices called ultracapacitors that handle high currents during acceleration that would otherwise heavily stress and reduce the useful life of the batteries. Managed by AFS Trinity's power and control electronics, the batteries operate in the low to moderate power "sweet spot" for which they are optimized, but they can tap the ultracapacitors when high or very high currents are required, thereby eliminating the risk of shortened battery life that unprotected batteries exhibit. The company's prototype SUVs have proven daily 40-mile 200 HP all-electric range with weekly average fuel consumption equivalent to 150 miles per gallon. Yet, driven as full hybrids, they can tap at will 370 HP for merging onto freeways or passing on a hill – power normally associated with a Porsche Cayenne – not an EV. Most impressive, the majority of American Drivers would travel in this car most days without burning a drop of gasoline.


According to Furia, the AFS Trinity Plug hybrid will realize the following benefits:

·        Assured battery life better than 150,000 miles while using off-the-shelf Li-ion technology – which means no new batteries need to be invented;

·        Dramatically lower fuel usage and CO2 – zero gas consumed on most days;

·        Forty miles electric operation on an overnight charge – all that is needed by 78 percent of U.S. drivers for their daily driving.


"We call the technology Fast Energy Storage, a dual power system that can be designed into most car, truck and SUV models of virtually all carmakers without diminishing comfort and performance," Furia said.


Independent confirmation of durability

Furia said, "In November, we reported extensive physical testing by America's leading independent battery testing laboratory, Mobile Power Solutions of Beaverton, Ore., which found that when we combined ultracapacitors with off the shelf lithium ion batteries the number of deep discharge cycles the batteries were capable of before wearing out increased to more than 3000 cycles versus only about 600 cycles without the AFS Trinity system. We estimate typical use of the batteries is about 300 deep discharge cycles a year, although actual experience can vary widely depending on type of use and shelf-life."


Ricardo's Role

AFS Trinity's technology development partner, Detroit-based Ricardo Inc., with more than 1,900 engineers in facilities around the globe, is the world's leading independent automotive engineering firm. Ricardo assisted AFS Trinity in building the first XH-150 prototypes and is a preferred supplier to AFS Trinity for drive train integration support. Ricardo will conduct the mass production engineering for AFS Trinity's green retooling initiative starting with XH-150S vehicle designs that can be most effectively transferred to existing factories that OEM's are preparing to shut down and whose workers they have laid off or soon will, the objective being to retool an existing auto plant to make it capable of manufacturing between 100,000 and 150,000 XH-150S vehicles annually.


150 MPG Calculation

Mileage is based on a typical week of driving: 40 miles, six days per week and 100 miles on one day each week. The first 40 of every day are electric and gasoline is used for longer distances. For this driving profile, the XH-150 uses up to 2 gallons of gas for 340 miles traveled which works out to 170 mpg, which we round down to 150 miles per gallon to reflect aggressive driving styles or a heavily laden vehicle.


About AFS Trinity

AFS Trinity Power Corp was created by a 2001 merger of American Flywheel Systems (AFS) and Trinity Flywheel Power (Trinity) which were incorporated in 1991 and 1993, respectively. Headquartered in Bellevue, Wash., with an engineering center in Livermore, Calif., the company develops Fast Energy Storage for vehicular, spacecraft and stationary power systems utilizing batteries, ultracapacitors, and flywheels. The company has conducted programs with private and government organizations including DARPA, NASA, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, U.S. DOT, California Energy Commission, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, Lawrence Livermore National Labs, Lockheed, Honeywell and Ricardo.

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