The Washington Auto Show started today with an announcement by US Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz about a new, $50-million boost for the DOE's work on supporting more fuel-efficient vehicles. The $50 million, Moniz said, will support advanced vehicle technologies. $30 million will go towards making plug-in vehicles better and charging more convenient, including extra support for the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge.

The DOE said years ago that it would focus on supporting electric vehicles, but Moniz said that he expects the money announced today to support a wide variety of things. This includes advanced batteries, lightweight materials, advanced combustion and better tires, all in an effort to help the auto industry meet the higher fuel economy ratings of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The DOE is "very bullish" on EV sales as costs continue to drop - Secretary Moniz

Moniz said that the DOE has played a huge role in getting the national average MPG up to the level it is as today, citing the example that nearly every hybrid on the road has some DOE-supported technology in it with better nickel-metal hydride batteries. Also, since Americans bought nearly 100,000 plug-in vehicles last year, about twice as much as in 2012, Moniz said the DOE feels "very bullish seeing this [EV progress] continue in the years ahead" as costs continue to drop.

Not every DOE investment has been a hit, of course, but Moniz is Okay with that. The DOE's broader loan program has worked, he said, adding that a portfolio "probably shouldn't be 100 percent successful." The biggest green-car-related DOE loan failure to date has been Fisker Automotive, which will be sold at auction February 12. Moniz said he didn't want to voice support for one side or the other (Wanxiang Group from China and Hybrid Tech Holdings from Hong Kong), but said that no matter who drives away the winner will not be able to just take the technology to Asia. "What's key for us is that the terms of our loan are respected," he said. "We have technology transfer limitations, so no matter who the winner is, we will be looking at both engineering and manufacturing in the United States. ... Even though our note was sold at a discount, we still may achieve our fundamental goals of seeing engineering and manufacturing continuing in our country."
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Secretary Moniz Announces Nearly $50 Million to Advance High-Tech, Fuel Efficient American Autos

WASHINGTON – At the Washington Auto Show today U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced nearly $50 million to accelerate research and development of new vehicle technologies that give drivers and businesses more transportation options and protect the environment in communities nationwide. This new funding includes support for the Energy Department's EV Everywhere Grand Challenge, a broader initiative launched in March 2012 to make plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) more affordable and convenient to own and drive than today's gasoline-powered vehicles within the next 10 years.

"Today, the American auto industry is on the rise, experiencing the best period of growth in more than a decade. The new research and development funding announced today will help support our domestic automakers' continued growth and make sure that the next generation of advanced technology vehicles are built right here in America," said Secretary Moniz.

With support from the Energy Department, U.S. automakers, universities and national laboratories have achieved significant advances in vehicle efficiency and electrification, including cutting the cost to manufacture advanced electric vehicle batteries by 50 percent over the last four years.

Building on these advancements, the funding opportunity announced today will support a wide range of technologies that further cut fuel costs for drivers and help make vehicles more efficient and durable, including lightweighting materials; cost-effective batteries and power electronics; advanced heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; and improved fuels and lubricants.

By bringing together America's best engineers, scientists and businesses, the Energy Department's EV Everywhere Grand Challenge is focused on making electric vehicles more affordable and convenient to own than today's gasoline-powered vehicles within a decade. A new progress report released today highlights continued growth across the U.S. plug-in electric vehicle industry:

Last year, Americans bought nearly 100,000 plug-in electric vehicles, nearly twice as many as sold during 2012. According to industry estimates, the U.S. PEV market is on track to pass the 200,000 sales milestone by spring 2014 – nearly two years before hybrid electric vehicles reached this milestone since their introduction 10 years ago.

The Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own Awards ranked the 2013 Chevrolet Volt as #6 on its list of vehicles that have the lowest total cost of ownership for five years after the purchase of a new car. Only compact and subcompact cars cost less over this same period.

Through the Workplace Charging Challenge, the Energy Department is working to expand access to workplace charging stations for Americans workers across the country. In the first year of the challenge, more than 50 employers – including Facebook, Coca-Cola and Dell – have pledged to provide PEV charging access to their workforce at more than 150 worksites.

Over the last four years, the cost to manufacture advanced electric vehicle batteries has fallen by 50 percent. At the same time, the size and weight of PEV batteries has also been reduced by over 60 percent, while improving overall vehicle performance and durability.

Find more information on the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge and the Energy Department's broader efforts to help advance fuel efficient and electric vehicles.

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