New Electric Vehicles in Your Near Future

By John Addison (12/20/07). By an overwhelming 314 to 100 vote, the US House of Representatives passed the energy bill (H.R.6) with the new CAFE standards requiring auto makers to sell vehicles that average 35 miles-per-gallon (mpg) by 2020. President Bush signed the bill into law. Americans want to pay less at the pump and be less dependent on foreign oil, especially oil from countries hostile to the U.S.

Many are not waiting until 2020. They are driving vehicles now that get better than 35 miles per gallon. Some are starting to drive plug-in hybrids that achieve over 100 miles per gallon. 40,000 in the U.S. drive electric vehicles that use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions.

Sherry Boschert rides on sunlight. She charges her electric vehicle with her home’s solar power. Her Toyota RAV4 EV runs fast on freeways and silent on quiet streets. She uses a zero-emission approach to transportation. Sherry Boschert is the author of Plug-in Hybrids: The Cars That Will Recharge America.

Some are celebrities like Tom Hanks, who has been driving electric vehicles for years including his RAV4 EV and Scion xB that was converted to an EV by AC Propulsion. Other celebrities have deposited $100,000 each on average, eagerly awaiting the Tesla Roadster electric vehicle with its 245 mile electric range.

Electric vehicles are not just for celebrities. Many are priced at a more modest $10,000 and only go 25 miles per hour. They are popular in fleets of university campuses, large facilities that need zero-emission in-door vehicles, shuttles in corporate multi-building campuses, and even the military. They are a popular second car in two vehicle households. These low-cost EVs are fine for those who will compromise on speed and range. Reasonably priced new vehicles are coming with few compromises and many exciting features.

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (7211:JP) has been demonstrating its new electric-vehicle, the iMiEV Sport which it plans to launch in Japan and possibly other countries in 2009. The car has a range of 93 miles (150 km) and a top-speed of 93 mph (150 km/h).

In 2009, the smart ev may be available in the U.S. The cars 70/70 specs are appealing for city drivers: 70 mile range, 70 mile per hour freeway speed. Daimler’s (DAI) smart ev is in trial in the UK with The Energy Saving Trust, Islington and Coventry Councils, Lloyds Pharmacy, The CarbonNeutral Company, EDF Energy and BT. To achieve a range of over 70 miles, it is using the Zebra sodium-nickel-chloride battery which has caused maintenance difficulties in some U.S. fleets. More than 40,000 of the gasoline fueled smart fortwos have been sold in the UK since the car was launched here in 2000. The vehicle is popular in London, where electric charging is free and daily congestion taxes are high for petrol guzzlers.

In addition to electric-vehicles, plug-in hybrids have captured the imagination of many. These vehicles are often designed to go a number of miles in battery-electric mode before internal combustion engines are engaged. Last week, I attended a General Motors (GM) showing of its Chevy Volt. The Volt is an elegant four-door sedan. One GM designer admitted that the Mercedes CLS gave some inspiration for the Volt. The Chevy Volt can be driven 40 miles in electric-mode using 16kW of lithium batteries, before its small 1L engine is engaged. 16kW is twelve times the storage of my Prius NiMH batteries.

40 miles accommodates the daily range requirements of 78% of all U.S. drivers. The Volt uses an electric drive system with a small ICE in series that is only used to generate added electricity, not give power to the wheels. GM’s modular E-Flex propulsion could be adapted to various engines including diesel, fuel cells, and potentially battery-electric. At the Frankfurt Auto Show, GM showed the European sibling of the Volt, the GM Opel Flextreme concept car, which included a 1.3L diesel engine.

Look for more E-Flex announcements from GM in 2009. Announcements could include a more compact global vehicle at an appealing price point and a commitment to a diesel E-Flex vehicle.

GM Manager, Rob Peterson, emphasized that GM is committed to electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. To keep the Volt on track, issues that might delay a normal vehicle in development are resolved by the E-Flex Leadership Board Committee which includes Bob Lutz and Larry Burns.

The Volt is targeted to go on sale November 2010. I told a General Motors executive that if it were priced under $40,000, then I would be interested in buying one. He confidently smiled and replied, “Have your checkbook ready.”

If you need to carry more people and cargo, GM plans to start sales of its Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid in 2009. Even though the vehicle will use a 3.6L gasoline engine, it is likely to offer the best mileage of any SUV on the market.

Toyota (TM), Ford (F), Volvo, and Saab all have plug-in hybrids in early fleet trails. Other fleets are doing their own custom integration of plug-in hybrids from sedans to heavy vehicles.

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan Motor Co and Renault SA, said that his auto group is planning to mass produce an electric car mainly targeted at big cities by 2012. From London to Shanghai, he sees increased possibilities that only ZEV will be allowed in city centers.

Look for a number of exciting choices in vehicles that use little or no gasoline, improving energy security and addressing the threat of a potential climate crisis. Other Clean Fleet EV Articles

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report.

6 replies
  1. nanoEC
    nanoEC says:

    Note that the capacity spec for the Volt battery pack is 16 kWh, not 16 kW. This is roughly the energy content of 300 laptop battery packs (each having 6 18650 cells). The Volt battery won't be 300x the volume because the cell form factor will be larger plus less control electronics & packing per cell.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I am not aware of any EV manufacturer in the United States using the Zebra battery. Can you site your sources for the statement below? "the Zebra sodium-nickel-chloride battery which has caused maintenance difficulties in some U.S. fleets…"

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    We have all been waiting (too) long for this to happen. This now finally will bring the end of the diesel/petrol car-world we know today. Whether car manufacturers really are interested in selling greener vehicles will be seen when the prices are announced. The majority of people is not willing to spend more for transportation than they do now and they also want to have more comfort. Two requests the car makers can fulfill if they wanted to. Its up to us consumers to make the correct choice .http://www.ecocarforum.com

  4. Hewman1
    Hewman1 says:

    I am excited that the automakers are responding at last to consumer demand (and the eleven new companies planning to offer highway-capable electric vehicles in the next few years.) The CAFÉ standards are too little, too late, but at least politicos finally feel the heat; I've been promoting electric vehicles (EVs) for a decade.I rented and drove a GM EV1 eight years ago, and loved it; I've since driven the Toyota RAV4 EV and the Scion Xb conversion eBox EV. I'm a member of the Electric Auto Association, Florida chapter. In a year's time, I may be able to buy an Obvio 828e EV through ZAP or a G4E EV from Subaru; the Tesla "White Star" should be available by the time that any US maker has even an extended-range EV in showrooms.EVs will reduce US air pollution by 40%, free us from Mid-east oil and let us drive trouble-free for three cents per mile. See EVWorld.com for more information about zero emission vehicles.

  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    You might be interested to know that currently the government of Alberta, Canada is using NG powered Toyota Prius for their fleet of passenger cars. They claim that they are "saving the environment, while reducing their fueling costs by 95%" (15mpg/$3.00 gas) vs. 50mpg($.75/gal.NG). Math walks out. We currently can't get those in the U.S. unless you have a fleet! Imagine a Rav4 with this power train and a turbo charger, just like the turbo charged four cylinder diesels in Europe that run like a V-6….. Perhaps if enough of us ask Toyota they will hear………….

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