A new experimental passenger car with two drive systems -- both gasoline-powered and electric -- will be designed and built for the U.S. Department of Energy by General Electric Company under contract to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Called "hybrid," this vehicle will use less fuel than conventional internal combustion automobiles and have far greater range and all around motoring flexibility than all-electric cars.

This development is part of an overall DOE program aimed at stimulating commercialization of electric and hybrid vehicles as means of reducing petroleum consumption. DOE sponsorship of hybrid development is designed to encourage industry to initiate commercial production and to heighten public awareness of the merits and practicality of hybrids.

The selection of General Electric Corporate Research and Development of Schenectady, N.Y., followed yearlong competitive preliminary design study (Phase I) for DOE's Near-Term Hybrid Vehicle Program. Under terms of the second phase contract award, GE will deliver two automobiles for test and evaluation. Proposed cost of the 30-month contract is approximately $7 million.

The baseline vehicle selected by GE is l979 Chevrolet Malibu four-door sedan, which will be modified for this application.

four-cylinder, l.6-liter fuel-injected Volkswagen engine and GE-developed 20-horsepower electric motor will power the front wheels. Transmission is three speed automatic.

Lead-acid batteries for the electric drive system will be provided by Globe-Union Inc. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Battery weight is 770 pounds.

The electric motor and gasoline engine will operate separately or in parallel, with the electric motor primary at speeds under 30 miles per hour and in all low-speed maneuvers such as parking and in reverse gear. The gasoline engine will be primary for highway driving. Near equal sharing of load between motor and gasoline engine will occur when both are needed. Vehicle operation will be controlled by system microprocessor.

With 1,000 miles per month use, the hybrid vehicle could save 41% of the petroleum and 5% of the total energy which would be used by comparable gasoline-powered car.

Batteries will be recharged by regenerative braking, by the gasoline engine and overnight by ordinary house current.

GE selected Triad Services, Inc., of Dearborn, Michigan, for vehicle redesign. The exterior of the Malibu will be redesigned for improved aerodynamics. Curb weight of the five-passenger automobile will be 3928 pounds.

DOE's Near-Term Hybrid Vehicle Program has the following objectives expected to be met by the technology developed under this contract:

- Minimize petroleum consumption.

- Use near-term technology amenable to commercial production.

- Vehicle performance requirements that allow hybrid and internal combustion engine vehicles to co-exist safely in anticipated 1985 vehicular traffic patterns.

Although the hybrid is an experimental car, its design is planned to be suitable for mass production in the mid-1980's at consumer price of about $7600 (1978 dollars).

Through its Office of Energy and Technology Applications, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research and Development Project for the Department of Energy. The JPL work is done under an interagency agreement between DOE and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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