DIAMOND BAR, CA - The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) was awarded a $45.4 million grant from the Department of Energy Aug. 7 to accelerate the development of U.S.-manufactured next-generation batteries and electric vehicles.

AQMD's proposal to develop a fully integrated, production plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) system for medium-duty utility and delivery trucks and shuttle buses received more than 10 percent of all available funding for that category.

The grant covers approximately half of the total $90 million project cost. The additional $45 million comes from several sources: $5 million from the California Energy Commission's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program; $32 million from utility and fleet participants; $5.5 million from Eaton Corporation of Galesburg, Mich., which will produce the PHEV system; and $2.5 million from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) of Palo Alto, an independent, non-profit company which performs research, development, and design in the electricity sector.

"Currently, utility vehicles such as bucket trucks run at idle to produce enough power to lift a utility worker into the air. These next-generation plug-in hybrid vehicles will do this using battery power alone to reduce smog-forming and greenhouse gas emissions. This also reduces the exposure of workers to harmful tailpipe emissions," said Barry Wallerstein, AQMD's executive officer.

AQMD, in partnership with EPRI, will oversee the development of 378 demonstration vehicles over the three-year project cycle. More than 100 of these vehicles will be demonstrated in California with the remaining vehicles delivered for nationwide testing in daily long-term fleet use. Altec Industries of Elizabethtown, Ky., an authorized original equipment manufacturer, will incorporate the PHEV system developed by Eaton Corporation. All 378 PHEV vehicles will be utilized by utility and fleet partners.

"At the end of the demonstration project our partners will have a fully operational production line that will pave the way to the commercialization of PHEV vehicles," said Mark Duvall, director of Electric Transportation at EPRI.

AQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties in California.