Looking to establish itself as a leader in electric vehicle drive train technology as well as geothermal power, Provo, Utah-based Raser Technologies is readying a 100-mile per gallon plug-in electric SUV for an end of March road test. With auto industry executives showing a keen interest in Raser's project, a successful road test would be a big step forward and hasten the day when plug-in electric SUVs and light trucks would roll off factory production lines and make their way on to US roads.
Raser offers those interested a video update of the project on its website. The company's design and engineering team has already tested a prototype in the lab at sustained speeds of 90 mph.
“The majority of the final work to complete will be refining the software for the hybrid master control logic and vehicle systems communications for smooth, safe and efficient road operations,” Raser vp of business development Jim Spellman commented. “The finish line is in view and we are on track to road test the vehicle by the end of March.”
Out of the Lab and on to the Track
The prototype SUV's stock V-8 engine is replaced by a proprietary “gen-set” that includes a 100-kilowatt permanent magnet generator designed to match the speed and torque of the usual internal combustion engine.
At the heart of Raser's electric power train is a 200-kilowatt AC induction motor—the traction drive. The induction motor, which is mounted on the chassis and connected directly to the transmission to propel the SUV, provides “exceptional torque and acceleration while maintaining 4-wheel drive performance,' according to the company.
One of the most efficient 4-cylinder internal combustion engines on the market is used intermittently to recharge lithium ion battery packs, which are mounted on to the rear of the SUV's frame.
Raser, along with other electric vehicle developers, have been waiting for manufacturers to work the kinks out and ramp up production of lithium ion batteries, Spellman noted, issues that have included packaging and battery management systems. Having recently taken delivery, ”we've tested our motor, generator and dual drive controller in the lab and now they are running in the vehicle,” he said.
Raser PHEVs at PG&E
Back in February, Raser announced that Pacific Gas & Electric had signed an agreement to buy and demonstrate two plug-in hybrid electric SUVs designed to get 100-mpg under typical daily driving conditions in near zero emissions mode.
PG&E's looking to add to this first purchase and integrate additional PHEVs into its fleet in the future if the initial demos work out well. Doing so would reduce the cost of operating its fleet of vehicles by as much as 75 percent when driven in all-electric mode over typical daily routes of up to 40 miles while producing practically zero in the way of emissions. Beyond the 40-mile battery electric range, the PHEVs may continue as far as 400 miles by generating their own electricity.
PG&E will recharge the PHEVs battery packs at night when electricity demand is lowest. With an on-board 100-kW generator, the vehicles can also be used as mobile sources of emergency electricity to assist during power outages or to provide power for work and repairs.
PG&E's clean fuel fleet has replaced more than 3.4 million gallons of gasoline and diesel and avoided emitting some 6,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide by burning cleaner fuels during the last 15 years, according to the company. Up to now, that's been achieved by converting more than 1,300 of its 10,000-vehicle fleet from gasoline or diesel to compressed natural gas.