bf auto dl xl hybrid story 8-20-2012
BOSTON--XL Hybrids, a 10-person startup here trying to chew off a
chunk of the huge fuel-efficiency pie, today announced that Johnson
Controls Inc. (Milwaukee, Wisc.) will supply the lithium-ion battery packs for
XL's hybrid power trains for the fleet aftermarket.
The agreement is central to the company's strategy of sourcing
components from top supplier while adding value at the
system-integration level, according to Clay Siegert
, a co-founder
who serves as vice president of XL Hybrids' supply chain.
"They understood about selling to fleets...how to make it an
economic proposition for fleets," Siegert said. "We're trying to
make this right for fleets."
XL, founded here by MIT alums in 2009, the darkest days of the
recession, is building hybrid electric drive trains specifically for
Class 1-3 commercial fleets, for vehicles ranging from pickup trucks
to vans used to deploy telecommunications.
The battery pack has 1.8 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy storage, a
peak discharge power rating of 50 kW and a nominal voltage of 260V,
according to the company. The pack will come from JCI's
at Holland, Mich. in early 2013.The system
XL, which was looking for fast and powerful energy from its battery
pack selection, builds systems "geared toward short bursts of
assistant power and regenerative braking--10 seconds is a spec we
used," said Justin Ashton, a co-founder who serves as vice president
of business development.
The company's goal is to deliver a system
installed for $8,000 with a three-year payback on investment (much
of that in savings from reduced brake maintenance because of the
regenerative braking system).
Neither Siegert nor Ashton would comment on the battery-pack
selection process other than to say it was the culmination of a
six-to-nine-month process. In a 2010 report, the Center on
Globalization Governence and Competitiveness identified 18 other
domestic battery-pack sources in addition to JCI, such as A123
Continental Automotive Systems U.S.
, EnerDel Inc.
others. It also identified three additional startups in the LiOn
battery pack business: Atieva
, Dow Kokam
While big car companies like GM also have battery-pack technology in
the works, it's not a big focus.
"There was a huge niche available when we started. There's still
that same niche," Siegert said, adding, "OEMs are looking at
improving technology in engines and vehicles themselves rather than
looking at electric drives themselves."
Ashton sees a near-term market that could stretch to hundreds of
thousands of fleet vehicles ("multibillion-dollars in annual
retrofits"), but it remains a market at the mercy of happenstance,
particularly the price of oil and natural gas--the latter a fuel
that's getting considerable uptake from the fleets.
value-add comes in the hybrid controls and
integration, Siegert said, noting the companies hold two patents in
the area. One regards how technicians install and integrate the
components in a post-transmission parallel hybrid system, coupling
the electric permanent magnet motor to the line drive "in a novel
The second patent is software that ties a wireless device to a
vehicle, allowing wireless services to pull vehicle data into the
cloud, analyze it and push relevant updates back to the vehicle
based on real world use, Sieger said.
XL Hybrids has sold hybrid Chevrolet Express vans to a few U.S.
fleets for pilot testing, claiming reduced fuel consumption of up to
21 percent on urban routes, the company said.
integrating Johnson Controls’ Lithium-Ion battery packs, the system
is capable of reducing fuel consumption by up to 21 percent on urban
routes, helping fleet managers reduce fuel costs without added
infrastructure or changes to operations.
"2012 is a validation year," Ashton said. "We're in low volume pilot
test phase and working toward getting bigger contracts for next
The hybrid Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans featuring the 1.8
kWh battery pack from Johnson Controls will go on sale in 2013, the