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DOE program looks at fuel-efficient tires

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Department of Energy photo Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

WASHINGTON (April 4, 2014) — Fuel-efficient tires are among the advanced technologies the Department of Energy (DOE) hopes to develop under its improved Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program, the agency told the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) recently.

The DOE has revised the ATVM program to make it easier for tire and auto components manufacturers to apply for funds under the program’s $16 billion-plus funding authority, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told the audience April 2 at the MEMA Legislative Summit in Washington.

The same day, Peter W. Davidson, executive director of the DOE Loan Programs Office, sent a letter to MEMA detailing the changes in the ATVM program, which was created under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

“We are taking concrete steps to make the program easier to work with and more responsive,” Mr. Moniz said in his speech to MEMA.

Based in part on feedback from MEMA members, auto executives and industry organizations, Messrs. Moniz and Davidson said the DOE is making the following changes to the ATVM program:

Clarifying that a broad range of automotive component technologies are eligible for loans for advanced technology research and development, including but not limited to fuel-efficient tires, lightweight materials, advanced engines and powertrains and advanced electronics;

Updating the program description to make it more comprehensible, including pre-application consultations with potential applicants; and

Revising the application process to include an online application portal and allow timelier processing of applications.

Mr. Davidson said at the MEMA meeting that he could not name specific companies, but added that the agency has spoken with some tire makers regarding ATVM R&D loans.

So far the DOE has given more than $8.4 billion in ATVM grants — mostly to auto makers — and gotten back several times that amount in nationwide fuel savings, according to Mr. Moniz.

Among initiatives the DOE has funded in the past include $1.5 million grants to Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Goodyear and PPG Industries Inc. to study, evaluate and develop technologies for improving the fuel economy of the nation's vehicle fleet.

The grants, awarded in August 2011, were the first ever awarded by the DOE to companies in the tire industry. They will fund vastly different projects, from Cooper's challenge to cut passenger tire weight and improve fuel efficiency by 3 percent to Goodyear's work on technology to keep truck tires properly inflated automatically, to PPG's project to improve air pressure retention.


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