EPA to Award Up to $1.35M to Projects to Advance Hydraulic Hybrid, Engine and Fuel Technology

Jose Michael

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is soliciting applications from eligible entities to collaborate with EPA in a set of hybrid technology pilot projects that can span the optimization of Hydraulic Hybrid Vehicle (HHV) technology (including plug-in electric-hydraulic hybrids); unique clean and efficient engines for full-series hybrid vehicles; and clean lower greenhouse gas transportation fuels.

The EPA expects to select 5 programs. Estimated total program funding is $1,350,000, with an award ceiling of $450,000. The EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ) has identified the following as high priority specific technology projects:

  • Plug-in electric-hydraulic hybrids. This area of investigation would require performance investigation of electric vehicle efficiency and synthesizing hybrid technology to optimize overall vehicle efficiency.

  • Human-hydraulic hybrids. Human-powered vehicles, such as rickshaws, are used in many regions as a mode of basic transport. If these vehicles were constructed to be less difficult to propel, through leveling load requirements with a hydraulic hybrid energy storage device, demand for fossil-fuel vehicles would decrease.

  • Small (e.g., 10-50 kw) but high-efficiency expansion turbines (e.g., steam turbines). This area of investigation would require efficiency optimization of small turbines.

  • Gasification of organics leading to synthesis of methanol, DME and potentially Fischer-Tropsch automotive fuels. For the efficient use of alternative fuels to have an impact, there must be an efficient and reliable process for the production of these alternative fuels. This project will involve developing a gasification process for organics, leading to synthesis of methanol, DME and potentially Fischer-Tropsch automotive fuels.

  • Genetically engineered bacteria/enzymes that can convert organic materials to methanol cost-effectively. Similar to the gasification research, this project investigates the use of bacteria or enzymes to create methanol for fuel usage.

  • Innovative aerodynamic improvement pathways for commercial and personal vehicles. For personal and especially commercial series hybrid vehicles, engines are sized to provide required power during high-speed driving. One area of substantial potential efficiency benefit is decreasing the vehicle's aerodynamic resistance at highway speeds.

  • High-efficiency, low-cost engines for full-series hybrid vehicles such as free-piston engines, high-efficiency gasoline (e.g. HCCI) combustion, low heat rejection engines with integrated exhaust waste-heat energy recovery systems targeted at 60+% thermal efficiency. The design of hybrid series hydraulic vehicles greatly modifies the demands on engine performance compared to traditional vehicles. The change produces an opportunity for innovative engine designs to increase overall vehicle efficiency.

Other project categories EPA is interested in include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Low-permeation accumulator fluids and bladders (specifically bladders or gas-oil separation in general). Current state-of-the-art materials used for accumulator bladders are subject to rates of gas permeation which, over long periods of time, can lower system effectiveness and possibly require “re-charging” of the charge gas, resulting in an added maintenance cost. This area would involve a fundamental investigation and development of alternative (bladder or gas-oil separation) materials leading to the goal of essentially zero long-term permeation.

  • Filtration/de-aeration of hydraulic oil. Gas permeation may lead to the presence of dissolved gas in the hydraulic fluid, which decreases its effectiveness and poses engineering difficulties. Also, “dry sump” pump/motors tend to cause aeration of fluid. For these reasons there is a need for a simple, inexpensive, and durable mechanism to de-aerate the hydraulic oil.

  • Low compressiblity fluids. This would involve a fundamental investigation of various fluids alternatives to conventional hydraulic oil, to determine whether there is an alternative fluid which would retain the advantages of hydraulic oil but have a lower compressibility.

  • High energy density mechanisms. This would involve consideration of hydraulic energy storage options other than the different types of accumulators that have been used for decades in agricultural, construction, and industrial equipment.

  • Improving energy efficiency for engine-off accessories (air conditioning, power brakes, etc) through use of hydraulics to drive the accessories, and through enhanced performance based accessory designs. This is important for two reasons. As drive train efficiency increases, accessories take a greater percentage of the energy needed to operate a vehicle. In addition, with hydraulic energy storage, it would be preferable to run accessories (such as power steering) with hydraulics, rather than off of the engine or battery power, especially if the engine management strategy dictates that the engine be shut off at times. This may involve investigation of engine management strategies.

  • Practical variable valve timing for pump/motors. While EPA has investigated many areas that affect efficiency of hydraulic pump/motor designs, one additional area that holds promise for efficiency improvements over an expanded range of operation is variable valve timing for improving the flow-efficiency of pump/motor units. This would involve investigation of practical strategies and designs for pump/motor units with variable valve timing.

EPA recommends applicants give important consideration and emphasize how they will leverage their proximity to the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory (NVFEL) in Ann Arbor, MI, in their decision to compete for funding under this project. NVFEL is the site of the hydraulic hybrid “demonstration” vehicles and EPA’s advanced engine development activities, which will be used to integrate improvements developed by the recipients for collaboration with EPA, and is the primary location for EPA’s CAT program. Participants from the recipient organization will be required to travel frequently, or spend extended periods of time at NVFEL to complete the investigation and demonstration of their technological improvements.

Applications will be accepted from states, local governments, territories, Indian Tribes, and possessions of the US, including the District of Columbia, international organizations, public and private universities and colleges, hospitals, laboratories, other public or private nonprofit institutions.

Hard copies of application packages are due by 15 December 2008.


  • Request for Applications (RFA) No. OAR-OTAQ-08-09

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