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Published on Wed, Sep 15, 2010

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Peter Nortman and the EnergyCS facility in Monrovia, CA

THE EMERGENCE OF ENERGY CONTROL SYSTEMS ENGINEERING By Roy Nakano Three years before its introduction to the United States—Peter Nortman drove a Toyota Prius. It was the first-generation model, and the experience left an indelible impression on both Pete and his father, a passenger in the prototype Prius. “Dad, I’m going to make a plug-in version of this car.” EnergyCS Eight years later, Nortman’s company, Energy Control Systems Engineering, also known as EnergyCS, came out with a plug-in version of the Prius. This time around, however, it was the landmark second-generation version of the Prius—exactly one year after the 2004 Prius captured all the car of the year awards for its advanced technology and 50 miles-per-gallon fuel economy.

The EnergyCS Prius demonstration plug-in hybrid has 95,000 miles and gets 100 mpg.

The EnergyCS plug-in Prius—the first one to hit the market—upped the fuel economy to a whopping 100 miles per gallon, and could travel for extended distances in full electric mode. Plug-in hybrids eventually caught the attention of Toyota, which has recently announced its own plug-in version for the third-generation Prius. That product catapulted EnergyCS deep into the green technology world. Soon to follow were plug-in vehicles in Asian and Europe, the first application of lithium batteries into a plug-in Prius, a hybrid electric bus, battery systems for demonstration vehicles, quick charge systems for cars, and a pure electric vehicle in Germany.

Working on Project X at the EnergyCS lab.

Down from the Mountain While EnergyCS marks its beginnings at around the turn of the 21st century (2001), Pete Nortman’s quest to make a positive difference on the environment goes back to the 1970s. Back then, Nortman lived in the mountains of the San Gorgonio Wilderness, near Angelus Oaks, California. “I loved being a mountain man, but I didn’t like what I saw what was happening around me: The region’s smog was killing the trees.” In 1982, Pete came down from the mountain with an aim towards making a positive impact on the environment. That’s when he decided that his future was in electric vehicles. A year later, he worked on his first electric car. After that, the projects were plentiful. “Since 1983, I’ve only been unemployed three months,” says Nortman.

Nortman is the principal engineer as well as president of EnergyCS

Making a Positive Difference “EnergyCS was created with the intent to foster advanced technology in electro-chemical battery energy storage for large format applications,” says Nortman. “We have a goal we try to live by: Make a positive difference every day.” That goal has resulted in application in traction systems, a battery design for bikes, battery management and controls for partner Coda Automotive as well as for projects in the United Kingdom, electronic control systems for Amberjack, battery management and energy control systems for hybrid and electric locomotives and trucks, hybrid conversion systems for large trucks, grid support battery management systems, and hybrid and electric vehicle applications in various locations worldwide. “We have resisted the temptation to grow too quickly, but in the past three years, we’ve still managed to double our operations,” says Nortman. So, what lies ahead in EnergyCS’s future? A number of projects with familiar and unfamiliar names occupy space in EnergyCS’s facilities. “Most of it, I’m not at liberty to divulge,” says Nortman with that “if I tell you I’ll have to kill you” look.


We’ll just have to sit back and watch from the sidelines. Company: EnergyCS Energy Control Systems Engineering, Inc. 135 East Maple Avenue, Suite C Monrovia, CA 91016 626.303.2882 Products Battery Management Unit (BMU): This system monitors temperature, voltage, electrical values and other general condition parameters of the array of modules. It was developed for use with lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride storage systems. Lithium Management Unit (LMU): The patented EnergyCS LMU measures temperatures, cell voltages and facilitates balancing for lithium-ion storage systems. Our expertise with numerous battery technologies provided the knowledge to create a monitoring and control system unique to lithium-ion. Vehicle Integration Module (VIM): The tasks of integration of power and interface with the vehicle and operator are fulfilled by the VIM. The VIM receives information from the battery management system and translates the thousands of signals per second into the unique information format required by the vehicle. Control and Display Unit (CDU): EnergyCS developed the CDU to provide data monitoring and driver information for the plug-in Prius. The system displays an array of vehicle performance information and records the data for further analysis. Battery Processing Unit (BPU) and Battery Interface Unit (BIM): The BPU and BIM were designed to monitor the advanced battery systems for hybrid locomotives and provide information to the engineer. Battery management system for hybrid locomotive:


EnergyCS designed and built the advanced battery monitoring system used in the patented Railpower Hybrid Switching Locomotive. The hybrid locomotive can acheive a 40-60% reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The Railpower system realizes up to an 80-90% reduction in nitrogen oxides (NOx) and diesel particulate emissions versus a non-hybrid switching locomotive. For its work with Railpower, EnergyCS was honored in 2008 with a Clean Air Award for the Reduction of Air Pollution Technology. Railpower: For railpower, EnergyCS developed the PawnVT, a large scale battery temperature, voltage and current monitoring system. It integrates with the existing locomotive controls and reports vital information regarding the health of the traction battery. The EnergyCS PawnVT provides significant cost savings and improved monitoring capabilities. Prototyping: During new product development EnergyCS is able to utilize its extensive experience base to facilitate rapid growth throughout the prototype phase. Building upon proven techniques and technologies our customers are able to quickly move their projects from concept to production. Vehicle Integration: EnergyCS provides vehicle integration engineering services on hybrid, electric and plug-in platforms. The breadth of experience retained allows the company to bring together components and technologies from different suppliers to develop, assemble and test reliable, high-performance platforms. Battery Testing: The EnergyCS ABC-150 Power Processing System tests integrated drive trains and subsystems. It can cycle test motors, inverters, and energy storage components, and can simulate energy storage systems in the vehicle, such as the battery, flywheel, drivemotor/inverter, auxiliary power unit, or fuel cell. The flexibility of the system allows a constant direct-current bus. The behavior (battery impedance) of the simulated battery can be a function of battery type, load, SOC, ambient temperature, age, recent history, or any number of other parameters. The ABC-150 can measure voltage to within 250mV and current within 200mA. Additional instrumentation has been added to the ABC-150 to measure voltage and current with accuracies of 1mV and 50mA, respectively.

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