The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded nearly $55 million for 24 projects to develop and deploy cutting-edge vehicle technologies for improving fuel efficiency and reducing petroleum consumption, along with making plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) more affordable.

Sixteen of the funded projects are aimed at reducing the cost and improving the performance of key PHEV components, including development of advanced manufacturing and process technologies for advanced battery materials. Other projects focus on electric drive battery modeling for vehicles and advancing lightweight materials research to help electric vehicles increase their range and reduce battery needs, according to a statement from the DOE.

Funding in this arena is in support of the DOE's EV Everywhere Grand Challenge, which seeks to make PHEVs as affordable to own and operate as gasoline-powered vehicles by 2022.

Eight other awarded projects focus on fuel-efficiency improvement, including developing and demonstrating dual-fuel or dedicated natural gas engine technologies for high-efficiency medium- and heavy-duty vehicles to reduce petroleum usage. Other projects seek to develop enabling technologies to improve the efficiency of heavy-duty diesel engines, in support of the DOE's SuperTruck initiative to increase the efficiency of tractor trailers.

In addition, through the Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance with the DOE, the Department of the Army is contributing an extra $2.26 million in co-funding to support projects focused on battery modeling technologies and computational fluid dynamics, the statement added.

Click here for the full list of awardees.