Equipping vehicles with hybrid technology is one way to secure a greener future. The hybrid propulsion system, for example, switches to a generator operation when the brake is engaged, generating an electric current that is temporarily stored in a battery. The electric motor uses this current when the vehicle starts to move. The upshot is huge savings in energy. Cracks, however, exist in the marriage between hybrid technology and storage, and the batteries must be recharged every 160 km or so. Seeking to resolve this issue is a group of researchers from three Fraunhofer Institutes based in Germany. The team is developing new storage modules in the 'Electromobility Fleet Test' pilot project. In collaboration with seven partners, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment BMU and domestic carmaker Volkswagen got the project off the ground. For the next three years, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institutes for Silicon Technology ISIT, Integrated Circuits IIS and Integrated Systems and Device Technology IISB will cooperate to develop and launch an energy storage module based on lithium-polymer accumulator technology. The plan is to equip all vehicles with this technology at some point. 'This module has to be able to withstand the harsh environmental conditions it will encounter in a hybrid vehicle, and above all it must guarantee high operational reliability and a long service life,' commented ISIT's Dr Gerold, who is also activities coordinator at Fraunhofer. The team said in a statement that they are targeting new electrode materials that would not harm the environment. The durability and reliability of the energy storage device would be possible thanks to a specially developed battery management system, they added. Different ideas of how to get large amounts of energy inside small spaces are also being explored by the researchers. The team is integrating mechanical and electrical components in a single module. They are also developing systems for a range of conditions, including high-voltage safety and temperature control. The researchers have divided the work according to the skills of the team members. For instance, the IIS researchers are handling the management and monitoring of batteries, while their colleagues at IISB will use their expertise to configure accumulator modules. The ISIT members will manufacture cells as they are quite adept at developing and producing lithium accumulators. Completion of the new energy storage module is expected around mid 2010, the team said. Once this phase is finished, the German carmaker will conduct field trials to test whether the modules can actually be used in vehicles on a daily basis.