Team Using $2 Million Grant to Improve Hybrid Electric Vehicles

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded $2 million to a collaborative research partnership that includes Arkansas Power Electronics International Inc. and the University of Arkansas' National Center for Reliable Electronic Power Transmission.

The team will be developing new electric motor traction drives for hybrid electric vehicles, with technology based on emerging silicon carbide and gallium nitride power semiconductors, said Alex Lostetter, president and chief executive officer of Arkansas Power Electronics International.

Arkansas Power Electronics International, founded in 1997 and located at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park in Fayetteville, will lead a team that also includes Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc., GaN Systems Inc., and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“Our motor drive technology reduces power losses by more than 50 percent and we can reduce the size and weight of the motor drive electronics by up to 90 percent,” Lostetter said. “These improvements lead to significant savings in vehicle cost, increases driving distances, and reduces fuel expense. We’re very excited to be working with Toyota to get this technology into the next generation of Prius hybrid-electric vehicles. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

The award was one of 38 across the country announced by the Energy Department as part of a $45 million effort to develop new technologies that will reduce transportation costs and improve fuel efficiencies.

“By partnering with universities, private industry, and our national labs, the Energy Department is helping to build a strong 21st century transportation sector that cuts harmful pollution, creates jobs, and leads to a more sustainable energy future,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a news release. “By improving the fuel economy of our cars and trucks, we can save families and businesses money at the pump and better protect our air and water.”