Taiwan's electric avenue

  • 07-Jul-2010 12:32 EDT
Luxgen EV.jpg

"Every single vehicle model we have will have an EV version," HAITEC's Francis Jen said. The Taiwanese automaker offers three models: an SUV, the Luxgen7 MPV (shown), and a limousine version of the MPV.

Green proponents from Taiwan are on a show-and-tell mission aimed at boosting interest in electrified vehicles at home and abroad.

Taiwan's 23 million citizens can expect to see 160,000 electric scooters and 3000 electric vehicles on Taiwan's roadways over the next four years as a government initiative gets under way in the coming months.

"We're facing the same energy and environmental impact challenges as any country in the world, so we need to build green vehicle capabilities," James Wang, Deputy General Director at Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI)'s Mechanical and Systems Research Laboratories, said at the Taiwan Automotive International Forum & Exhibition (TAIFE) in Detroit.

While Taiwan's auto industry and government officials prepare to intensify the green message within Taiwan's borders, the TAIFE 2010 show went stateside—a first-time occurrence after four successive years in Taiwan.

Jung-Chiou Hwang, Vice Minister of the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs, said:  "Most people do not understand what Taiwan can do, so we decided to bring product here so that the U.S. can know more about Taiwan's achievements."

The 28 Taiwanese companies showing products at the June event had the attention of U.S. automakers.

John Sakioka Jr., Director of Technology & Business Strategy Office and USCAR/FreedomCAR at Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, said: "Taiwan is obviously a growing area of industry for vehicle electrification. We're here to look at the types of technology that they have available, as well as the supply base to see if there are any opportunities for Ford Motor Company."

Chrysler representatives from purchasing, engineering, and powertrain checked out displays dealing with niche EV and body electronics, electric propulsion, and energy storage. "We're very interested in what's going on here. It's a good opportunity for us to see all these suppliers in one place," said Stephen Williams, Chrysler's Vice President for Advance Engineering, Planning and Regulatory Affairs.

The ability to get the latest details about new technologies—especially in the field of energy storage—drew interest from Alan Taub, Vice President of Global Research and Development at General Motors.

"Battery technology is in what I call 'the mushrooming phase' where every combination of chemistry and every combination of electrodes is being worked on," he said. "It will start funneling down to a few winners in the next few years, but right now we've got to experiment and stay on top of every alternative."

Among the ways to protect batteries from overheating (also known as thermal runaway) is a patented technology developed in Taiwan.

STOBA (self terminated olygomers with hyper-branched architecture) is a nanograde high-molecular material that forms a protective film when added to a lithium battery.

"Whenever there is thermal runaway, then STOBA will react to extinguish the chemical reaction. The STOBA is like a nano-extinguisher," explained Welkin Ling, Project Cooperation Director at ITRI's Material and Chemical Research Laboratories, Division of Energy Storage Materials & Technology.

In-vehicle demonstrations of STOBA are coming. "By the end of this year, there will be two demonstration cars equipped with STOBA inside [the] battery," said Ling, adding that the electric vehicles will be used by Taiwan's postal service.

An electric vehicle designed in Taiwan made its U.S. debut at TAIFE 2010. "Our official job-one date is the end of 2012. However, we are aggressively trying to accelerate that," said Francis Jen, General Manager of the Electric Vehicle Division at Hua-chuang Automobile Information Technical Center in Xindian City, Taiwan.

The Luxgen7 MPV EV has a lithium-ion battery pack, a traction induction motor, and a power electronics unit. Other technical features include a night vision system that uses a low-illumination CCD camera and a monitoring system that provides a 360° surround view from four ultrawide-angle, high-resolution cameras mounted on the front, sides, and rear of the vehicle. "We're utilizing the best, most advanced technology that is out there," said Jen.

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