The Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) will evaluate a prototype Toyota plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (see the figure), or PHEV, as part of a nearly $3 million research effort. UCI will receive $1.4 million over two years under a $25 million statewide program designed to develop alternative fuel projects that reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The PHEV research by UC Irvine is intended to determine how the widespread use of such technology would affect air quality and the demand for electricity in California.
“This affords the state a tremendous opportunity to better understand this emerging vehicle technology, and we are excited to be a part of this effort,” said APEP Director Scott Samuelsen, professor of mechanical, aerospace and environmental engineering in The Henry Samueli School of Engineering.
Toyota will provide pre-commercial versions of its PHEV to UC Irvine and UC Berkeley as part of the company’s ongoing Sustainable Mobility Development Program (UC Berkeley received a separate $750,000 award to study user response to PHEV and fuel-cell vehicle technologies). The PHEVs will be the only Toyota vehicles of their kind provided to universities in the United States.
The prototype PHEV system is designed to operate in a similar manner to the current Prius, switching from pure-electric mode, to gas-engine mode to a combined gas-electric mode. The big advantage is that the prototype's battery pack is capable of storing significantly higher levels of electricity, supplied by plugging into a conventional electrical outlet for periodic recharging sessions. The NiMH battery pack in the PHEV prototype is intentionally oversized. This effectively simulates the level of performance Toyota expects to achieve when it eventually develops its own battery systems.
With significantly more electric power in reserve, the vehicle will be capable of operating in pure-electric mode for longer periods of time and at much higher speeds than the current Prius. This will result in substantial gains in fuel economy and a major reduction in total tailpipe emissions of smog-forming gases, over current conventional hybrid systems.
“It is very good news that Toyota is now developing pre-commercial plug-in hybrid electric vehicles for this important study,” said John E. Bryson, chairman and chief executive officer of Edison International. “We look forward to having our electric-vehicle team join the UCI researchers and Toyota employees in evaluating the impact of plug-in hybrids on the electric grid. The national electric infrastructure is a major resource for enabling future clean transportation.”
In addition to Toyota and Southern California Edison, the Advanced Power and Energy Program will collaborate with the Air Resources Board, the Energy Commission, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and Horiba on air pollutant emission and air quality modeling efforts, emissions test certification strategies, and electrical grid impacts. APEP also will work closely with the Institute for Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Technical details on both the vehicles and the testing project will be released by Toyota later this year.