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HEV Demonstration Programs

In 2006, the ALABC launched a demonstration phase of its research program in an effort to better display the modifications that can be made to VRLA batteries to improve their performance in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). In this phase, the enhanced batteries are (1) constructed; (2) performance tested in the laboratory; and (3) evaluated in HEVs in the field. This process has resulted in several demonstration vehicles that have been retrofitted with state-of-the-art automotive systems featuring advanced lead-acid and lead carbon batteries.


The HyBoost Project

In 2009, the EALABC partnered with automotive engineering pioneer Ricardo, along with Valeo, Controlled Power Technologies (CPT), Ford Motor Company and London’s Imperial College to use proven, cost-effective technologies to build a 1.0 liter hybrid engine and powertrain that could perform at the same level of (or better than) a conventional 2.0 liter system. In a project co-funded by the government-sponsored Technology Strategy Board, the group retrofitted a 2.0 liter Ford Focus with a downsized 1.0 liter three-cylinder Ford Fox gasoline engine, a CPT variable torque electric supercharger (VTES), a Valeo Starter Alternator Reversible System (StARS), a 220 Farad super-capacitor, and an extended life flooded (ELF) battery.

Nearly two years later, the HyBoost demonstration vehicle displayed impressive test results in comparison with the 2.0 liter Focus, with a 39% reduction in CO2 emissions without loss of vehicle performance. Following the test results, the vehicle was revealed to the general public in September 2011 at the Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle 2011 (LCV2011) event at Rockingham, U.K.

While the project was a significant success, the EALABC continued testing a variety of carbon-enhanced VRLA batteries supplied by member companies as a potential replacement for the super-capacitor. Once the team determined some of these advanced VRLA batteries could not only meet the current demands of the recharge cycle, but also store significantly more energy than the super-capacitor, the ALABC decided to commission its own vehicle with these batteries in an attempt to achieve comparable results at lower cost.


The LC Super Hybrid

On the heels of the HyBoost results, the EALABC and CPT decided to commission German automotive technology specialists AVL Schrick to convert a 1.4 liter Volkswagen Passat TSI with a similar system to attempt even better fuel efficiency with optimal performance. The Passat made an ideal base vehicle, in part because it was already turbo-charged and fitted with start/stop technology, but it required some key modifications in order to achieve the desired parameters.

For one, the team replaced the existing integrated starter generator (ISG) with the CPT SpeedStart ISG for quicker response during start/stop events. They also decided to replace the existing 68Ah VRLA battery with a 100Ah battery (two Exide 50Ah Orbital High Carbon batteries in parallel). This battery would not only provide the hotel loads (or non-propulsion energy), but also capture the recovered or “regen” energy from the ISG to power the CPT electric supercharger, which acts to prevent turbo lag and lack of power at low engine revolutions. (Incidentally, Valeo later acquired the electric supercharger business from CPT, indicating the genuine interest of a “Tier 1” supplier to OEMs – original equipment manufacturers – in promoting this technology.)

AVL Schrick carried out the vehicle integration with Mubea supplying the belt tensioner technology and Provector assisting with the battery management system.

The resulting 12-volt “LC SuperHybrid” performed even better than expected achieving a 7% reduction in CO2 emissions of the already fuel-efficient 1.4 liter Passat base vehicle. However, the more impressive comparison is with the 2.0 liter Volvo S40, which the 12V LC SuperHybrid clearly outperformed and still improved upon CO2 emissions by 26%. The demonstration vehicle recorded significant performance characteristics while registering a fuel-efficiency mark of 50.5 miles per gallon with a gasoline-powered (rather than diesel-powered) engine, proving that such technology can offer the benefits of lower emissions and lower fuel consumption without having to sacrifice vehicle performance for the sake of the consumer.

The 12V LC SuperHybrid made its world debut at the 82nd International Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland in March 2012, and has been on display at several events in Europe and North America.

Currently, a 48-volt version of the LC SuperHybrid is under development with a targeted launch in June 2013.


The Arizona HEV Demonstration Project

In the U.S., the ALABC partnered with ECOtality North America and the U.S. Department of Energy to evaluate and demonstrate the long-range capabilities of lead carbon batteries in HEV duty. ECOtality started by evaluating lead carbon 12V UltraBattery designs from both Furukawa and East Penn, and was able to achieve over 167,000 miles under the simulated HEV profile with the East Penn batteries. Following the successful tests, the group retrofitted a 2010 Honda Civic HEV with a 178V pack of UltraBatteries for on-road performance evaluation. This vehicle has since completed its baseline characterization and calibration on the test track, and is now commissioned for service in the ECOtality test fleet for 100,000+ miles of operation in downtown Phoenix.

In fleet duty, the research team expects the demonstration vehicle to log over 5,000 miles of road duty per month under real-world stop-and-go conditions with an ultimate goal of reaching 100,000 miles by mid-2013. Upon successful completion of fleet testing, the project should not only provide additional benchmarking data for using the UltraBattery design in today’s HEV applications, but also demonstrate the durability of lead carbon batteries in high-rate partial-state-of-charge HEV operation.