Tesla Motors – I Love You, But What the Hell?

I do like the Model S.  I think Tesla is doing terrific things to the car industry, direct to consumer, aggressive EV range, great looking car.  My friends who have one love it.  The company is proving it has legs.  But, as to the recent market run-up, not to be catty, but are you SERIOUS?

Tesla $20 Bil market capitalization

Nissan $42 Bil market capitalization

GM $46 Bil market capitalization

2013 Electric Vehicle total unit sales
GM Volt 9,855
Nissan Leaf 9,839
Tesla Model S 10,650

June Sales
Volt 2,698
Leaf 2,225
Model S 1,800

GM non EV revenues $150+ Billion
Nissan non EV revenues $120+ Billion
Tesla non EV revenues $0

There is something very, very wrong here.  Unfortunately this looks like the best short since 2001.  It is outselling the Leaf and Volt in some months, but just barely.  Let alone the $100 Billion plus in other revenues for GM and and Nissan.  How does that warrant Tesla trading at almost half their market cap?  I could buy Nissan, sell everything but the Leaf, and have a car business the same size as Tesla and $40 Billion + in the bank.

Tesla, First Solar, Better Place and Comments on a Weird Quarter in Cleantech

Wow.  This has been a really interesting few months in cleantech.

First Solar announced a $0.99 cent/Wp target within 4 years for installed with trackers utility scale in its investor deck.  That equates to around $4-5 henry hub gas price in a new combined cycle gas plant.

The scary thing is that best utility scale PV solar is already approaching the $1.50/Wp range in the LAST quarter, equating to $7-8 Henry Hub.

The Top 5 PV manufacturers announced module costs all south of $0.65/Wp.  First Solar says <$0.40/Wp in 4 years. Greentech Media says the best Chinese C-Si plants will do $0.42 within 3 years.  Screw the EU and US dumping  trade wars.  That my friends, is grid parity for a massive swath of the electricity market wholesale AND retail.

These companies are learning to work on GP margins of sub 10%.  They are getting lean, and mean and good.


Better Place finally went bust with a whimper.  $850 mm in venture money gone.  As we predicted, battery changing for electric cars is a really bad idea.  But this time, unlike the billion that Solyndra took down, nobody noticed.  Maybe because EVs are being rolled out right and left.

Why was it a bad idea? Well, 1) they would make car companies have to change their fleets, and effectively COMPETES not leverages what the rest of EV and battery world was doing, 2) it implicitly assumes fast charging and better cheaper batteries were not coming, so we needed a work around – meaning if the industry succeeds, Better Place has no advantage, if the industry fails, Better Place has no leverage, a really bad bet for an EV lover, 3) it assumes the costs of the swappable battery car and changing stations were not high, and could come down as fast or faster than conventional EVs and battery technology, 4) it means basically all fillups are full service, which I consider a really dumb idea.  We stopped that in the US in 1980s?


Tesla got profitable, sort of.  Announced a positive EBITDA.  Well, ok, but a big loss if you excluded emissions credits that are expected to be a 2013 only event –  about 12% of revenue.  Exclude those and the car manufacturing business had <6% gross profit margins and still loses a lot of money.  But a huge step forward.  Especially as the Model S is now the best selling EV.  Oh, and seriously, even GETTING GPs to positive this fast is a big deal as well as EBITDA positive under ANY circumstances this fast.  Kudos!

This is huge, because as we reported last year, Tesla by itself holds up the venture returns in the cleantech sector.

An analysis of Stifel’s monthly report on EVs and Hybrids shows the Leaf, Volt and Model S making progress, still young and small and choppy sales, but EVs as a group outpacing sales of the HEVs at the same point in their lifecycle.  EVs + HEVs is now consistently at 4% of new US sales. Not half the market, but definitely real.


But somehow, nobody’s making much profits.  This industry is looking like profits will always be elusive and come either in the bubbles, or only to the #1 or 2 player.  2013-2014 are looking like set up years for cleantech.  Our prediction? By 2015 NO ONE will question whether cleantech sectors are viable.  It will be about how fast they erode other people’s profits.

California Gains 10,000 EV Charge Points in NRG Agreement

from original post at Clean Fleet Report

California already has over 10,000 of the new electric vehicles on the road and 2,000 public charge points. Over 10,000 new electric charge points will be added to give EV drivers added range. The charge stations will be built by NRG with private money, not public funds.

This will be the world’s largest electric car charging network and include smart grid technological advancements to level grid load, and energy storage and vehicle-to-grid (V2G).

California needs electric cars. Compared to nations, only two countries use more petroleum than California – the United States and China. The Los Angeles Basin and Central Valley historically had such severe health problems that Governor Ronald Reagan established the California Air Resources Board, which continues to encourage cleaner cars and fuel-efficiency.

California Public Utilities Commission and NRG Energy

The California Public Utilities Commission and NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) have entered into an agreement where NRG will build a comprehensive electric vehicle (EV) charging network in California, investing approximately $100 million over the next four years.

This fee-based charging network will consist of at least 200 publicly available fast –charging stations—installed in the San Francisco Bay area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Los Angeles Basin and San Diego County—which can add 50 miles of range in less than 15 minutes of charging.

The DC-Fast Charging will especially be helpful for drivers of pure battery-electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i, many which were purchased with DC-Fast Charge Ports. Currently many of these electric car drivers are limited to ranges of 60 to 120 miles without access to fast charging.

Additionally, NRG’s EV infrastructure commitment will include the wiring for at least 10,000 individual charging stations located at homes, offices, multifamily communities, schools and hospitals located across the State. The charging locations will be easy for drivers to find with Google Maps, smartphone apps, and electric car navigation systems.

NRG California EV Charging includes Smart Grid and V2G

  • A minimum of 200 direct current (DC) fast chargers to the state.
  • A minimum of 10,000 parking spaces retrofitted with wiring necessary to charge EVs at multifamily buildings, large worksites and civic sites such as universities and hospitals.
  • Training and jobs for the installation and maintenance of these charging stations in
  • California.
  • Smart grid and grid storage services that increase the speed and power of DC fast charging, store electricity to minimize peak-period demand, and enable EV drivers to support electrical grid reliability with needed energy services through vehicle to grid (V2G).
  • Significant additional investment in California’s clean technology economy and hundreds of jobs in construction and EV infrastructure manufacturing, maintenance and management.
  • Approximately $100 million in infrastructure investment over four years, and $20 million in cash to go to the California Public Utility Commission.

Dynegy and Enron were famously accused of manipulating California’s energy markets leading to a crisis 12 years ago. The agreement, pending approvals and finalization, resolves outstanding litigation arising out of a long-term electricity contract entered into over a decade ago by a subsidiary of Dynegy, then a co-owner with NRG of the portfolio of power generating plants currently owned by NRG in California. NRG assumed full responsibility for resolving this matter in 2006 when NRG acquired Dynegy’s 50% interest in the assets.

“California already leads the way in the development of an alternative energy transportation sector and, with the price of gasoline above $4 per gallon and rising, all Americans need to be giving serious consideration to the increasingly attractive electric vehicle alternative to what former President Bush called ‘our national addiction to foreign oil’,” stated NRG CEO Crane. “This network will be built with private funds on a sustainable business model that will allow NRG to maintain and grow the network as EV adoption grows.”

NRG has been making major investments in utility-scale solar and wind. AeroVironment has been one of its charge station suppliers in Texas.

Over 7 Million Charge Points by 2017

California is often the first point of sale for new electric cars, which are then offered in other states, then all 50 states. Other states gaining momentum in electric car sales and public charge points include Oregon, Washington, Florida, Michigan, and Texas where NRG is also developing a charge point network for subscribers.

Clean Fleet Report forecasts 60,000 to 100,000 electric car sales and leases in the United States in 2012 and 200,000 in 2013. Pike Research forecasts 7.7 million charge points installed globally by 2017.

Ten Ways to Reduce U.S. Dependency on Oil

from original post at Clean Fleet Report

Iran stopped shipping oil to the United Kingdom and to France. Global oil prices shot-up and we pay more at the pump. With the threat of oil shipment disruption in the Strait of Hormuz, prices are likely to stay high.

In the USA, over 96 percent of our transportation fuel comes from oil refined into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. To protect our security and national leadership, Americans are taking 10 actions that are reducing our need for oil, not increasing the demand.

In the United States, we embarrassingly have more vehicles than people with driver’s licenses. We have 246 million vehicles. AAA estimates that it costs $8,000 per year for each car owned, which creates a financial burden on cash-strapped Americans. The picture is changing for the better.

Toyota Prius1. Fuel Efficiency.  Automakers have made an impressive comeback from the Great Recession by building cars that save thousands over their lives with better design, efficient engines, and hybrid drive systems. New cars are averaging 33.8 mpg, up from 24.3 in 1980. Light trucks average 24.5, up from 18.5. DOT Statistics. Automakers are targeting 54.5 mpg for 2025.

2. electric cars. In 2011, 18,000 Americans bought electric cars. This year, 60,000 to 100,000 will buy EVs. Instead of using foreign oil, these cars use domestic energy from renewables, natural gas and nuclear power plants. A big surprise is that most of these cars use no coal power.  Five to 10 million electric cars will be on U.S. roads before oil flows from new U.S. offshore drilling platforms.

3. Eliminate Subsidies. U.S. taxpayers watch hundreds of billions disappear in subsidies and tax breaks for oil companies. Does Exxon need to keep paying zero income tax while average Americans struggle to pay their mortgages? The Green Scissors report has common sense fixes that would save us $380 billion. Eliminate subsidies to oil and coal power and many argue to subsidies to renewable energy and biofuels could also be eliminated.

4.  Urban Density. For the first time, most Americans live in urban areas where they need fewer cars, have better public transit, use car sharing, and walk more (with added health benefits). Households are going from 3 to 2 cars and from 2 to 1.

5.   Public Transit. Americans make about 11 billion trips on U.S. transit in 2008, a 50-year record. Watch out, there is a bill in Congress to cut transportation funding. The result would force us to spend more on fuel, widening highways, and make us more dependent on oil than ever.

6.  Employer Commute and Flexwork Programs. Major employers are saving employees billions in travel costs. Employers sponsor ride sharing, last mile shuttles from transit, and guaranteed ride homes. Some employers have web sites and lunch-and-learns to help employees in the same zip codes match-up for car-pooling. 57 million Americans work at home, at least part-time, with the help of flexwork programs. Employer programs have helped with reduced car ownership.

7.  Cash for Clunkers removed 700,000 vehicles from the U.S. roads. Our need for foreign oil was reduced as gas guzzlers were replaced with cars needing less gasoline. It’s an election year and people want a tax break. How about a bi-partisan bill which gives people a break when they trade-in a car getting 18 mpg or less for one with double that – 36 mpg or better?

8.  Smart Apps. Internet savvy people now use Google Maps, car share apps, and smart phone apps to compare car directions and time with public transit directions and time. With a few clicks on a social network a shared ride is arranged, or a shared car reserved. In the old millennium we got everywhere by solo driving in gridlock. In the new millennium we plan and use a mix of car driving, transit, and other modes to save time and money.

9.  Smart Growth. Community and regional planners are making cities vibrant, with work, services, and play close at hand. Portland, Oregon, is a role model in creating urban density and great public transportation. California with SB375 is requiring regional plans that integrate development, transportation, and greenhouse gas reduction. Video of my workshop at the American Planning Association “More Smiles, Less Miles.”

10. States’ Rights. States currently have the right to protect their water, citizens’ health, agricultural land, shores, earthquake and tsunami zones, and wildlife refuges. Congressional Republicans are trying to pass legislation that would require offshore oil drilling from California to Florida and from New York to the Carolinas, whether allowed or prohibited by state law. From Nebraska to Texas, eminent domain would force the XL pipeline over the Ogallala Aquifer that provides water to tens of millions and is critical to our nation’s food supply. We must preserve state’s rights to protect water, health, and a livable future.

Making us more dependent on oil will not make us less dependent. We must end the subsidies and mandates that make us 96 percent dependent on oil and allow our individuals, cities, and states to keep moving us forward with better transit, fuel-efficient cars, and a brighter future.

Coal Powered Electric Cars – Fact and Fiction

from original article by John Addison at Clean Fleet Report

“The electric car doesn’t do any good because it’s just powered by coal” gets repeated by the oil industry, by news pundits who ignore fact checking, and even by some environmentalists.

In the past three years of writing about electric cars, I have yet to meet an electric car driver or fleet manager who only uses coal power. If you own an electric car and only use coal power, please leave a comment at the end of the article that mentions what you drive and the state in which you live. In the United States, 36 states have utility-scale wind power, so the comment will not be from one of them.

In 2011, over half of the 18,000 electric cars were delivered to states that have zero coal-power plants. In 2012, 60,000 to 100,000 electric cars will be primarily be delivered in zero-coal states. My Nissan Leaf is powered by my utility PG&E with a typical California energy mix of 47% natural gas, 20% nuclear, 16% large hydro, and 15% other renewables. Yes, during peak summer afternoon demand, PG&E does import 2% coal power from other states, but I charge my electric car off-peak after 10 p.m. Many electric car drivers participate in utility programs that offer lower prices for charging off-peak.

By 2020, California utilities plan to have 33% of delivered power from renewables including wind, solar, geothermal, biomethane and waste. By 2050, SMUD, a leading utility, plans to be 90 percent renewable as it implements energy storage that enables renewables to be used 24/7 and as it implements smart grid and smart pricing to make demand more level.

Electric Cars Ride on Sunlight

Many early adopters of electric vehicles are also early adopters of solar power. Jackson Browne rides on sunlight, powering his Chevrolet Volt with the solar on his roof. At Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corp showed me their solar carport with charge units for their 291 electric vehicles used daily.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance is leading the volume manufacturing of electric cars. The Nissan LEAF has a growing presence in the United States and Japan, the Renault Fluence in Europe and Israel. Renault is installing 55 MW of solar parking structures at its manufacturing sites. Solar parking structures increasingly include electric car charging.

With plans for 250 more charging stations on its campus, and a goal to make 5 percent of its campus parking EV-ready, Google’s installation is the largest workplace charging installation for electric vehicles in the country. Much of the charging is done with renewable energy, including Google’s solar covered parking. No coal power is used in charging vehicles. Google has invested over one billion dollars in renewable energy, accelerating development of 1.7 GW of RE.

There are valid concerns about coal powered electric cars. Coal is used for about 45 percent of U.S. electricity generation. Legacy plants will continue to run for decades. An electric car is over 5 times as efficient as a typical gasoline car, so even when coal-power is used lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions are less from the electric car. A typical electric car, however, is only 2.5 times as efficient as the best hybrids such as the Toyota Prius. If your utility bill shows that 90 percent of your electricity comes from coal, you might do as much good with a hybrid that gets over 40 mpg as with an electric car.

The coal concern is greater in China, although current plans call for China to implement more wind and solar power than now exists in all other countries.

By the time that we have millions of electric vehicles on the road, coal will play a smaller role in our energy mix. What would you do if you were an electric utility CEO deciding on a billion dollar plant to run 40 years or more? Coal keeps getting more expensive. Natural gas, wind, solar, and energy storage and demand response keep getting less expensive.

Who Will Try to Kill the Electric Car?

Congressman Edward J. Markey, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, stated, “The fossil-fuel industry and its allies in Congress see the solar and wind industries as a threat and will try to kill these industries as they have for the preceding two generations,” Markey says. (From Juliet Eilperin’s article in Wired) We are a vulnerable nation with 98 percent of our transportation being fueled by oil refined gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

You can turn on Fox News and watch Chevrolet be attacked because in a crash test on Chevy Volt caught fire 5-days after the test. You won’t hear much about the 180,000 gasoline cars that caught fire after crashes in 2011. Solar bankruptcies such as Solyndra, Evergreen, and Solar Millennium will be replayed over and over. Less airplay will be given to the intense competitive progress that has made solar power 100 times less expensive than 40 years ago and fueled an industry growth of over 30 percent annually for decades.

A few years ago when a delegation of senior Chinese officials was visiting Silicon Valley, I was asked to give a talk about marketing strategy. I was asked, “What is the secret of Silicon Valley.” I answered that great innovation is possible when you’re not afraid of failure.

American innovators are working day and night from California to New York and from Michigan to Tennessee. Breakthroughs are being nurtured to commercial success in IT cloud services, RE financial services, energy efficient motors and buildings, electric batteries and electric cars. Yes, there will be more failure than success, duds will get more news time than dynamos, but the innovations that transform our lives for the better will triumph.

In the future, we will increasingly ride in electric vehicles smart charged with renewable energy.

Gartner Forecasts 100,000 Electric Car Sales for 2012

from original post at Clean Fleet Report

Gartner, the largest technology market research firm, is forecasting 100,000 electric car sales in 2012 in the United States. Yesterday, I took in the presentation at the SV Forum and then talked with Thilo Koslowski, Vice President of Gartner’s Automotive and Vehicle Practice. He acknowledged that 100,000 is quite a jump from the 18,000 sold in 2011 which included 9,674 Nissan LEAFs, 7,671 Chevrolet Volts, and 655 other plug-in cars.

In 2011, Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown affected everyone’s supply chain. The recession left most cautious about spending $30,000, $40,000, or more for unproven vehicles. Although some 280,000-gasoline cars catch fire in the U.S. annually, fires in some Volt test crashes lead to safety concerns. It was only mid-year that the Nissan Leaf received the top five-star safety rating from NHTSA.

I agree with Gartner that 100,000 is a good forecast for U.S. EV sales. Nissan is manufacturing 50,000 LEAFs this year, then greatly expanding production next year with a new Tennessee plant. The Renault-Nissan Alliance is betting billions on electric vehicles and lithium batteries. GM has expanded manufacturing for global sales of 65,000 electric cars including two plug-in hybrids in 2012 – the Chevrolet Volt and the Opel Ampera in Europe and GM 2012 sales of a pure battery-electric Chevrolet Spark. The new Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid has also been on display at auto shows.

Electric Cars with Lowest Prices

Electric city cars will also fuel sales in 2012. The Mitsubishi i has a starting price of only $29,120 – $6,000 less than the LEAF. Toyota will enter the electric city car competition with the Scion IQ Electric. The Honda Fit Electric is no for sale. Car rental and car sharing providers are adding over 1,000 electric cars to their fleet. Car2Go already has 300 Smart Electric Drive Cars on the streets of San Diego in daily use.

Ford’s customer choice strategy will also attract more mainstream car buyers. The new Ford Fusion is available as an efficient EcoBoost engine or as a hybrid with better mileage than any midsized sedan or as a plug-in hybrid that allows many trips to use zero gasoline. The Ford Focus is also available as a pure battery-electric. The new crossover SUV Ford C-MAX is also available as a plug-in hybrid.

Toyota knows how to sell millions of hybrids. The new Prius Plug-in Hybrid looks and drives just like the best selling Prius. The new Toyota RAV4 EV is a pure battery-electric that looks like the popular RAV4 SUV. In 2012 and 2013, Toyota leverage its hybrid brand into plug-in cars.

One hundred thousand electric car sales in 2012 is less than one percent of the 13.4 million U.S. vehicle sales forecasted by Gartner.

In talking with Mr. Koslowski, we agreed that it is tough to forecast which will have greater sales, pure battery electric or plug-in hybrid. With early enthusiasts, the battery-electric LEAF is the winner. The SV Forum was hosted at SAP that has 16 charge points and at least 20 employees EV drivers at its Silicon Valley office. LEAFs outnumbered Volts in visitor parking for the forum. The typical U.S. household has two cars. My wife and I share a Nissan LEAF and a hybrid. In 8 months, range has never been an issue. If one of us is driving over 60 miles we take the hybrid. As we progress from early enthusiasts to early adopters, however, the plug-in hybrid may win by eliminating range anxiety. Most compacts and city cars may be electric; most larger cars, crossovers, and SUVs may be plug-in hybrid.

Challenges for 1,000,000 Electric Cars by 2015

Manufactures will certainly have the capacity to build a million electric cars by 2015. Renault-Nissan and GM are investing billions in plants in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Battery giants like LG Chem, Panasonic, and Samsung are also investing billions. The real question is will U.S. buyers have purchased or leased a million battery-electric and plug-in hybrids by the end of 2015.

Gartner’s Koslowski sees two big challenges. First, can the automakers create brands and marketing campaigns that make these vehicles compelling buys. Second, can automakers and battery giants continue to drive down the cost of lithium batteries or storage alternatives? Most buyers will not pay a premium for a hybrid or electric. Then again, millions each year buy premium cars, SUVs and trucks.  When drivers want a vehicle, millions convince themselves that one over $30K is right for them.

Thilo Koslowski sees 5 to 8 percent of all vehicles being battery-powered by 2020 and 20 to 30 percent by 2030. Urban markets are most promising, but many city dwellers do not have access to garages for charging. The political and media influence of oil giants could slow adoption in some countries. High oil prices could speed adoption. Since Europe and Asia have less appetite to subsidize gasoline prices, they could soon be bigger markets for EVs.

By the end of the decade, millions of electric cars are likely to be on the road. Exciting customer experiences, falling cost of ownership, and the price of alternatives will determine how many millions.

Chevrolet Spark EV with A123 Nanophosphate Lithium-ion Batteries

The 2013 Spark EV is Chevrolet’s new 100% battery-electric car. It is GM’s fourth electric car model that includes the Chevrolet Volt, the Opel Ampera, and the Cadillac ELR. GM needs a pure-electric offering; Nissan Leaf is dominating the early adopter market.

Reuters reports that Nissan LEAF’s U.S. sales through September were about 27,500 — seven times higher than the Volt. Electric utility PG&E confirms that ratio reporting 1,200 LEAFs and only 250 Volts delivered in its service area – 10,000 electric cars for SF Region in 2012. GM is expanding electric car production from 10,000 this year to 65,000 in 2012 as it plays catch-up with Nissan and prepares for market share battle with Ford, Toyota, Honda, and others.

Now GM fights back with the Spark EV. A gasoline powered Spark is currently offered in some foreign markets as a 2-door, 4-seat, subcompact. Small cars are now popular in American cities as drivers fight for expensive parking spaces. In 2012, the Mitsubishi i will lead the battle for electric city cars with a starting price of $29,195.

By the time that Chevrolet can start dealer deliveries of the 2013 Spark EV, it will face tough competition from at least 10 electric cars in the U.S. selling for under $40,000.  The field will include other impressive electric cars such as the Nissan LEAF, which I own, the Mitsubishi I, the Ford Focus Electric, the Honda Fit Electric, the Scion IQ EV and others. Chevrolet only plans on limited sales in California and other select U.S. and global markets in 2013. GM has yet to announce battery size, range, fast charge capability or lack thereof and vehicle price. Electric car ranges of 80 to 100 miles are common.

Both the Chevrolet Spark EV and the Chevrolet Volt will be successful. Many people prefer the plug-in hybrid range of the Volt; others want a zero gasoline pure electric like the Spark and will count on the 25,000-plus public charging stations that will be available when the Spark EV is delivered. I have interviewed dozens of Volt drivers from music stars like Jackson Brown to regular commuters. They uniformly love their cars performance, reliability, and electric range.

Lithium Battery Competition – A123 Wins this Time

The Chevy Spark is a major win for the nanophosphate lithium-ion battery pack supplier A123, an American innovator that has lost most automotive design-wins to giants like Korea’s LG Chem and Samsung and Japan’s Panasonic and NEC. (Disclosure: author holds modest stock ownership in A123.)

As electric and hybrid car competition intensifies, Nissan, GM, Toyota, and Ford are in a race to sell the most vehicles with lithium batteries. I have driven cars from each of these automakers that use lithium batteries. The cars performed beautifully and delivered great fuel economy.

By the end of 2012, Nissan will have delivered 100,000 LEAFs. Renault is trying to match that number in Europe and Israel. Both automakers use AESC lithium-nickel-manganese polymer batteries. AESC is a joint venture between NEC and Nissan.

Ford may be the first carmaker to sell 100,000 cars annually that includes lithium batteries. When I lasted interviewed Nancy Gioia, Director Ford Global Electrification, she said that Ford has a 2020 goal of 10 to 25 percent of its vehicle sales including lithium batteries. Her best guess is that 70% would be hybrids, 20 to 25% plug-in hybrids, and 5 to 10% battery-electric. Everything from technology innovation to oil prices will affect the future mix.

Toyota Motor Corp is bringing to market three vehicles with lithium batteries – the Prius PHV, the RAV4 EV, and the Scion IQ EV.

Frost and Sullivan forecasts that the lithium transportation market will expand from $1.2 billion in 2011 to $14 billion in 2016.  Automotive Lithium Battery Competition Report

The Networked Electric Vehicle

EV Solar  Charging Station Electric Vehicle and Smart Grid Networks

Thousands of electric cars are now communicating with owner’s smart phones, charging stations, and service networks. These EVs are plugging into smart grids that use network communications to charge off-peak, monitor and improve reliablity.

When I use my Blink EVSE to charge my Nissan Leaf, the charger sends a packet of info to the charging network every 15 minutes using Sprint. The charger is communications-ready supporting CDMA, Wi-Fi, and powerline communications (PLC). With the Nissan LEAF app on my Droid I can remotely monitor charging, or pre-heat or pre-cool the car while still plugged-in, saving battery range. My Droid uses Verizon.

While driving, the LEAF’s navigation system uses GPS. If I want to listen to Pandora, my smartphone communicates with the LEAF via Bluetooth. When I park at a ChargePoint for public charging, the Coulomb ChargePoint uses RF to talk with my member smartcard. When charging, the ChargePoint uses various wireless carriers in different countries with protocols such as GPRS and CDMA. The charger even sends me a text when charging is completed or if someone disconnects my car.

Smart Grid Uses Wireless and Mesh Networks

A DOE study identified how we can charge 170 million electric cars in the U.S. before needing to add generation such as renewables, natural gas, nuclear, or coal. Charging needs to be done off-peak. With smart charging communications that is easy to do. I have preset charging my LEAF off peak. When I connect the charger, no electrons flow until the nighttime hour is reached. State utility regulators need to allow utilities A low rate for off-peak charging and higher for on-peak charging and electricity use. No benefits occur until utilities upgrade their old one-way grid communications to two-way smart grid.

As utilities install smart meters, such time of use (TOU) pricing and demand response become realities. Beyond what is visible to their customers, electric utilities are becoming more reliable and efficient with smart grid technology that communicates: advanced meters, smart transformers, sensors, distribution automation, and intelligent energy management.

When I charge and use electricity at home, my PG&E utility smart meter uses RF mesh technology to route the data along with sensor data so that they can manage the grid, collect billing information, and allow me to view home use through an internet browser.

As wireless carriers lower their rates to compete with mesh networks, other utilities take different approaches. Texas utility TNMP is including a CDMA modem in all of the 241,000 smart meters that it is installing.

Transformers and distributed automation are smarter so that sudden changes in load can be better managed and an outage in one location does not take down the neighborhood. SDG&E is charging thousands of electric vehicles with a smart grid.

SDG&E is installing smart transformers and distributed automation that more quickly isolates and handles problems. These devices communicate with centralized GIS and IT applications that keep everything running.

Duke Energy’s David Masters writes, “Duke Energy defines the digital grid as an end-to-end energy Internet powered by two-way digital technology. It is comprised of an Internet Protocol (IP) based, open standards communication network that allows for automation and the exchange of near real-time information as well as enabling the adoption of new technologies as they become available. Duke Energy’s digital grid will have more efficient and reliable transmission and distribution systems; it will leverage energy efficiency programs to reduce wasted energy; it will integrate more distributed energy resources into our grid and decrease carbon emissions.” Duke Energy is co-locating 3G and 4G cellular communication nodes with transformers. These WAN nodes communicate with RF and PLC to smart meters, charging stations, demand response appliances, street light systems, grid sensors and capacitor banks.

EPB, Chattanooga, Tennessee, not only delivers electricity to the home, it delivers broadband fiber optics for fast internet access and streaming video. While most utilities are slowly deploying smart grid, starting with smart meters, EPB installs a broadband router in the home with far more capability than a meter.

Our use of energy will get smarter as utilities fully-deploy smart grids and regulators encourage them share more information. For example, automakers are already demonstrating smart apps so that owners could program preferred charging to occur when high-levels of renewable energy is delivered to the grid, such as wind blowing at night. Smart apps and RE price incentives would encourage the growth of clean and safe energy.

Instead of firing-up dirty peaker plants on hot afternoons when air conditioning is blasting, a smart grid could draw power from utility fleets that are glad to sell power at premium rates. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) has been successfully tested. V2G is part of our future.

On October 20, utility and automotive executives will attend GTM and Greentech Media’s The Networked EV Conference  to review the details of the convergence of electric vehicles and smart grids. GTM has published a new research report – The Smart Utility Enterprise 2011-2015: IT Systems Architecture, Cyber Security and Market Forecast

The ongoing deployment of smart grid infrastructure (i.e., smart meters and distribution automation) in the U.S. is prompting utility strategists to re-evaluate their organizations’ back-end enterprise architectures in order to enable next-gen utility business and operational services, such as dynamic pricing, grid optimization, self-healing grids and renewables integration. Utilities are just now beginning to understand the implications of outfitting their dated enterprise architectures with current information (IT) and operations (OT) technologies required to offer next-gen smart grid applications.

It will take years for most utilities to deploy smart grids. The cost will be in the billions. The savings will be in the trillions as drivers use less foreign oil and as level demand and energy efficiency replace the need for new coal and nuclear power plants.

Growth is strong for electric vehicles, renewable energy, and smart grid. The growth of one benefits the other. With smart communications, we are enjoying efficient transportation, energy independence, and clean air.

54.5 mpg Fuel Efficiency Standard will save U.S. drivers $1.7 trillion by 2025

The new debt-limit agreement with Congress has been the big news. Big enough for Fitch to keep U.S. Treasuries at AAA for the time being. Last week another major agreement was reached.

President Obama announced a historic agreement with thirteen major automakers to increasing fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025. This will save U.S. drivers $1.7 trillion in fuel costs with today’s oil prices of about $100 per barrel. If the price of oil is higher in 2025, consumers will save more.

The President was joined by Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Volvo. Fuel economy will help automakers lower the lifetime cost of operating cars. By 2025, new cars will average the fuel economy of today’s popular Prius Liftback. Next year, Toyota will already start selling cars with better MPG than the classic Prius including the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Prius C, and RAV4 EV.

Toyota is now scrambling to hold its fuel-economy lead as scramble to up their forecast for the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric, and Honda Fit Electric just to name a few new electric cars.

Ten Million Electric Cars

Forecasts of 10 million electric cars by 2020 in the U.S. look more likely. High volumes will lower the cost of lithium battery packs and electric motors, which are also used in hybrids. By 2013, at least one of these automakers will sell 100,000 electric cars and hybrids in one year – Toyota, GM, Nissan, and Ford.

New fuel efficiency and emission standards will make it easier for automakers to build drive systems and cars for the global market where fuel is often more expensive and high MPG necessary to gain market share. Ford has taken a lead is saving billions with global car platforms and in improving fuel economy by shaving hundreds of pounds of vehicle weight. Heavy metal is increasingly replaced with stronger metals and composites. Electric drive systems can support lighter electric accessories instead of mechanical devices.

Consumer savings is real. My wife and I have been driving our Nissan LEAF for three months. Last month, our electricity cost to fuel the car for a month was the same as one gasoline fill-up of our other car, a hybrid. OK, we we’re on vacation part of the month. Next month the electricity bill may be the same as 2 fill-ups.  That electricity is not from foreign oil, it is from local generation with natural gas, wind, solar, other renewables, and yes, 20% nuclear.

“This agreement on fuel standards represents the single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said President Obama. ”Most of the companies here today were part of an agreement we reached two years ago to raise the fuel efficiency of their cars over the next five years. We’ve set an aggressive target and the companies are stepping up to the plate. By 2025, the average fuel economy of their vehicles will nearly double to almost 55 miles per gallon.”

The new builds on the existing agreement for Model Years 2012-2016 vehicles, which will raise fuel efficiency to 35.5 mpg and begin saving families money at the pump this year, the next round of standards will require performance equivalent to 54.5 mpg or 163 grams/ mile of CO2 for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025. Achieving the goals of this historic agreement will rely on innovative technologies and manufacturing that will spur economic growth and create high-quality domestic jobs in cutting edge industries across America.

Truck and SUV Drivers to Save

These programs, combined with the model year 2011 light truck standard, represent the first meaningful update to fuel efficiency standards in three decades and span Model Years 2011 to 2025. Together, they will save American families $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, and by 2025 result in an average fuel savings of over $8,000 per vehicle. Additionally, these programs will dramatically cut the oil we consume, saving a total of 12 billion barrels of oil, and by 2025 reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels a day – as much as half of the oil we import from OPEC every day.

People buying all wheel drive SUVs and trucks to deal with snow and ice will finally see real fuel economy improvements.

The standards also curb carbon pollution, cutting more than 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas over the life of the program – more than the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States last year. The oil savings, consumer, and environmental benefits of this comprehensive program are detailed in a new report entitled Driving Efficiency: Cutting Costs for Families at the Pump and Slashing Dependence on Oil, which the Administration released today.

The program would increase the stringency of standards for passenger cars by an average of five percent each year. The stringency of standards for pick-ups and other light-duty trucks would increase an average of 3.5 percent annually for the first five model years and an average of five percent annually for the last four model years of the program, to account for the unique challenges associated with this class of vehicles.

“This is another important step toward saving money for drivers, breaking our dependence on imported oil and cleaning up the air we breathe,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “American consumers are calling for cleaner cars that won’t pollute their air or break their budgets at the gas pump, and our innovative American automakers are responding with plans for some of the most fuel efficient vehicles in our history.”

A national policy on fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas emissions provides regulatory certainty and flexibility that reduces the cost of compliance for auto manufacturers while addressing oil consumption and harmful air pollution. Consumers will continue to have access to a diverse fleet and can purchase the vehicle that best suits their needs.

EPA and NHTSA are developing a joint proposed rulemaking, which will include full details on the proposed program and supporting analyses, including the costs and benefits of the proposal and its effects on the economy, auto manufacturers, and consumers. After the proposed rules are published in the Federal Register, there will be an opportunity for public comment and public hearings. The agencies plan to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by the end of September 2011. California plans on adopting its proposed rule in the same time frame as the federal proposal.

Given the long time frame at issue in setting standards for MY2022-2025 light-duty vehicles, EPA and NHTSA intend to propose a comprehensive mid-term evaluation. Consistent with the agencies’ commitment to maintaining a single national framework for vehicle GHG and fuel economy regulation, the agencies will conduct the mid-term evaluation in close coordination with California.

In achieving the level of standards described above for the 2017-2025 program, the agencies expect automakers’ use of advanced technologies to be an important element of transforming the vehicle fleet. The agencies are considering a number of incentive programs to encourage early adoption and introduction into the marketplace of advanced technologies that represent “game changing” performance improvements, including:

  • Incentives for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and fuel cells vehicles
  • Incentives for advanced technology packages for large pickups, such as hybridization and other performance-based strategies
  • Credits for technologies with potential to achieve real-world CO2 reductions and fuel economy improvements that are not captured by the standards test procedures.

Tesla’s Progress with a 300-Mile Electric Car Range

Tesla S Sedan Tesla’s Progress with Model S and 300 Mile Electric Car Range

Tesla recent quarterly financial results show progress on several fronts. Over 1,650 customers are now driving the Tesla Roadster, the impressive electric car with a 240-mile range per charge. Customers have driven these 100-percent electric cars more than 11 million miles. Tesla will soon have over 2,000 customers who have paid over $100,000 for their Roadster.

The Model S Sedan is on track for completion and customer deliveries mid-2012. A much bigger market is expected for this premium sedan that starts at $57,400 and has an optional battery pack with that gives the car a 300-mile range. When Tesla begins delivery of the Model S, over 100,000 electric car customers will be driving their Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric and other electric sedan competitors. Tesla will compete against these less expensive competitors with a luxury interior, electronics like a 17-inch display, 7 passenger capacity, switchable battery, and options to triple the electric range of competitors. A new generation of lithium batteries is at the heart of the vehicles range of 160 miles with optional packs that provide 230 and 300 miles of range per electric charge. 4,600 customers have already placed reservations for the Model S with a starting price of $57,400.

CEO Elon Musk stated, “Our Model S alpha build proceeded as scheduled during the quarter. In fact, our engineering and manufacturing teams have now completed the construction of all of our Model S alpha vehicles, having finished the final alpha in April. These vehicles are successfully undergoing the planned cold weather brakes testing, ride and handling evaluation, safety validation, electrical integration, and noise, vibration and harshness evaluation,” continued Musk. “As has been our plan, we will continue testing this quarter with a particular focus on durability and systems integration as we prepare for our beta build later this year. Overall, we remain on track for first customer deliveries of the Model S in mid-2012.”

Tesla Progress with Toyota RAV4 EV and Daimler Electric Cars

Tesla is also making significant progress as a battery and electric drive system provider. Tesla delivered a record number of production battery packs and chargers for both Daimler’s Smart fortwo and A-Class vehicles for the fourth quarter in a row. Daimler increased its total orders for the Smart fortwo electric drive components from 1,800 to 2,100 sets. All of these will be delivered in 2011. Daimler owns 5 percent of Tesla.

Tesla successfully completed the initial milestones for the development of the powertrain system for the Toyota RAV4 EV and remains on schedule for the completion of the development portion of the program. The powertrain system includes a battery, power electronics components, motor, gearbox and associated proprietary software. Toyota owns 2 percent of Tesla stock. Toyota RAV4 EV Test Drive

Meeting product deadlines will depend on staying on-track in opening its new factory in Fremont, California – The Tesla Factory. Intensive site preparations are underway at each of the stamping, plastics, and paint shops as the facility is being prepared for the upcoming Model S beta build. Equipment testing in carefully controlled manual modes of operation has begun in both stamping and plastics shops, with robots and other automation equipment scheduled for installation later this year. Installation of the hydraulic press line remains on schedule for manual operation in the second quarter.

Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA) announced its preliminary unaudited financial results for the quarter ended March 31, 2011. Revenues for the first quarter of 2011 were $49.0 million, a 35% increase from the $36.3 million reported in the prior quarter. Gross margin improved to 37%, up from 31% for the prior quarter. Net loss for the quarter was $48.9 million as compared to $51.4 million in the prior quarter on a GAAP basis.

Like its Roadster, Tesla has been growing the company at zero to 60 in four seconds. Revenues are strong, but profitability is not in sight as the company invests for high growth and big plans for the Model S and Model X.

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

Japan’s Crisis Hurts Sales of Hybrid Cars and EVs

The people of Japan are courageously moving forward after the devastation of a 9.0 earthquake, a tsunami that ripped apart buildings and roads, and a nuclear crisis that now threatens their food and water. The Japanese economy depends in no small measure on the success of its automotive industry and its complex eco-system of component suppliers and service providers.

Just when gasoline prices are rising and hybrid cars are again hot sellers, the crisis is making hybrids and new electric cars tough to get. Let’s look at the impact on three big sellers of hybrids and electrics.

Toyota, Honda, and Nissan are hurt less than expected because they have diversified globally, including billion dollar plants and operations in the United States. The most advanced hybrids and electric cars, however, are first produced in Japan. Every supplier must be able to produce for new cars to be assembled in Japan. Once assembled, it will be challenging to move them across roads not ripped apart. It will take time to return shipping ports to normal after the recent tsunami tossed cars and railcars around like toys. Plants and operations require MW of electricity, now constrained by nuclear plant shutdowns.


Toyota reports that all 13 North American vehicle and engine plants are running normally, although overtime has been curtailed to maintain adequate inventories of parts that come from Japan. Toyota now makes 12 different models in North America, including high-volume vehicles such as Camry, Corolla, RAV4, and Lexus RX 350, and nearly 70 percent of all Toyota and Lexus vehicles sold in the U.S. are made in North America.

Suppliers in North America provide most parts and materials for Toyota’s North American-built vehicles. Toyota has temporarily stopped all Japanese production of vehicles, but it is restarting production of replacement parts for cars already sold and parts necessary for overseas production. In general, Toyota is seeing adequate inventories at most dealers.

Prius vehicles are built in Japan, Steve Curtis with Toyota told me that the Tsutsumi plant where the Prius is made was not damaged by the earthquake. Production depends on more than the plant condition. It depends on a complex web of suppliers, supply of electricity, roads that can be crossed by employees and trucks deliveries parts. Toyota has delayed 12 Japan plant openings until March 26.

The tragedy in Japan has not delayed the U.S. launch of the new larger Prius V Crossover SUV and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, not the new Toyota small electric city car. It has delayed the launch of the Prius wagon and minivan models in Japan from the original plan for the end of April. Reuters  Article

Since the production of current Toyota and Lexus hybrids, depends on a complex supply chain, and shipment to the UnitedToyota Prius 37k 150x102 Japan’s Crisis Hurts Sales of Hybrid Cars and Electric Cars States depends on roads and ports, Clean Fleet Report forecasts that shipments of Prius and other hybrids will be delayed and reduced for months.

Only one of three Toyota hybrid battery plants in Japan sustained limited damage from the earthquake. The other two plants are located in central Japan and were not affected. Panasonic and Sanyo are Toyota’s primary suppliers of nickel metal hydride and lithium batteries; their production status is uncertain.

Car dealers are betting that the supply of hot selling hybrids will be tight, especially with gasoline costing $4 per gallon in parts of the country. Auto News reports that dealers that were averaging $1,700 discounts on the Prius are now getting $800 premiums.


Honda is globally diversified in manufacturing and suppliers. With nine U.S. plants, Honda has invested more than $12.7 billion in its U.S. operations. The company employs nearly 25,000 associates and annually purchases $12 billion in parts and materials from more than 530 U.S. suppliers.

For hybrids such as the Civic Hybrid, Insight, CR-Z and Fit Hybrid, Honda also heavily depends on Japanese suppliers, including advanced battery suppliers such as Sanyo. At the heart of the 2012 Civic Hybrid and Honda’s new electric cars are the lithium-ion batteries built at its Blue Energy join venture (JV) with Japan’s GS Yuasa; the battery plant is in Fukuchiyama, Kyoto, Japan.

Last week, Honda had announced plans to resume production of major Japanese plants on March 20. Now these openings are delayed to March 27 or beyond. Like all major manufacturers, Honda depends on a complex eco-system of suppliers and joint ventures. Some plants have been damaged and roads to move parts have been ripped apart.


Nissan has delayed March 21 plans to restart production of parts for overseas manufacturing and repair parts, based on parts availability from suppliers, at these plants Oppama, Tochigi, Kyushu, Yokohama, Nissan Shatai. Vehicle production will be constrained by inventory availability. The Iwaki engine plant remains closed.

LEAF battery 150x150 Japan’s Crisis Hurts Sales of Hybrid Cars and Electric CarsNissan recently shipped 600 Nissan LEAFs before earthquake and tsunami damage. At the Port of Hitachi, however, Nissan lost 1,300 U.S.-bound Infiniti and Nissan cars to the tsunami. Nissan had plans to soon have 10,000 LEAFs built at the Oppama plant. Now Nissan’s hopes of catching-up with U.S. deliveries of the Chevrolet Volt have faded in the near term.

Starting next year, Nissan’s Tennessee assembly plant will have the capacity to build 150,000 Nissan Leaf electric cars per year, and 200,000 lithium-ion battery packs per year. The lithium packs could also be used in future Nissan hybrid cars. The Tennessee battery production is by AESC, a joint venture of Nissan and NEC.

Once production returns to normal, U.S. shipments could still be delayed. Japan faces a fuel shortage. Fuel is needed to transport cars to ports, to run port drayage trucks and lifts, and to run ships. Even electric cars still depend on diesel to move them to market.

Cleantech and the Future of GM

Jon Lauckner, President GM Ventures, said that GM now has a straightforward vision, “Design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles.” I took notes as he gave his keynote speech at the Clean Tech Investors Conference and asked him about GM’s investment priorities. To achieve GM’s vision, focus is now placed on four strategies: (1) a culture that is more aggressive and flexible, (2) customer focus, (3) Team GM, and (4) technology.

Mr. Lauckner is focused on investing in innovative and early stage companies. He has been busy since GM Ventures was established last June and he was promoted from head of GM global product planning. GM Ventures has invested in Bright Automotive, which has designed an advanced plug-in hybrid delivery van with much greater cargo space than Ford’s Transit Connect Electric. GM has invested in two advanced next generation biofuel corporations – Mascoma and Coskata. Given the success of the Amyris IPO, these investments could should a high return for GM.

GM has the potential to drive down lithium battery cost and weight with its strategic partner LG Chem, supplier for the Volt. The two corporations recently licensed cathode technology from Argonne National Lab that can lead to better energy density and make future cars like the Chevrolet Volt even more cost effective.

GM is also looking beyond today’s lithium technology. GM Ventures has invested in SAKTI3, which has developed a rechargeable solid-state battery with the potential to lower the cost of manufacturing batteries.

All of these innovators are creating offerings that could accelerate GM offering a wider range of vehicles, lower the carbon footprint of GM vehicles, and make electric cars less expensive than gasoline powered in this decade. So far, all of these innovators are U.S. based and already creating hundreds of new jobs. GM is open to investing globally and often partners with venture capitalists such as Khosla Ventures, corporate private equity such as Itochu Technology Ventures, and public economic development such as the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The technology will not necessarily become a GM offering, but that is a potential value-added in partnering with GM Ventures. For example, Powermat is not only receiving a $5 million investment from GM Ventures, Powermat will be offered in many 2012 GM cars. Powermat solves that problem of trying to keep many mobile electronic devices charged. Forget using the cigarette lighter. Powermat’s technology allows electronic devices – smart phones, MP3 players and gaming devices – to be charged inductively by just placing them on the Powermat.

What will be the next General Motors investment? Speaking to over 400 executives at the Clean-Tech Investor Summit,  co-produced by International Business Forum and Clean Edge with CleantechBlog as a media sponsor, Jon Lauckner said that GM Ventures is looking for promising innovation in these areas:

Automotive Cleantech

  • EV
  • Fuel cell
  • Charging
  • Emission controls
  • Motors
  • Smart grid
  • Energy efficiency for vehicles
  • Biofuels


  • Vehicle HMI
  • Voice recognition technologies
  • In-vehicle advertising
  • Cloud services
  • Personal device integration

Smart Materials

  • Cost
  • Mass
  • Lightweight materials
  • Eco-friendly materials

Automotive-Related Technologies

  • Innovations for unmet consumer needs
  • Advanced sensors for autonomous driving
  • Safety features

Value Chain / Business Model

  • New automotive business models
  • Leverage GM technology and assets for upstream and downstream revenue

I asked Jon Lauckner about alternatives to rare earth elements. Currently, the motors in electric cars and hybrids are permanent magnet motors. To improve weight, efficiency and heat resistance, rare earth elements such as neodymium and dysprosium are used in these permanent magnets. Such rare earths are currently mined in China, but the big money is not in the mining, it is in the final products. China is restricting rare earth exports, and giving priority to using rare earths in its own manufacturing of turbines and motors for products ranging from military systems to high-speed rail to electric cars.

Toyota Motors is developing inductive car motors that do not use rare earths. Although Lauckner was carefully non-committal about whether GM is also working on inductive automotive electric motors, he did say that he would be “very interested” in such motors requiring no rare earths. Smart materials, nanotechnology, and advanced powertrain components are all strategic to the future of GM.

In one decade, transportation will be very different from today. With GM Ventures, General Motors is positioned to invest, integrate, and deliver to global customers better cars and services that include innovations in cleantech, infotainment, materials, autonomous driving, and new business models.

Ford Focus Electric takes on Nissan LEAF

Ford Focus ELectricFord’s Newest EV is Official

Ford has officially announced the Ford Focus Electric, a new aerodynamic 5-door hatchback with an expected range of 100 miles per charge. This 5-seat car matches the specs that I published after my test drive of the Focus Electric in May 2010. First consumer deliveries of the all-new Focus Electric will start towards the end of this year. At that point Ford will have solid EV experience and probably have delivered thousands of Ford Transit Connect Electric Vans to delivery and service fleets.

The Ford Focus Electric has a Magna drive system and a 23 kWh Ford designed battery pack using LG Chem Compact Power lithium-ion tri-metal cells with over 17 kWh available in the charge-discharge cycle. The battery pack is actively liquid cooled and heated battery pack allowing for stable battery operation over a wide range of temperatures and lower temperature-related swings in driving range. The all-electric powertrain and single-speed transmission provide immediate responsiveness and smooth acceleration when the driver pushes down the accelerator, up to a top speed of 84 mph.

The first markets selected to receive the Ford Focus Electric are Atlanta, Austin, Houston, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Orlando, Phoenix, Tucson, Portland, Raleigh Durham, Richmond, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Ford is starting with these cities to insure that their will be charging stations at work and public spaces, as well as city and utility support for fast track approval of home chargers. This will also allow Ford to train dealers and service teams.

MyFord Mobile App

MyFord Mobile is an app for your web browser, iPhone, Droid, and other mobile devices, to monitor and schedule the chargingmyford mobile app Ford Focus Electric Car Review of your Focus Electric from anywhere, to help you maximize your range. It gives you remote charging status updates, so you can check existing charge levels and available range, while keeping track of your charge schedule. It also provides you with the location of your vehicle, where you can find the nearest charging stations and the most efficient route to get there. The app also estimates the amount of CO2 emissions and money you save based on your driving style – to help you manage costs and improve your efficiency.

  • Receive instant vehicle status information
  • Perform key functions remotely
  • Monitor the car’s state of charge and current range
  • Get alerts when it requires charging or has finished charging
  • Remotely program charge settings and download vehicle data for analysis
  • Get map routing to the nearest available charge stations

The feature also allows the owner to program the vehicle to use electricity from the grid to heat or cool the battery and cabin while plugged in – called preconditioning. For example, during hot summer months, owners can preprogram the car the evening before to be fully charged – and fully cooled to a particular temperature – by a certain time the following morning. Users can also locate the vehicle with GPS, remotely start the vehicle and remotely lock and unlock the car doors.

Test Driving the Ford Focus Electric

focus ev screen Ford Focus Electric Car ReviewLast May, I made my second test drive of the Ford Focus Electric. It felt just like driving a regular gasoline Focus 4-door sedan, except it was more quiet and accelerated faster due to the torque of the electric motor. The Focus Electric accelerated faster than when I test drove the Nissan LEAF. Both allow me to accelerate on to a freeway with my power than I really need.

The handling was smooth while driving the Focus EV. Unlike some electric car prototypes, when I hit the brakes, it stopped evenly and quickly. The coordination between regeneration and disc braking was effective. The car felt ready for serious driving 8 months ago.

Charge Twice as Fast

Ford is making a big deal of the fact that the 2012 Ford Focus Electric charges twice as fast as the 2011 Nissan LEAF. Ford is 6.6 kW/h; Nissan is 3.3 kW/h. The comparison is unfair. The 2012 Nissan LEAF, available at the same time as the 2012 Focus Electric, will also charge at the faster 6.6 kW/h. Nissan, like most automakers, have been waiting for SAE to finalize certain charging standards. In 2012, both cars can be recharged after typical driving in less than 3 hours.

If you are a pioneer buyer of the 2011 LEAF, then you will either be content to charge at 3.3 kW/h, or you will pay to upgrade to 6.6 kW/h. Clean Fleet Report speculates that Nissan will charge $1,000 to $2,000 for the upgrade. Most chargers being installed are ready for 6.6 kW/h and are smart enough to charge at the vehicle’s rate, be it 3.3 or 6.6.

Ford and Microsoft are partnering to implement the Microsoft Hohm energy management application for Ford’s electric vehicles and Synch for entertainment. The Ford Focus EV will be the first electric car to use Hohm, an Internet app built on top of Azure, Microsoft’s new cloud-computing operating system. Four utilities are piloting this smart-grid application: Xcel Energy, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), Seattle City Light, and Puget Sound Energy.

Competition with the Nissan LEAF and Other Electric Cars

Ford has yet to announce the price of the Ford Focus Electric. Ford could select a price less than the Nissan LEAF’s $32,780. We expect both the Honda Fit EV and the Mitsubishi I to be priced in the U.S. at $29,990 or less. Will Ford underprice Honda or focus on making the Focus Electric profitable?

Price depends on the cost of the lithium battery packs. Three years ago, prices were close to $1,000/kWh. By next year, they may be under $500/kWh. Cell makers keep refining battery chemistry. Pack makers look at design and volume manufacturing. Ford, Nissan, and GM are in a race to see who will be the first to sell 100,000 cars with lithium battery packs in one year. Ford is the likely winner, because next year all Ford hybrids and electric vehicles will use lithium battery packs. Ford will buy cells from competing battery giants, but Ford will make its own packs. Within 24 months Ford will be offering 3 battery-electric vehicles and 2 plug-in hybrids.

The battery pack for the 2012 Ford Focus Electric weighs 500 pounds. Ford has a roadmap that envisions the battery eventually being reduced to a size of the current Focus gas tank and a weight of only 125 pounds using new battery chemistry. Although some express concern about the long-term availability of lithium, Ford’s Nancy Gioia, Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs, said that Ford’s analysis is that there will be no shortage through 2050. Battery makers expect to recycle 98 percent of the lithium in batteries.

Ford is also reducing car costs by giving customers a wide choice from one assembly line. This year we expect Ford to officially announce that customers will be able to order the new Focus with their preferred drive system including gasoline engine, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric. The Ford Focus Plug-in Hybrid is likely to price for less than the Chevrolet Volt.

The Focus Electric and the LEAF are beautiful compact cars. What do you do when you need to carry lots of stuff? Both include 60/40 reclining rear seats. In both cases, however, the placement of the battery pack precludes a completely flat cargo platform.

The Focus EV will be made in America – Warren, Michigan. Ford is investing $550 million to transform its Michigan Assembly Plant into a lean, green and flexible manufacturing complex that will build Ford’s next-generation Focus global small car along with a new battery-electric version of the Focus for the North American market. Ford is planning on a Global C platform for 12 to 14 different vehicles with a volume of 2 million units per year. Such volume, common chassis and many common components, can give Ford improved profit margins and room to price hybrid and electric cars competitively.

Announcing the new Ford Focus Electric is a proud moment for CEO Alan Mulally and the entire Ford team. Back when Ford refused to take part in the $70 billion bailout of GM and Chrysler, big investors were writing off Ford. If you had invested $100,000 in Ford at that crisis point less than 2.5 years ago, it would be worth $1,800,000 now.

New Honda Fit EV likely to cost less than Nissan LEAF

The New Honda Fit EV will go on sale for U.S. customers in 2012. By using the lighter Honda Fit platform, already in volume manufacturing, Honda could price the Fit EV at $29,900, less than the Nissan LEAF with a minimum price of $32,780.

The Fit EV was announced at the LA Auto Show as a concept. As crowds of reporters surrounded the car for photos, I could see that this new battery-electric car will be popular with current drivers of hot compact hatchbacks such as the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta, Chevy Cruze, and Mini-Cooper. In the next few months the Fit EV will hit the streets with real world daily driving at Stanford University, City of Torrance, and Google’s fleet and car share programs. The Fit EV will be introduced to the U.S. and Japan in 2012. The Fit EV will compete with the Nissan LEAF, Toyota FT-EV, Ford Focus Electric, and several others as competition heats for 2012 leadership.

This was the first time that a new global vehicle was personally announced by a Honda CEO at a U.S. show. Takanobu Ito, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. President and CEO. Stated, “We must advance from using less petroleum to no petroleum…. In Honda’s view, an electric vehicle must offer great utility and be fun to drive. Fit EV’s urban commuting capability will be a perfect addition to the full-function mobility of the plug-in hybrid and FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle.”

Honda Fit EV is 100% Electric

I talked with Ben Knight, Honda’s Vice President of Engineering, about these new electric vehicles. Mr. Knight was proud that the electric drive system represent four generations of improvements for Honda starting with the Honda Plus EV in 1997 to Insight and Civic Hybrids to generations of advanced fuel cell vehicles with all-electric drives to the new CR-Z Hybrid. At optimal RPM, the new electric motors are up to 98 percent efficient. This is quite a contrast to the typical 15 percent efficiency of a gasoline engine.

The Fit EV is designed to meet the daily driving needs of the average metropolitan commuter and utilizes the same 5-passenger layout found in the popular Fit hatchback. The Fit EV is be powered by a lithium-ion battery and coaxial electric motor. The high-density motor, derived from the FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle, delivers excellent efficiency and power while remaining quiet at high speeds. The Fit EV will have a top speed of 90 mph.

The Fit EV will achieve an estimated 100-mile driving range per charge using the US EPA LA4* city cycle (70 miles when applying EPA’s adjustment factor). Driving range can be maximized by use of an innovative 3-mode electric drive system, adapted from the 2011 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid. The system allows the driver to select between Econ, Normal, and Sport to instantly and seamlessly change the driving experience to maximize efficiency or improve acceleration. While in Econ mode, practical driving range can increase by as much as 17 percent compared to driving in Normal mode, and up to 25 percent compared to driving in Sport mode. The Nissan LEAF Eco mode only improves range by 10 percent. Acceleration improves significantly when in Sport mode, generating performance similar to a vehicle equipped with a 2.0-liter gasoline engine.

In addition to the 3-mode E-Drive system, the Fit EV will include several interactive coaching systems to assist the driver in maximizing battery range. A special meter display advises the driver when to shut off air conditioning and other accessories to conserve battery power.

Remote Control for New Electric Car

To help the driver manage the electric vehicle ownership experience, the Fit EV will have a standard connectivity system that allows the driver to stay connected through a smartphone and personal computer, or the Honda-exclusive interactive remote, while away from the vehicle. The pocket-friendly, interactive remote provides connectivity to the vehicle without the need for an internet connection or mobile phone signal. Through the connectivity system, drivers will be able to remotely view the vehicle’s state of charge, initiate charging and activate the air conditioning, even while connected to the grid, to reduce the drain on the battery at start-up. The mobile application and website also offers the ability to set charging notifications and alerts to optimize utility rates, and provides 24-hour roadside assistance, along with a public charging station locator. The Fit EV will come equipped with a standard Honda Satellite Linked Navigation System™ that includes a public charging-station locator capability.

The Fit EV is designed to be easy and convenient to charge. Battery recharging can be accomplished in less than 12 hours when using a conventional 120-volt outlet, and less than six hours when using a 240-volt outlet. The Fit EV has unique LED headlights, a chrome front fascia, aerodynamic bumper, clear LED taillights and EV decals. Inside, the Fit EV Concept is outfitted in an eco-friendly gray bio-fabric on the seating surfaces.

Displayed alongside the Fit EV Concept at the show is a prototype Honda charging stand. To begin charging, the driver swipes a card in front of the screen and then connects the charger to the vehicle. The Honda charging stand provides a glimpse at the future of an electric-charging infrastructure that is easy to use and intuitive for consumers.

Clean Fleet Report: Honda 2012 Plug-in Hybrid

What’s Beyond Zero Emissions Vehicles?

by Paul Hirsch

The automotive industry has invested billions in alternative fuel technology since that first Prius rolled off its assembly line. And these days a growing portion of that investment has been focused on zero emission technologies, such as battery electric vehicles (EVs) and hydrogen fuel cells.

Yet as a professional tasked with commercializing the next generation of alternative fuel vehicles, I can’t help but feel like zero just isn’t good enough. Pushing emissions off board and upstream to a dirty power plant may solve the automaker’s problems, but it doesn’t solve the Earth’s.

Which is why I was truly excited when, last week at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Honda introduced their “total energy management system.” The system consists of an EV, like the electric Fit they debuted at the show, as well as a Honda-developed solar charging station. An experimental solar hydrogen station is already being used to power the company’s FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle. Honda is not only thinking about how many EVs they can put on the streets, but how to guarantee their customers a clean energy commute day after day.

This is not the first attempt by an automaker to offer its customers a clean energy solution. Tesla Motors has promoted a Solar City charging station for its electric Roadster, demonstrating Elon Musk’s strategic interest in providing the clean electrons to power his clean car (Musk is CEO of Tesla and led the initial funding of Solar City). The Tesla-Solar City project and Honda’s recent announcement highlight a new opportunity for the auto industry – end-to-end sustainable personal mobility.

Where the industry goes from here is anyone’s guess, but the possibilities are promising. Toyota already operates a housing development subsidiary in Japan that offers homes equipped with solar panels and rainwater recycling systems. Imagine the experience if this business were integrated with Toyota’s automotive operations: when you buy into an “ecommunity” of carbon-neutral dwellings, selecting the battery range of your plug-in vehicle could become as routine as picking out your home’s paint color or bathroom tile. Or better yet, you could select to participate in a community car share program to accommodate a less frequent need for your own car.

This vertical integration of energy generation stations with the vehicles that demand their energy would go a long way toward aligning auto industry objectives with the needs of the planet. If automakers were also fueling their vehicles, they would have a strong incentive to make cars as efficient as possible. And that vertical integration would bring us much closer to a future of sustainable personal mobility.

Paul Hirsch is a Senior Product Planner at Toyota.

Nissan LEAF with Baby Car Seats

Keo, at age 3 months, started his Nissan LEAF test ride with a yawn, gurgled his approval during the ride, then wisely left the car buying decision to his parents.  Grace and Susan Stanat brought their son along for the test drive. They arrived with Keo, baby seat, and stroller. Although three adults can squeeze into the back seat of the LEAF, two babies are another matter.

Grace told me of his high-hopes for getting an electric car, because he cares about his kids future and because he works in Silicon Valley high-tech and is excited about our electric future.

Nissan is taking about a dozen LEAFs around the country, letting people take a LEAF for a driven. To its credit, Nissan allows people to bring their family. When Grace and Susan were ready for their test drive, Nissan patiently allowed the baby seat to be placed in the back and secured with the seat belt, allowed Keo to be secured in his car seat, and even allowed the stroller to go in the new trunk. Nissan wants people to know what they’re getting and to decide without any pressure if this new compact electric vehicle meets their needs.

When I talked with Grace and Susan, it was clear that both cared a great deal about the future for their two children. The parents want to minimize their greenhouse gas emissions and be appropriate role models for Keo and Exie, who also requires a car seat. Living in the university town of Palo Alto, they find that they can walk to many stores, services, and schools. Like many university towns, Palo Alto has bike lanes and transit that connects to regional rail. Grace and Susan have reduced their carbon footprint by sharing a single vehicle.

After the ride, Grace and Susan were disappointed. Although the LEAF handled well and meets their range needs, it was a little too small for a couple with two young children. Yes, the back seat will hold the two car seats needed in this family, but the seats press against the front seat. They can already feel their two-and-a-half year old Exie’s kicking in their Honda and worried that it would be the same problem in the LEAF.

Nissan LEAF trunk stroller 150x150 Nissan LEAF with Baby Car Seats and StrollersThe LEAF’s trunk, however, was too small for two strollers. Grace commented, “The trunk was almost too small for one stroller.” This is a common issue in compact cars and smaller. Although Nissan has done an excellent job of packaging the 24kWh battery back under the floor and behind the back seat, it has a small trunk. The 60/40 fold-down rear seat expands cargo space when only one or zero people are in the back seat.

Nissan Leaf Review and Specs

Even though Susan and Grace are on Nissan’s wait list with their $99 deposit, they have decided to look at bigger hybrid cars; they do not see a currently available electric car that meets their needs. We discussed the Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion Hybrid as possibilities. I said that it was too bad that Chrysler cancelled the plug-in hybrid Town and Country. Grace replied, “Yea, but with a minivan we would need to get a white picket fence.”Best Hybrids

Grace and Susan may lease for two years, or until they no longer use car seats and strollers.

By the time that Keo is ready to drive, there will be hundreds of choices in electric cars of every shape and size. California’s energy mix will be at least 33 percent renewable, with most smart charging occurring when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. Thanks to choices made by families like the Stanats, the future may be a little brighter for all of us.

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.

All Electric Cars – The Impact of the Little Guys

by John Voltz
Recently, I made a small diversion from my walk to the office in San Francisco and took a ride in a Wheego. The Wheego was being showcased at Justin Herman Plaza right across from the Ferry Building not far from my office in the heart of the city’s Financial District. The Wheego is a brand new all-electric car from an interesting manufacturer in Georgia. Locally, the Wheego is sold at Ellis Brooks Auto Center. This intrigued me. Ellis Brooks is a venerable car name in San Francisco, having been around for 40+ years. I still remember their radio jingle from my childhood, “See Ellis Brooks today for your Chevrolet, corner of Bush and Van Ness . . .” The Ellis Brooks dealership now sells pre-owned cars and is no longer associated with GM. It has just begun selling the Wheego. Before I took my test drive, I had a chance to talk to Ellis Brooks’ grandson, John Brooks, about why they decided to sign up with Wheego. He seemed comfortable with the manufacturer in large part because the car was assembled from components made by manufacturers already in volume production of vehicles.
So how was the ride? Pretty good. It was quite roomy with a nice, quiet ride and a firm feel of the road. Allowing for the fact that it is a small two-seater coupe, it had the feel of real a car – not a golf cart or an experiment.
Now I should back up for a minute and explain that I have long been a skeptic that there will be significant adoption of all-electric vehicles any time soon. But this car changed my mind a bit.
My skepticism about this has been based on looking at the passenger car market and thinking about what it takes to succeed in that market. Then I compared the passenger car market to other potential electric vehicle markets.
Passenger cars have been the province of integrated high volume manufacturing, low margins, very high quality expectations (especially fit, finish and amenities), and very high service and support expectations. In short, the barriers to entry for this market seem quite daunting, especially when compared to the delivery truck market or the ATV market. These markets have significantly lower volumes, less integrated manufacturing (many manufacturers are essentially final assemblers), much lower quality expectations on fit, finish and amenities, and lower service and support expectations.
There are some low-volume passenger car manufacturers, but all make vehicles aimed at high priced specially markets, not low to mid priced daily drivers. There is another big difference between the passenger car market and the delivery truck market – what delivery truck buyers want fits really well with what electric vehicles do best:

  • predictable low to medium mileage daily duty cycle
  • low noise
  • excellent torque
  • low total cost of ownership
With an electric delivery truck, you don’t need to worry that you’ll ever need to drive from San Francisco to L.A. to visit your sick aunt. In fact, for commercial trucks, limited range can be a plus – there’s no way for trucks to wander very far. With passenger cars, limited range is a big reason not to buy.
Given this, I have felt for some time that we wouldn’t see significant adoption of all-electric vehicles until we started seeing real traction in markets like delivery trucks. I expected passenger cars (and delivery trucks too to some degree) would likely first go hybrid, then shift the hybrid balance to more electric (e.g. using fuel to run a generator to extend the electric range), and then later shift to all electric. These successive market advances would be linked to gaining manufacturing scale, cost down of batteries and other components critical to all-electric vehicles (though batteries is the big one).
My Wheego ride today and my chat with the dealer changed my view. Here was an all-electric car, at a regular car dealer, with a high but regular car price, from a car manufacturer that nearly appeared out of thin air. You see Wheego as a manufacturer is just a final assembler. From my initial quick look, Wheego came on the scene as a passenger car player in 2007 or so, backed by the former founder of MindSpring. Before then, it was exclusively an electric golf cart manufacturer. So it’s really been an eye blink in automotive time scale (2007 to 2010) to see cars turning up at dealerships. Granted, the model at dealers today and the one that I test drove is just a medium speed vehicle (MSV) with a top speed of 35 MPH and not for highway usage (more on that later). But this was still impressive to me.
Wheego gets the car bodies from a big manufacturer in China (a body that is currently used for gas drive cars in other international markets). It gets its motors from a Wisconsin electric motor manufacturer and its motor controller from Curtis Instruments who makes controllers for forklifts. Maybe the truck style manufacturing could work for passenger cars after all.
In addition, I began to think about the current passenger car market for all-electrics. There probably is a significant market for all-electric vehicles, even in the current economy, and even if they aren’t strictly ‘economic’ on a dollar per mile basis compared to gas or hybrid cars. Think about how much the early EV1 cost in its day[1], and how people still rave about it years and years later. In my revised view, I think there will be a small but significant true believer market in the U.S. for all-electric cars. Yes, the big boys are coming – Nissan with the Leaf, Chevy with the Volt, Ford with the Focus EV, but not for a year, maybe two, maybe more. In the mean time, the true believer market will be served by the likes of Wheego, Think, Smart, and others. Even after Nissan, Chevy, Ford and other big car companies arrive in the market, the early entrants may have continued success. Plus they may have customers and EV infrastructure that car manufacturers with non-existent, dormant, or failing EV programs may look to acquire. There is no substitute for firsthand customer knowledge.
The Wheego I drove was a medium speed vehicle (MSV) with a max speed 35 MPH and a real world range of 40 miles. The highway speed version is on the way – due to arrive this summer. It is currently undergoing NTHSA cash testing. It will have a top speed of 65 MPH and a range of 100 miles. The high speed vehicle (HSV) Wheego will not be a lot different than the MSV. Differences include: lithium ion batteries, airbags, and some additional structure supports to the body.
I now see the all-electric car market developing from two converging paths – the true believer all-electric passenger car market and the more economically driven all-electric truck and fleet vehicle markets. The true believer market will drive visibility and customer expectations, and provide valuable real world feedback about what electric car consumers care about and will pay for. While the truck and fleet markets will help dive down cost, I expect both will speed the adoption all-electric cars to a significant portion of the passenger car market.
So for you true believers out there, price before incentives for the MSV Wheego is ~$19K (and it’s eligible for a 10% Federal tax credit) putting the MSV price around $17K before any state or local incentives. Prices for the HSV have not yet been announced, but the target price is in the $30K range (and it will be eligible for a $7500 federal tax credit) putting the net cost of the HSV before state and local incentives in the roughly in the mid $20K range.

[1] The EV1 had a nominal low price of $34K or ~$48K in today’s dollars though it was never sold only leased. Reportedly production costs were $80+K per vehicle at the time. Initial lease costs were $640/month or $900/month in today’s dollars. Later this dropped to $350/month or $ 500/mo in today’s dollars with many different incentives layered on.

Top Electric Car Makers for the United States Market

By John Addison (original post at Clean Fleet Report)

By 2011 year end, competition will be intense for electric car leadership. The Clean Fleet Report Top 10 Electric Car Makers describes our best guess about the market share leaders for delivered plug-in vehicles on the United States roads in 2011, although not necessarily in order of 2011 installed market share.

Tesla is the first to sell 1,000 electric cars for the U.S. highways. Like its Roadster, the company is going zero to sixty in less than four seconds. In August the company reported its first profits. With $465 million in DOE loans, the company is developing a roomy Model S hatchback that starts at $57,400, about half the price of the Roadster. The Roadster is battery-electric with a 240 mile range; the Model S may have a remarkable electric range of 300 miles per charge.

Nissan (NSANY) will be the first auto maker to put over 10,000 electric cars on U.S. highways. Major cities have already committed to over 10,000 Nissan Leaf and over 10,000 charge stations. Nissan will start taking dealer orders from individuals in the spring of 2010. Nissan plans to make the 5-seat hatchback affordable, but sale and/or lease options have not been finalized. The Nissan Leaf is battery-electric with a 100 mile range per charge.

Toyota (TM) Prius Plug-in Hybrid (PHV) will build on the million car success of Toyota hybrids. At first glance, the PHV looks like another Prius until you spot the J1772 plug for smart charging. Five hundred PHV are now being put into fleet trails from cities to car sharing services. In 2011, U.S. dealer orders should begin. Toyota will initially control costs by only using a 5kWh battery for a 14 mile electric range. In 2012, Toyota will expand its offerings to include a pure battery-electric FT-EV.

General Motors wants to be the plug-in leader with the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid with 40 miles of electric range and up to 500 miles by engaging a small gasoline engine to act as a generator. Bob Lutz says than Chevy hopes to build at least 8,000 in 2011. GM has a complete E-Flex roadmap which envisions added offerings. Converj may become the Cadillac of extend-range electrics. In the future, Opel may offer a diesel plug-in hybrid in Europe. Look for a range versus cost battle with Toyota, as the Volt achieves more electric range by adding to vehicle cost with a 16kWh battery.

Accenture (ACN) forecasts 1.5 million electric vehicles in the United States by 2015. Over 10 million electric vehicles are easily possible by 2020.

Read the complete Clean Fleet Report Top 10 Electric Car Makers John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.