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Arun Majumdar speaks at Idaho National Lab (INL) during a visit to the site earlier this week. | Photo courtesy of INL.
While the North American International Auto Show began this week in Detroit, ARPA-E Director Arun Majumadar is visiting another town on the cutting edge of vehicle R&D – Longmont, Colorado, home of UQM Technologies.
Beginning with their first all-composite, battery-electric passenger vehicle in the 1970s, the company has been in the electrification business for 35 years, and is no stranger to the benefits of government-industry partnerships.
Over the years, both the Energy Department and the federal government at large have successfully collaborated with UQM – which has received Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards from the Defense Department as far back as 1983 and received SBIR funding from Energy for eight different projects in electric motors and machines. In 2006, UQM received funding from EERE’s Vehicle Technologies Program via the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership to design an advanced permanent magnet motor for use in electric drive vehicles.
In 2009, following the success of the FreedomCAR project, UQM was awarded $45 million in Recovery Act funding to support the development of two types of Electric Vehicle (EV) systems: a propulsion/generator system for battery electric, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles, and power assist motor/generators for parallel hybrid trucks and buses. As a result of this funding, UQM was able to build the Longmont, CO facility that Dr. Majumdar is visiting today. This site alone has the capacity to produce systems for 120,000 electric drive vehicles a year.
In keeping with emerging EV technologies, last year the Vehicle Technologies Program also awarded $3 million to UQM to develop a non-rare-earth permanent magnet motor architecture, which will enable the use of low energy magnet technology. Engineering teams at several national labs will work with UQM’s engineers to develop the technology, which will support more affordable and efficient EV technologies and eliminate the need to utilize rare earth metals in these advanced engines.
It’s partnerships like this that are powering the commercialization of emerging EV technology. In fact, UQM’s recent agreement (pdf - 91kb) with Electric Vehicles International (EVI) and UPS to produce systems for 100 all-electric delivery vans is not only a great business success, but will be the largest deployment of a zero-tailpipe delivery fleet in California. As a National Clean Fleets Partner, UPS is a leader in reducing oil use in their fleet, and estimates that the use of these vehicles will displace 126,000 gallons of fuel a year that would have been burned running diesel trucks.
Partnerships like these across the private and public sectors are the kind of investments that are helping America win the clean energy race. Including UQM, the Recovery Act provided $2.4 billion in funding to 48 advanced battery and electric drive projects across the country, funding 30 new manufacturing plants like the one Dr. Majumdar is visiting today. Because of these investments, the U.S. will have increased our capacity to produce electric-drive vehicles batteries from virtually zero in 2008 up to 500,000 per year in 2015.