Is Tesla Really the EV King?

by Neal Dikeman, chief blogger, Cleantech Blog

Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) has been the electric vehicle darling since almost the day it launched.  I’d argue there are some really neat aspects to its product and strategy, but it is far from a resounding market leader in EVs.

The Range and Battery Scale Advantage

There are a couple of really exciting things to like.  Pulling a quick summary of the prices of all the pure electric vehicles currently selling in North America, I ranked them by EV Price/ Range.  Tesla is and always has been the leader here.  Down in the <$300/mile range, half of the  i3.  Quite frankly it’s been the only game in town for a 200 mi electric car.

And as lithium batteries are the big ticket item in an EV, and Tesla loads up on them, that confers some advantage to go with that high ticket price.   It drives up its price and its range, and puts it still in a class by itself on range. But as you see when graph range vs price, packing all those batteries in also gives Tesla a huge nominal advantage over its competitors compared to where one would project it to be on price.  Tesla talks like this is all technology and battery management that is hard for competitors to match, I think it may be just as much a combination of purchasing scale and simply an illustration of relative cost absorption in a high range EV (at the lower 70-90 mi range of everyone else, the car cost swamps the battery cost, and differential cost of a few mi in range is much less important than the luxury premium).  You can see this illustrated in flatness of the PHEV version of the curve, and the wide differential between the i3 and LEAF, both very close in range.  Of course, as we are largely comparing prices not costs, some dirt in the numbers is also certainly present.

EV $ per Mileage

EV Price vs Range







PHEV $ per eMileage

Plug in hybrids as you’d expect show a much less dramatic differential and flatter curve, with most of the differential driven by luxury vs mass consumer car class than range.  The game in PHEV’s appears to be minimize battery for maximum consumer taste and performance output.




Future Impacts of Scale?

The interesting bet however, is what happens in the future.  Lithium ion batteries are one of the few fast falling cost items in a car, Tesla ought to be able to ride that curve down faster than the others, since it has both more purchasing power than its competitors (several x more battery kwh per car and one of the volume leaders in cars adds up), as well as a larger exposure in its vehicle unit cost structure in batteries than any of its competitors as the batteries make up such a major portion of its vehicle cost.

However, its attempt to vertically integrate upstream into  batteries with the gigafactory might well work against it here, as it gains leverage on the materials in the value chain, but loses leverage against the manufacturing cost, locks in on a single battery design, and has to recover significant capital outlays its competitors do not.

If the rest of the lithium ion industry can cost down as fast or faster than Tesla, it loses out quickly.  Alternately, when another car company rolls out a high range vehicle, Tesla’s advantage can erode fast.  And finally, it is unclear whether either the PHEV or short range EV strategies, requiring fewer costly batteries, simply continue to outpunch Tesla with consumers.  Like its zero emission credit advantage supporting profits when it first launched, this battery scale advantage may also be more short term than sustainable.

North American Market

But possibly most disturbing is trying to tie out this advantage to how Tesla is actually doing with this strategy in its core North American market.  It’s now been hot and heavy in North America for a couple of years.  Should be delivering results, but  things are not quite that rosy for a $20 billion market cap “market leader”.

It was not first, Nissan with the LEAF and GM with the Chevy Volt beat it to the market.

Its core initial US market has seen basically flattish sales growth YoY going on 2 consecutive years now, ostensibly as it scrambled to open new markets overseas, including its struggling Asian market.  But struggling to drive high growth in your first core market is never a good sign.  One wonders how much excess demand per month actually exists for an $80K electric sports car, and if some of Tesla’s shift of production to seed overseas markets is simply a strategy to keep its domestic demand levels pent up, out of concern that there is not adequate growth possible at this price point in one market to satisfy Wall Street’s valuation.  Not a bad idea, but does have implications.  In counter point, while GM and Toyota also struggled for growth, Ford and Nissan delivered strong double digit growth in Tesla’s home market while it stayed flat, and BMW has started to chew the mid luxury market in between.  One wonders if the strategy of twinning a low range low cost EV with PHEVs doesn’t simply deliver better product line punch than the high mileage high cost strategy.

Tesla is not the largest, and has never worn the crown of most EVs sold for a year, coming in 3rd and slipping to 4th in 2013 and 2014, and only barely edging out Ford so far for 2 months of 2015 and helped by weak Chevy sales months so far. Also probably helped as Tesla apparently had to shift about a month’s worth of car production into Q1 from production issues according to its annual letter.

NA EV Company Ranking

NA EV Company Ranking







Source: tracker 

Also pictured is the results from a second tracker with slightly different estimates claiming Tesla is actually ahead so far this year.

But almost as interesting to me has been the rise of the BMW.  That i3 which is almost double Tesla’s price/mile is doing rather well.  By some trackers has edged Tesla in sales of its i3 and i8 EV and PHEV in North America in 3 of the last 7 months, with less than a year under its belt.  Arguably the i3 was aimed more at the Volt and LEAF than the Model S, but getting even remotely close to caught by an upstart short range BMW product this early in its cycle was I am sure never part of Tesla’s plan.

BMW vs Tesla







Do note that all Tesla monthly numbers are somewhat suspect, as the company does not publish anywhere near the detail that other automakers do. Charitably it is just playing cards close to the vest?  Not just making it harder to analyze hidden growth misses?

All in all, a quite decent performance for a new auto maker, but far from the dominance you’d expect from a $20 billion market cap brand name.

The author does not own a securities position in TSLA.  Any opinion expressed herein is the opinion of the author, not Cleantech Blog nor any employer or company affiliated with the author.

Plugin Electrics vs All Electric Battery EVs, Epic Throwdown?

I get this every time I discuss EVs.  Something along the lines of oh, you shouldn’t be including PHEVs in with EVs, they don’t count, or are not real EVs, just a stopgap etc.

I tend to think PHEVs may be better product.  At least for now.  And I follow the GM’s Chevy Volt vs the Nissan Leaf with interest.

The main arguments on each:

Plug in Hybrids

  • No range anxiety
  • Still need gasoline
  • Can fuel up at either electric charging station, your home or gas station
  • Depending on driving patterns, may not need MUCH gasoline at all
  • Expensive because:  need both gasoline and electric systems, and batteries are still pretty expensive, even with a fraction of the amount that’s in an EV
  • Get all the torque and quiet and acceleration punch of an EV without the short range hassle
  • But not really an EV, after a few miles it’s “just a hybrid”
  • Future is just a stop gap until EV batteries get cheap? Or just a better car with all the benes and no cons?


Electric Vehicles

  • No gasoline at all (fueled by a mix of 50% coal,20% gas, and the rest nuke and hydro with a little wind :) )
  • Amazing torque and acceleration
  • Dead quiet no emissions
  • Fairly slow to charge compared to gas
  • Lack of charging stations is getting solved, but still somewhat an issue
  • Switching one fuel for another, no extra flexibility on fuel
  • Expensive because lithium ion batteries are still pricey and way a lot
  • Future is cheaper better batteries?  Or they never get there and the future never arrives?

I tend to think the combination of plugins and EVs has actually worked together solved range anxiety.  As a consumer, I get to pick from a full basket when I buy, Leaf, Volt, Prius, Model S, lots of pricey batteries to deal with range anxiety, a plug in that gets me almost there with zero range issues, or a Leaf in between.  Whatever range anxiety I had disappears into consumer choice, just like it should.  I don’t think pure EV is any better or worse than a plugin, just a different choice.  They work together in the fleet, too, plug ins help drive demand for EV charging stations that are critical to electric car success, and EVs drive the cost down on the batteries that brings the plugin costs into line.  Unlike with the Prius over a decade ago, it’s not a single car changing the world, it’s the combination that’s working well for us.

2011 In The Rear-View Mirror: Objects May Be Closer Than They Appear

It’s that time again:  sifting through the detritus of a calendar year to sum up what’s happened over the past 12 months. 

Everybody’s doing it — for news, sports, movies, books, notable deaths…and now even for cleantech:  here’s the scoop from MIT’s Technology Review, and here’s a post on GigaOM.

So, my turn [drum roll, please], here’s my top 10 take-aways from 2011:

  1. Solyndra.  The utter failure of Solyndra, and the messy loan guarantee debacle, has been a huge black-eye to the cleantech sector.  It’s a political football that will be kicked around extensively during the 2012 election cycle, further widening the schism of support levels by the two major U.S. political parties for cleantech.  In other words, cleantech is becoming an ever-more polarizing issue — with Solyndra serving as the most visible tar-baby.
  2. Shale gas and fracking.   A chorus of ardent proponents of natural gas development, most vocally Aubrey McClendon, the CEO of Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) — the largest player in the shale gas game — is repeatedly chanting the mantra that shale gas is so plentiful that it can very cheaply serve as the major U.S. energy source for the next several decades.  And, recovery of this resource will create a bazillion jobs for hard-working Americans in rural areas.  In this view, who needs renewables?  Interestingly, this view also poses increasing threats to coal interests as well.  On the flip side, of course, the concerns about the use of fracking techniques, and the implications on water supplies and quality, are constant fodder for headlines.  Clearly, shale and fracking will continue to be hot topics for 2012.
  3. Keystone XL.  The proposed pipeline to increase capacity for transporting oil from the Athabasca sands of Alberta to the U.S. is the current lightning rod for the American environmental community.  Never mind that denying the pipeline’s construction will do very little to inhibit the development of the oil sands resources — Canadian producers will assuredly build a planned pipeline across British Columbia to ship the stuff to Asia.  Never mind that blocking the pipeline will do nothing to reduce U.S. oil consumption — which is, after all, the source of the greenhouse gas emissions that opponents are so concerned about.  This has become an issue of principle for NRDC and other environmental advocates:  “we must start taking concrete steps to wean ourselves from fossil fuels.”  Nice idea in theory, but this action won’t actually do anything to accomplish the goal, and will only further paint the environmental community in a damaging manner as being anti-business and anti-economics.  In my view, we have to work on reducing demand, not on curtailing supply; if we reduce demand, less development of fossil fuels will follow; the other way around doesn’t work.  The Obama Administration has punted approval for the pipeline past the 2012 election, but Keystone XL — like Solyndra — will be a major framing element in the political debates.
  4. Fukushima.  The terrible earthquake/tsunami in Japan in March killed over 20,000 people — and sent the Fukushima powerplant into meltdown mode in the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.  As costly and devastating as Fukushima was to the local region, it pales compared to the damages caused by the natural disasters themselves.  Even so, the revival of the perceived possibility that radioactive clouds could spew from nuclear powerplants put a severe brake on the “nuclear renaissance” that many observers had been predicting.
  5. Chevy Volt.  Released after much anticipation in 2011, sales of the plug-in electric hybrid Volt have been well below expectations.  Furthermore, as I recently discussed here, a few well-publicized incidents of fires stemming from damaged batteries have been a huge PR blow to gaining widespread consumer acceptance of electric vehicles.  Clearly, Chevy and others in the EV space have their work cut out for them in the months and years ahead.
  6. Challenges for coal.  As I recently wrote about on this page, the EPA has been working on promulgating a whole host of tightened regulations about emissions from coal powerplants.  These continue to move back and forth through the agencies and the courts, and coal interests continue to wage their battles.  But, between this set of pressures and low natural gas prices (see #2 above), these are tough days for old King Coal.  Not that they couldn’t have seen these challenges coming for decades, mind you, and not that some of their advocacy organizations don’t continue to tell their pro-coal messages with some of the most heavy-handed and dubiously factual propaganda outside of the recently-deceased “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il
  7. Light bulbs.  One of the most absurd and petty dramas of 2011 unfolded over the planned U.S. phase-out of incandescent light bulbs, as provided for in one of the provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) led a backlash against this ban, arguing that it was an example of too much government intrusion into consumer choice — and succeeded in having the ban lifted at least for a little while, tucked into one of the meager compromises achieved as part of the ongoing budgetary fights.  This was accomplished against the objections not of consumers, but the objections of light bulb manufacturers themselves, who had already committed themselves to transitioning to manufacturing capacity for the next-generation of light bulbs:  CFLs, LEDs and halogens.  Now, the proactive companies who invested in the future will be subject to being undercut by a possible influx of cheap imported incandescent bulbs.  Way to go, Congress!  No wonder your approval ratings are near 10%.  Is it possible for you guys to focus on the big important stuff rather than on small bad ideas? 
  8. PV market dynamics.  Solyndra (#1 above) failed in large part because the phovoltaics market has become much more intensely competitive over the past year.  Module prices have fallen dramatically — no doubt, in large part because the market is now saturated by supply from Chinese manufacturers, who are sometimes accused of “dumping” (i.e., subsidizing exports of) PV modules into the U.S. marketplace.  This is stressing the financials of many PV manufacturers, including some Chinese firms and other established players.  For instance, BP (NYSE: BP) announced a few weeks ago its exit from the solar business after 40 years.  However, the stresses are falling mainly on companies that employ PV technology that cannot be cost-competitive in a lower pricing regime, whereas some of the new PV entrants — not just Chinese players, but some U.S. venture-backed players like Stion (who just raised $130 million of new investment) — are aiming to be profitable at low price levels.  And, after all, the low prices are what is needed for solar energy to achieve grid-parity, which is what everyone is seeking for PV to be ubiquitous without subsidies. 
  9. Subsidies.  Ah, subsidies.  In an era of increasing fiscal tightness (see #10 below), pro-cleantech policies are under greater scrutiny.  In particular, renewable portfolio standards are being threatened by state legislators of a particular philosophy who are opposed to subsidies in all forms.  The philosophy is understandable, but the lack of understanding or hypocracy is less easy to defend:  the status quo is almost always subsidized too, especially during its early days of development and deployment — and often remains subsidized well after maturity and commercial profitability.  Fortunately, there’s an increasing body of high-quality work that assesses the energy subsidy landscape in a generally objective manner, such as this analysis released by DBL Investors in September.
  10. Europe.  Although not a cleantech issue per se, the vulnerability of the European economy, the European Union, and the Euro in the wake of the various debt crises unfolding across the Continent is a major negative factor for the cleantech sector.  Europe is the biggest cleantech market, and many of the leading cleantech investors and corporate acquirers are European, so a recession (or worse, depression)  in Europe will be a very big and very bad deal for cleantech companies.

In all, 2011 was not a great year for the cleantech sector, and I don’t see 2012 being much better.  But, that’s not to say that good things can’t happen, or won’t happen.  Indeed, there will always be rays of sunshine among the clouds…or, to use another metaphor, you’ll always be able to find a pony in there somewhere.

Happy New Year everyone!

Best of Both: Diesel and Plug-in Hybrid

Audi e-tron Spyder Diesel Plug-in Hybrid

Audi Etron LA2011 1269  mid 300x199 Audi e tron Spyder Diesel Plug in Hybrid AWDOriginal Post at Clean Fleet Report

Just looking at this hot sports car invites you to get behind the wheel and leave this LA Auto Show and not stop until navigating breathtaking hairpin turns along the coast of Big Sur. The Audi e-tron Spyder is a convertible sports coupe with dramatic styling. At the moment it is a concept. Yet when Audi shows these types of concepts they normally become production cars.

The Audi e-tron Spyder is likely to be the first diesel plug-in hybrid car to be sold in the United States. With two electric motors and a 3 liter turbodiesel engine, this car has the power to race past the popular Chevy Volt. This Audi e-tron goes zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds. It is electronically governed to 155 miles per hour so that you don’t get too carried away. The Audi performance and styling will provide serious competition to Fisker.

Two electric motors with a combined output of 64 kW (87 hp) and 352 Nm (259.62 lb-ft) of torque propel the front wheels. Behind the open, two-seat passenger cell is a 3.0 TDI with twin turbochargers. It generates 221 kW (300 hp) and 650 Nm (479.42 lb-ft) of torque, which is distributed by the seven-speed S tronic to the rear wheels. A 9.1 kWh lithium-ion battery is located in the front.

No current all-wheel drive (AWD) car comes close to the mileage and low-emissions of this Audi e-tron. It is speced for 107 mpg and only 95 grams of CO2 per mile.

All four wheels of the e-tron Spyder can be accelerated and braked individually, creating extremely precise, dynamic handling. The electric motors on the front wheels can be activated separately and a mechanical sport differential on the rear axle distributes the power. This form of “torque vectoring” marks a new advanced stage of the quattro principle – the e-tron Quattro with superior all-wheel drive handling on wet and icy roads.

The short wheelbase and low weight, achieved above all thanks to the aluminum body using the Audi Space Frame (ASF) construction principle, further hone its sporty character; the axle load distribution is 50:50.

The electric range is 50 km (31.07 miles) and the top speed in that mode is 60 km/h (37.28 mph). With its 50-liter (13.21 US gallons) fuel tank, the open-top two-seater has a range of more than 1,000 km (621.37 miles).

Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF Electric Cars Earn Highest Safety Ratings

Volt IIHS Front Test Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF Electric Cars Earn Highest Safety Ratings

The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf earn the highest safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the first-ever U.S. crash test evaluations of plug-in electric cars. The milestone demonstrates that automakers are using the same safety engineering in new electric cars as they do in gasoline-powered vehicles.

The Volt and Leaf earn the top rating of good for front, side, rear, and rollover crash protection. With standard electronic stability control, they qualify as winners of Top Safety Pick, the Institute’s award for state-of-the-art crash protection. The ratings help consumers pick vehicles that offer a higher level of protection than federal safety standards require.

The addition of the 2 electric cars brings to 80 the number of award winners so far for 2011, including 7 hybrid models. That lifts General Motors’ current model tally to 12 and Nissan’s to 3.

“What powers the wheels is different, but the level of safety for the Volt and Leaf is as high as any of our other top crash test performers,” says Joe Nolan, the Institute’s chief administrative officer.

The dual-power Volt and all-electric Leaf not only surpass benchmarks for protecting occupants in crashes but also exceed current fuel efficiency andLEAF IIHS Side Test Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF Electric Cars Earn Highest Safety Ratings emissions standards. Both models are brand new for 2011. The Volt is a plug-in battery/gasoline hybrid that can run in electric-only mode with a range of about 35 miles on a single charge. A gasoline engine kicks in to power the electric motor when the battery is spent. The Leaf runs on battery power alone and has an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated average range of about 73 miles on a single charge

“The way an electric or hybrid model earns top crash test ratings is the same way any other car does,” Nolan says. “Its structure must manage crash damage so the occupant compartment stays intact and the safety belts and airbags keep people from hitting hard surfaces in and out of the vehicle.”

The Volt and Leaf are the first mainstream electric cars the Institute has tested. Last year engineers put 2 low-speed electric vehicles through side barrier tests for research purposes. Results for the GEM e2 and Wheego Whip were starkly different from results for the Volt and Leaf. Crash test dummies in the GEM and Wheego recorded data suggesting severe or fatal injuries to real drivers. The GEM and Whip belong to a class of golf cart-like vehicles that aren’t required to meet the same federal safety standards as passenger vehicles. Although growing in popularity, these tiny electrics aren’t designed to mix with regular traffic.

“Eco-minded drivers keen on switching to electric would do well to buy a Leaf or Volt for highway driving instead of a low-speed vehicle if they’re at all concerned about being protected in a crash,” Nolan said about the electric cars.

Small but safe: The Volt and Leaf are classified as small cars, with their overall length, width, and passenger capacity in line with their peers. But their hefty battery packs put their curb weights closer to midsize and larger cars. The Leaf weighs about 3,370 pounds and the Volt about 3,760 pounds. This compares to about 3,200 pounds for Nissan’s Altima, a midsize car, and about 3,580 pounds for Chevrolet’s Impala, a large family car. Larger, heavier vehicles generally do a better job of protecting people in serious crashes than smaller, lighter ones because both size and weight influence crashworthiness.

For years the debate over fuel economy has been about making cars smaller and lighter, changes that could put people at greater risk of dying or being injured in crashes. The Institute long has maintained that advanced technology is key to improving fuel efficiency without downgrading safety.

“The Leaf and Volt’s extra mass gives them a safety advantage over other small cars,” Nolan says. “These electric models are a win-win for fuel economy and safety.”

About the award: The IIHS awarded the first Top Safety Pick to 2006 models with good ratings for front and side protection and acceptable for rear protection. The bar was raised the next year by requiring a good rear rating and electronic stability control as standard or optional equipment. Last year, the Institute added a requirement that all qualifiers earn a good rating in a roof strength test to assess rollover crash protection. The ratings now cover the 4 most common kinds of injury crashes.

Electric Car Reports

Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt Test Drive Comparisons

By John Addison (8/3/10)

Chevrolet Volt – Test Drive of an Extended Range Electric Vehicle

My test drive of the Volt demonstrates that Chevy is ready to take orders. I settle behind the steering wheel, feel comfortable in the bucket seat, and am impressed with the display behind the wheel, and the 7-inch navigation screen. The Volt looks and feels high-tech.

In 4 laps around a mile test drive loop that included sharp turns and straightaway. While driving, I was able to try the three modes of the car with a push of the button. In Normal mode, the Volt always stayed in the quiet electric mode that gives this 4-door sedan a 40 mile electric range before engaging its 1 liter gasoline engine to provide 300 extra miles of range, depending on driving conditions.

In Sport mode the Volt accelerated faster than I would need to enter any freeway, or pass another car on a country rode. In Sport, the Volt accelerates zero to 60 in about 8 seconds; not as fast as the 4 seconds when I was in a Tesla, but faster than my Nissan LEAF test drive. The Volt had a sporty feel navigating tight corners.

My drive is with Tony Posawatz, Vehicle Line Director for the Chevrolet Volt and GE Global Electric Vehicle Development. Tony has over 100 Volts around the road across the country being put through final paces by GM engineers, and a few out being driven by everyone from President Obama, to big fleet managers, to tech journalists like me.

Chevrolet dealers are now taking orders for the Volt, starting at $350 per month, or $41,000 purchase. Thousands of orders are being made with Chevrolet dealers in launch markets for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt in California, New York, Michigan, Connecticut, Texas, New Jersey and the Washington D.C. area. Tony Posawatz said that he expects over 10,000 Volts to be delivered by the fall of 2011. Mr. Posawatz explained that by 2012, the Volt will also be available with a flexfuel engine that can support E85 ethanol blends, and an AT-PZEV.

Volt Test Drive and Vehicle Details

Nissan LEAF Test Drive of Pure Battery Electric Car

I shift the 2011 Nissan LEAF into its normal drive mode, touch the accelerator and start driving down the San Jose streets. The electric car is always silent. It only has an electric motor, therefore I never hear the sound of a gasoline engine.

The 5-door, 5-seat compact hatchback has plenty of room. Sitting behind me is an electric utility executive who is 6″5″. I did not need to move the driver seat forward; his legs are not pressing against my seat. If the car had 4 people his size, it would be a 4-seater, not 5. On our both of the split back seats can be lowered to carry lots of cargo, be it luggage, work equipment, or everything for your favorite sport.

Driving the car was a no brainer. The friendly joy-stick knob gives me the choices of P (park), R (reverse), N (neutral) and D (drive). Touch ECO for the electricity saving mode.

Nissan engineers have been working hard to get all the software controls ready for market. Acceleration, steering, and braking are smooth. Having driving two early prototypes, this time the LEAF felt ready for the average driver who wants the car to respond just like a conventional gasoline powered car. The car feels ready for delivery to the 17,000 who have made $99 deposits with Nissan.

The LEAF is designed for an average range of 100 miles on a full charge (LA4 drive cycle). Carlos Tavares, Executive Vice President of Nissan Motor explained that the LEAF range estimate varies widely with type of driving. When not running air conditioning or heating, 138 mile range is expected in leisurely driving with slow acceleration and slow stopping. Drive on the highway while running the AC during summer heat, and only expect 70 miles. Blast the heat during cold winter expressway driving, and only expect 60 miles per charge. Sustain 80 miles per hour uphill, and the range is even less.

I put the LEAF in ECO mode which provides about 10 percent more electrical range. Push the accelerator to the floor and I automatically leave ECO mode. To encourage electron-efficient driving, the dash board provides encouraging driving feedback. My telematics display grew lots of trees when I drove with careful acceleration and deceleration. Ford was the first with this type of display, growing leaves on cars like the Fusion Hybrid. So in a LEAF, you grow trees.
While driving, visibility was good in the front, side mirrors, and rear view. The LEAF has two large LCD displays, one behind the steering wheel, the other central on the dashboard.

LEAF Test Drive and Vehicle Details

Chevrolet Volt or Nissan LEAF

I am impressed with my recent test drives of the Chevrolet Volt and of the Nissan LEAF. The Volt can be leased for $350 per month; the LEAF for $349. If you buy, you can save over $8,000 with the LEAF which starts at $32,780; the Volt, $41,000. Buyers can benefit from a $7,500 federal tax credit, and tax credits in many states, the result of growing concerns about a nation damaged from oil spills, health problems, and energy security. Currently 95 percent of U.S. transportation is fueled by oil that is refined into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

I would buy the Volt if I were still in previous position at Sun Microsystems covering several states. The Volt’s 40-mile electric range would be perfect for most days, and the plug-in hybrid would allow me to travel hundreds of miles when necessary, filling-up at the nearest gas station.
Now, however, the LEAF is a great fit for my wife and me. The LEAF’s 100 mile electric range exceeds our 40 mile range need. Living in a city, we are also two blocks from transit which connects to rail, and we are two blocks from car sharing. We are planning to save the $8,000 and buy the LEAF.

Both the Volt and LEAF will meet all the needs of millions as their sole car, and millions more as a second car in 2-car households. Both are roomy compacts, seating 4 and 5 in comfort. Both have backseats that can drop for comfort. Both offer the latest in safety, navigation, smart apps, and entertainment.

The best electric car choice depends on your needs. Investigate each and look for upcoming auto shows and tours in your city.

Top 10 Electric Car Makers

By John Addison, Publisher of the Clean Fleet Report and conference speaker. (c) Copyright John Addison. Permission to repost up to a 200 word summary if a link is included to the original article at Clean Fleet Report.

A lightning bolt Chevy Volt

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: the Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle

What is it?
The Chevy Volt is being called an “extended-range electric vehicle.” And while the wheels are turned directly by electricity, there is a small gasoline engine which will kick in to generate said electricity. In any case, now that that’s clear, the Chevy Volt has a lithium-ion battery, a range of 40 miles without kicking on the gasoline engine (although some say it’s probably closer to 32 miles), a range of maybe 360 miles with the ICE going, and a top speed of 120 MPH.

Why is it better?
Well, it’s no Tesla Roadster (which I was fortunate to take a little spin in two weekends ago), but it’s a pretty nice looking car. Its 4-door sedan body is definitely more practical for most folks looking for a cleaner vehicle that can get them (and their stuff) from point A to point B.

As far as efficiency goes, some estimates say the Volt will get about 100 MPG. When it comes to saving the world (think global warming and polar bears), the Volt is a step in the right direction for sure. Of course, there’s some debate over whether or not the Volt should be considered a plug-in hybrid or an electric vehicle, but in either case, it’s a technology worth exploring. And given that the Volt has a production date of 2010, that should give utilities some time to figure out how to deal with more vehicles plugging into the grid.

Where can you find it?

Come 2010, keep your fingers crossed that you’ll find the Chevy Volt at your local Chevrolet for somewhere between $30 and $48k. In the meantime, feel free to sign yourself up on the unofficial wait list.

Besides her green products column on Cleantech Blog, Cristina is a passionate advocate for green living at the Green Home Huddle at, which focuses on electric cars, energy efficient appliances, and other green products.

A Passion for Plug-ins

By John Addison (8/7/08). Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe spoke about his dream of building a car that could cross the United States on a single tank of gasoline. A plug-in hybrid running on E85 would potentially use only one gallon of gasoline every 500 miles in a blend with five gallons of ethanol, with the rest of the energy being fueled by electricity and biofuel.

In a recent article, I shared the stories of fleets and enthusiastic advocates and individuals who have converted their hybrids to be plug-in hybrids. Most people, however, will wait for vehicles that are designed from the ground-up to be plug-in hybrids. These vehicles will be warrantied by major manufacturers. Future plug-in hybrids will have larger electric motors, smaller engines, lithium battery stacks, and optimized control systems.

GM has announced plans for new plug-in sales by the end of 2010. Toyota is more likely to first deliver hundreds of fleet evaluation cars in 2010 and may follow with sales in 2011. Because both may start with limited numbers of vehicles and long wait times, it may be 2011 before you could get delivery of a new plug-in hybrid.

Toyota has put ten of its prototype plug-in hybrid into test applications in Japan and California. These test vehicles are Priuses with nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. Toyota is being a bit secretive about its new plug-in hybrid. The car is likely to be smaller and lighter than the Prius and use lithium batteries. By carrying less weight and more advanced batteries, Toyota can give the vehicle greater electric-only range, possibly 40 miles which would accommodate the daily range requirements of 78% of all U.S. drivers.

General Motors has made clear statements that it will start taking orders for the Chevy Volt from U.S. consumers by the end of 2010. Last December, I attended a General Motors showing of its Chevy Volt – an elegant four-door sedan shown in this photo which I took. 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 one liter engine is engaged. 16kW is twelve times the storage of my Prius NiMH batteries.

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.

Ford currently has the SUV with the best fuel economy in the Ford Escape Hybrid. A number of fleets have contracted with vehicle system integrators to convert the Escape Hybrid to be a plug-in. Ford delivered twenty of its own Escape Plug-in Hybrid prototypes to major electric utility SCE. The SUV uses a 10 kWh lithium-ion battery pack from Johnson Controls-Saft. The PHEV uses a blended operating strategy, and delivers an equivalent 30-mile all-electric range.

A hybrid battery might use a state of charge depletion window of twenty percent. A plug-in hybrid conversion kit might use a state of charge depletion window of 80 percent, and only be willing to warranty the battery for two or three years. GM will want to offer customers ten year warranties by having 150,000 mile target lives for their batteries. GM will likely use a state of charge depletion window of 50 percent with the Volt. While GM and Toyota see long-term market share advantage by being first to market with a plug-in, other auto makers are cautious.

Daimler is actively expanding the use of electric drive systems in a number of vehicles. The Mercedes Smart Car will be offered as an electric vehicle. The larger Sprinter Van will include a plug-in offer in the future. Several fleets have demonstrated Sprinter Vans converted to be plug-ins. In the future, Daimler may offer its own Plug-in Sprinter.

Plug-in hybrids will face growing competition from electric vehicles, which have more limited range, but have no engine and therefore never require a fuel like gasoline or diesel. At times some of these EV makers have floated the idea of plug-ins in the future. Such comments have come from Nissan-Renault, Tesla, BYD, and others.

In this era of record gasoline prices, people are using many successful approaches to spend less for gas and cut emissions. A record number are cutting personal miles by taking part in employer flexwork programs, car pooling, using transit, and grouping trips. Households are maximizing use of their most fuel efficient vehicles while leaving the gas guzzler parked. More are buying fuel efficient cars. Plug-in hybrids will become a growing part of the solution to save gas and slow global warming.

Plug-in hybrids are destined to be a major success. According to the California Electric Transportation Coalition, if automakers begin producing plug-ins within the next few years, 2.5 million cars could be plug-ins by the year 2020, saving 11.5 million tons of CO2 and 1.14 billion gallons of gasoline each year.

Complete Article about New Plug-ins

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report.