Hi everyone. First, it’s great to have the opportunity to write a guest entry for “My Green Element.”I lead research in hybrid systems at GE’s Global Research Center, which is based in Upstate New York. You may not immediately associate hybrids with GE, but it is actually a big part of the company’s DNA and technology development focus.
GE’s experience in hybrids can be traced back to our company’s founder, the world’s most prolific inventor, Thomas Edison. Edison focused a lot of attention in the early 1900s on developing batteries to support an electric vehicle platform. Henry Ford won the vehicle market with the Model T and gasoline engines, but when the energy crisis hit the US in the late 1970s, GE’s Research Center participated in several hybrid projects with the U.S. Department of Energy and various automakers. We even built and successfully demonstrated a plug-in hybrid electric car in 1983 that achieved over 100 MPG.
Hybrids are a great fit with our expertise in motors, controls and energy management.In fact, our Transportation business is introducing a hybrid locomotive to the world next year.The first pre-production units are expected to be out in 2009.
How does it work? First, it’s important to know that locomotives today already run on a diesel-electric or hybrid engine. What we have added with our hybrid locomotive are batteries to store energy from the braking process for later use that would otherwise be wasted energy.
The GE Transportation business also is interested in hybrid technology for mining trucks and tugboats.Global Research is continuing development of “mega-hybrids” with advanced energy management and novel battery hardware design using dual-battery configurations on a fuel cell bus funded in part by the US Federal Transit Administration’s National Fuel Cell Bus Program.
Most recently, GE was selected by the DOE to partner with Chrysler on a PHEV project. We’re in the midst of negotiating a contract with the DOE, but the plan is for GE to develop a dual-battery energy storage system where Chrysler would lead vehicle design and integration of the GE system.The goal is to demonstrate an economically viable plug-in car within 3-5 years that achieves an electric range of 40 miles. Given that the average work commute for motorists is about 30 miles, you wouldn’t have to fill up your gas tanks for weeks, maybe months!
Given our past experience with hybrids and with electricity in general, we think we can really help accelerate PHEV technology advancements.All of this work brings us closer to long-range electric vehicles either in range-extender configurations or pure EVs.The technology is also compatible with hydrogen-powered engines and can work to provide higher system efficiency stretching the range of each kg of hydrogen.Climate change and peak oil are pressuring transportation products to be clean and green, but consumers will still demand affordability and the performance of today’s cars.Technology advancements such as those being developed at GE will help meet these new markets.