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2 County Concerns Join Electric Vehicles Project

January 23, 1996|JACK SEARLES

Two Ventura County companies will take part in a $5.5-million project backed by the Calstart transportation consortium and the Defense Department to develop a new generation of hybrid electric vehicles.

The companies--U.S. Flywheel Systems of Newbury Park and APS Systems of Oxnard--will help test high-powered "flywheel" batteries, which store energy in a spinning wheel and release it as needed to power electric cars.

The nonchemical devices show great promise for use in hybrid engines that can alternate between electric power and conventional fuels, according to officials of Calstart, a consortium of companies dedicated to creating a nonpolluting transportation industry in California.

U.S. Flywheel will test the durability of several models of flywheel batteries. The batteries are expected to take as many as 10,000 charges, compared to a maximum of 600 charges that can be taken by traditional batteries, officials said.

APS Systems, a pioneer builder of electric-powered buses, will produce a hybrid electric bus powered by rotary engines and electrical generators.

Once almost exclusively a defense contractor, APS in recent years has developed a niche as a producer of electric buses. Several of its vehicles are being used by transit systems and school districts in Santa Barbara County and elsewhere.

A total of nine companies were chosen to take part in the latest round of Calstart demonstration projects. In addition to U.S. Flywheel and APS, two concerns close to Ventura County will participate.

One, the Rocketdyne division of Rockwell International Corp. in Canoga Park, is developing a titanium flywheel for use in heavy-duty civilian and military vehicles. And Advanced Controls Technology of Agoura Hills is working on a magnetic bearing system that allows flywheels to spin safely at tens of thousands of revolutions per minute.

Michael J. Gage, president and chief executive of the Burbank-based Calstart, said his agency is backing seven new programs in all.

"They have real commercial applications in the global market for cleaner, more efficient transportation," he said. "They also significantly contribute to America's military readiness by helping to cost-effectively build the next generation of fast, stealthy combat vehicles."

In addition to Calstart, the program is being backed by the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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