Plugin Electrics vs All Electric Battery EVs, Epic Throwdown?

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

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

The main arguments on each:

Plug in Hybrids

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


Electric Vehicles

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

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

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.

Ford Expands Customer Choice – Lowers Manufacturing Cost

original post at Clean Fleet Report

The new Ford Fusion gives car owners unprecedented choice in powertrains and fuel economy. The Ford Fusion can be offered with 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.

Classic styling, smooth driving, and excellent fuel economy come together in this new five-passenger midsized sedan. Market research revealed that 2 out of 3 U.S. shoppers, before buying, consider a midsized sedan, SUV, or liftback. One out of three buy a midsized sedan, according to Ford. The stakes are high. Safety and reliability perceptions are always a factor.

Ford saw Toyota Camry and Honda Accord sales decline starting when oil prices went over $100 per barrel, accelerate during the Great Recession, and take another hit during Japan’s earthquake and Thailand mudslide disasters. A shift from sedans to liftbacks and SUVs, both with more cargo flexibility, has been another factor. Fuel economy and car lifetime operating costs are important to many buyers.

The new Fusion Hybrid offers a breakthrough 47 miles per gallon (mpg) city and 44-mpg highway. The overall 46-mpg is 4 mpg better than the new Toyota Camry Hybrid. The Fusion has a plug-in hybrid option, the Camry currently does not, but Clean Fleet Report predicts that one will be announced this year. Long term, Ford threatens to leapfrog Toyota’s hybrid leadership with a broad offering of pure battery-electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and hybrids. Unlike Toyota, all 2013 Ford hybrids will use lithium batteries while Toyota primarily stays with nickel metal hydride batteries.

Ford is now in a race with the Renault-Nissan Alliance to be first to sell 100,000 cars in one year with lithium batteries and electric motors. Either or both will achieve this in 2013. In the process they are driving down the cost of lithium batteries, electric motors, and advanced power electronics, making hybrid and electric cars more affordable.

2013 Ford Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid

Arriving this fall, Fusion Energi is anticipated to deliver more than 100 MPGe, a mile per gallon equivalency metric for electrified vehicles. This is 8 MPGe more than the Chevrolet Volt and 13 MPGe more than the projected efficiency of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid model. Many Volt owners tell me that in real world driving their first 40 miles are electric mode before the gasoline engine engages.

The Fusion Energi is expected to deliver 20 to 30 miles in electric mode, provided the driver stays below 62 miles per hour. The average American drives 4 trips daily with 40-miles per total. City streets and stop-go freeway are much of that driving. The Energi will support Level One and Level Two charging. Go fast, or use most of the lithium battery storage and the Energi drives like a hybrid with its electric motor and 2 liter, 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine working together. An electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT) helps fuel economy.

We will learn more about electric range, motor and battery specs as Ford starts sales in Fall 2012. Sales will start shortly after sales of the Ford Focus Electric and the Ford C-Max Plug-in Hybrid crossover. Ford is expected to make battery packs but use different cell chemistry for pure-electrics, plug-in hybrids and hybrids. Compact Power, a subsidiary of LG Chem, will supply the lithium-ion tri-metal cells and packs for the 2013 Ford Focus Electric.

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford Fusion Hybrid interior 37k Ford Fusion Hybrid and Plug in Hybrid for Best Sedan MPGThe Fusion Hybrid – 2010 North American Car of the Year – continues to innovate with new lithium-ion batteries that save 50 percent battery weight, 30 percent size, and generate more power than previous nickel-metal hydride batteries, while raising maximum speed under electric-only power from 47 mph to 62 mph. Even with a smaller battery-pack, however, the Hybrid and Energi only offer 12 cubic-feet of trunk space. The non-hybrid fusion is over 15 and the back seat can be lowered for much more cargo.

Fusion Hybrid also features an all-new 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine, significantly downsized from the previous 2.5-liter unit while maintaining performance standards. This innovative powertrain is anticipated to deliver best-in-class fuel economy of 47 mpg in city driving and 44 mpg on the highway.

Fusion Hybrid fuel economy stands to outperform the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid by 4 mpg city and 5 mpg highway and the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid by 12 mpg and 4 mpg, respectively. The Fusion Hybrid is one of the top 10 hybrid cars.

2012 Fusion Achieves 32 MPG and Optional AWD

Fusion brings the broadest selection of fuel-efficient powertrains in the midsize car segment. It offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid alternatives, a pair of EcoBoost™ four-cylinder engines, a normally aspirated four-cylinder engine, an automatic start stop system to shut off the engine at stationary idle, front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive (AWD) applications, and a choice between automatic and manually shifted six-speed transmissions.

The 1.6-liter EcoBoost outperforms many larger 6-cylinder engines with non-hybrid fuel efficiency of 26 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, 32 mpg combined. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine – paired with a paddle-shifted six-speed SelectShift Automatic™ transmission, available 19-inch wheels and tires, and all-wheel drive with the ability to send additional torque to the rear – is the Fusion performance option.

Safety Technology and Telematics

The all-new Fusion offers an unprecedented portfolio of driver assistance and convenience technologies based on sensors, cameras and radar that enable the car to see and respond. Fusion can help drivers maintain proper lane position, adjust vehicle speed to changing traffic conditions, identify suitable parking spaces and help park, even aiding drivers backing out of parking space where visibility is obstructed.

Ford Motor has taken customer choice to a new level by reinventing the popular midsized sedan with powertrain options including efficient EcoBoost engine or 46 mpg hybrid drive system or plug-in hybrid drive system. The Lincoln MKZ adds to customer choice with a premium hybrid with the same powertain as the Fusion Hybrid. With customer choice Ford also maximizes utilization of the same manufacturing line with most parts common to all versions. With its growing offering of electrified vehicles and volume manufacturing, Ford is lowering the cost of lithium battery packs, electric motors, and electric powertrains.

10,000 EVs for San Francisco in 2012

San Francisco Bay Area may be the nation’s first region with 10,000 electric cars. It could happen in 2012 for the region with 7 million people and 5.3 million vehicles. Electric utility PG&E reports that they are now charging 1,800 Nissan LEAFs and 250 Chevrolet Volt residential owners. Add to these numbers a growing number of electric car fleets that include Google, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the U.S. Navy; 4,000 freeway-speed electric vehicles in the SF Bay Area are forecast by the end of this year.

I’ve personally been to meetings where 50 of the attendees arrived in their Nissan LEAFs, Chevrolet Volts, Prius Plug-in Hybrids, and Tesla Roadsters. Also on the road in the Bay Area are test vehicles including Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit Electric, Tesla Model S, Mitsubishi i, electric trucks and electric motor cycles. CityCar Share is ordering 15 battery-electric cars and 15 plug-in hybrids, giving these cars wide exposure to its thousands of members.

The Bay Area is the home of cities where one in five drive a Prius, Silicon Valley innovators aspire to be the next Steve Jobs, and Tesla opens a new plant with aspirations to make the U.S. the world leader in electric vehicles.

Over 1,000 electric car chargers now appear to be installed in the San Francisco Bay Area. More new EV owners are trickle-charging their cars as they wait for backlogged wall chargers to be installed by backlogged electricians dealing with backlogged utilities and city inspectors. During the next two years over 5,000 chargers, formally labeled electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), will be installed in the Bay Area.  Although homes are the primary point of charging, electric car drivers like me are extending their range by using over 100 public charge points in the Bay Area installed by Coulomb Technologies and others. Major employers are installing chargers for their employees, fleets, and visitors. Google has 70 charge stations for its over 100 employees who drive Teslas, LEAFs, Volts, and other electric cars.

Damian Breen, Director at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, reports that over 1,000 public charging stations are being installed in the Bay Area. Most are Level 2; some are dual stations with one Level 2 and one Level 1 outlet. Also planned are 6 DC Fast Chargers to be installed in the next 12 months; 50 are scheduled to be operating by the end of 2013. These DC Fast Chargers, similar to the CHAdeMO chargers successfully used in Japan, can add 60 miles of range for a typical electric car in about 20 minutes.

In 2012, Nissan, GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda and others are offering ten different electric car models for less than $40,000. Leases start at $350. During the next two years, automakers are building new plants and expanding existing plants to keep-up with customer orders for electric cars.

Hertz Expands Electric Car Rental in United States and China

Hertz (NYSE:HTZ) expands its Global EV initiative to China, making it the first global rental car company to offer electric cars on three continents. Hertz now offers the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, Smart ED, Tesla Roadster and other electric cars in U.S. cities including New York, Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Hertz is expanding the availability of pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids at airports, downtown hotels, university campuses, condos and co-ops and fleets. Hertz operates in over 8,500 locations in 146 countries.

In London, you can rent the Mitsubishi iMiEV. Mitsubishi will soon start deliveries of the U.S. version of this popular electric city car. In other European cities, Renault electric cars are offered. Now Hertz is expanding into the world’s biggest EV market.

In China, Hertz established a partnership with GE Industrial Solutions China to advance the rollout of EVs and charging stations that includes the co-location of electric vehicles and GE EV Infrastructure as a combined offering. Bundled lease offers of EVs and chargers will make it easy for corporations and government agencies to expand use of electric cars.

“China has committed to rapidly expand electric vehicle travel and Hertz is committed to supporting the ambitious EV Pilot City program,” said Mark Frissora, Hertz Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “Working with our existing rental car network in China and partners such as GE, we are dedicated to helping build the necessary EV infrastructure in China and to create a new transportation solution that employs the latest technology and harnesses innovations being launched in China today.”

China’s 100 Million EV Owners

Over one hundred million in China ride e-bikes, e-scooters, and light electric vehicles. A growing middle class and major employers are interested in full-function freeway-speed electric cars. In Shanghai, Hertz will be part of the International EV Pilot City, a program to accelerate EV rentals by building out the infrastructure across the Jiading district of Shanghai. Other EV Pilot City partners include auto manufactures, energy suppliers, and insurance companies. Hertz is the first rental car company to sign an agreement to become a partner of the China (Shanghai) International Electric Vehicle Pilot City.

A few weeks ago, Hertz also reached an understanding with BYD for a rental trial of its electric car the e6 in Shenzhen. BYD is years late in bringing its electric cars to the U.S.

The partnership supports the Twelfth Five-Year Plan objective for the promotion of EVs in China and will serve as a foundation for further innovation and development of the infrastructure.  The current five-year plan identifies EVs as one of the seven strategic initiatives for China in the next few years and calls for a significant ramp up in both EV charging station deployment and EV manufacturing.   The Chinese central government is currently offering 60,000 RMB (about $9,400 USD) rebates for EV purchases and a number of leading cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen are offering additional rebates.

“At the Clinton Global Initiative last September, we announced a commitment to provide electric vehicle access on a global scale – an ambitious goal,” commented Frissora. “In less than one year, Hertz is now the leading provider of EV mobility solutions, offering an unparalleled selection of EVs and PHEVs in cities worldwide. We are firmly committed to adding new retail and business to business EV car rental locations internationally as auto manufacturers ramp up EV and PHEV production over the next few years.”

Hertz plans to increase its global EV presence by deploying vehicles in other countries in the coming months. Hertz Global EV will continue to leverage the company’s rental and car sharing locations as bases for vehicles and charging stations, and tap into its technology – including sophisticated fleet management tools to help form an EV grid.

Car Sharing – Hertz On Demand Competes with Zipcar

Some only think of Hertz as a rental car company. Hertz is also aggressively expanding with its car sharing service Hertz On Demand (formerly Connect by Hertz). Competing with Zipcar, Enterprise, and others, Hertz On Demand eliminated membership fees, expanded one way service to 175 locations, guaranteed availability Monday through Thursday in New York City, added electric cars at select locations, simplified the reservation, and enhanced 24/7 in-car assistance. Hertz On Demand has approximately 40,000 members in six countries and on approximately 60 university campuses.

Electric car sales and charging are off to a good start in the United States with drivers who have single family homes with garages to install chargers, but in multi-tenant dwellings costly utility meters must be added, upgraded transformers, EVSE located near meter rooms, new bylaws, and tenant agreement about preferred parking spaces. Shared electric cars charged in shared spaces provide a wonderful multi-tenant solution. Hertz on Demand has Nissan LEAFs available at Seward Park Co-op is one of the largest free market co-ops in Manhattan with more than 1700 apartments, approximately 50 commercial tenants, 13 acres of land and more than 4000 residents.

Hertz is showing smarts and agility with its electric car programs from San Francisco to Shanghai and for everyone from fleet managers, to people living in large apartment buildings, to new university students. If you’re a business traveler, you know what its like to be late to catch a plan and have a corporate requirement to bring back the car with the gas tank fuel. When renting electric cars, there is no added cost with Hertz if you bring back the EV with the battery mostly empty.

GE Buys 12,000 Chevrolet Volts

GE Announces Largest Single Electric Vehicle Commitment

GE will purchase 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015 for its own fleet and through its Capital Fleet Services business – the largest-ever electric car commitment. GE will convert most of its 30,000 global fleet and will partner with fleet customers to deploy a total of 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015. GE will initially purchase 12,000 GM vehicles, beginning with the Chevrolet Volt in 2011, and will add other vehicles as manufacturers expand their electric vehicle portfolios.

Chevrolet Volts will roll off production lines this month and other automakers are bringing electric vehicles to market. As this occurs, GE is in a strong position to help deploy the supporting infrastructure to help its 65,000 global fleet customers convert and manage their fleets.

Wide-scale EV use to bring GE $500 million in near-term business

GE owns one of the world’s largest fleets, operates a leading global fleet management business, and offers a portfolio of product solutions including charging stations, circuit protection equipment and transformers that touch every part of electric vehicle infrastructure development. This enables GE to lead wide-scale electric vehicle adoption and generate growth for its businesses.

“Electric vehicle technology is real and ready for deployment and we are embracing the transformation with partners like GM and our fleet customers,” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. “By electrifying our own fleet, we will accelerate the adoption curve, drive scale, and move electric vehicles from anticipation to action.

“We make technology that touches every point of the electric vehicle infrastructure and are leading the transformation to a smarter electrical grid,” Immelt said. “This transformation will be good for our businesses and for our shareowners. Wide-scale adoption of electric vehicles will also drive clean energy innovation, strengthen energy security and deliver economic value.”

GE businesses including Capital Fleet Services, Energy and GE (NYSE: GE) will purchase 25,000 EV including electric cars and plug-in hybrids by 2015 for its own fleet and through its Capital Fleet Services business – the largest-ever single electric vehicle commitment. Licensing & Trading will benefit from an emerging electric vehicle market that could deliver up to $500 million in GE revenue over the next three years. This includes rapidly developing markets for GE’s charging station, the WattStation.

GM CEO Dan Akerson said, “GE’s commitment reflects confidence that electric vehicles are a real-world technology that can reduce both emissions and our dependence on oil. It is also a vote of confidence in the Chevrolet Volt, which we will begin delivering to retail customers by the end of this year. We are pleased that the Volt will play a major role in this program, which will spur innovation and benefit our companies, our customers, and society as a whole.”

FedEx Chairman, President and CEO, and Electrification Coalition member Fred Smith said, “With more than 16.3 million vehicles in operation in 2009, the nation’s fleet can drive initial ramp-up scale in the battery industry and OEM supply chains. By buying these vehicles, GE is helping ramp up production which will help lower the price of vehicles and their components and make electric vehicles more visible and acceptable to the public at large. This is good for GE, good for our economy, and good for our nation.”

GE also announced today two electric vehicle customer experience and learning centers to provide customers, employees and researchers first-hand access to electric vehicles and developing technologies. One will be located outside of Detroit, in Van Buren Township, Michigan, as part of GE’s Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Center. The other will be located at GE Capital’s Fleet Services business headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, with several other centers to be announced in 2011. The centers will monitor and evaluate vehicle performance and charging behaviors, driver experiences, service requirements, and operational efficiencies, while also affording the opportunity to experience a variety of manufacturers and models, and gain insights on electric vehicle deployment.

GE is launching this comprehensive electric vehicle program as part of its ecomagination business strategy to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technology though innovation and R&D investment. In support of the announcement today, an electric vehicle readiness toolkit has been launched on to help municipalities, customers, and individuals prepare for wide-scale electric vehicle deployment.

GE Bets $10 Billion on Digital Energy

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.

Toyota and GM Fight for Plug-in Market

By John Addison, original report at Clean Fleet Report

Electric cars and hybrid cars are prominent here at the LA Auto Show. GM highlighted big plans for the Chevy Volt. Toyota, owning some 65 percent of the U.S. hybrid market, displayed the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHV) along with a growing family Toyota and Lexus hybrids. The Volt will have triple the electric range of the PHV. Toyota may have a $10,000 price advantage over the Volt.

For extended driving, the Toyota plug-in will normally blend power from the 1.8L gasoline engine and from the 60kW electric motor, just as the Prius does now. The Volt, however, is powered purely with its electric drive system, with a one liter gasoline engine configured in series to act as a generator. Although series designs have been used for years, GM insists that the Volt is in a unique category – the extended range electric vehicle (EREV). What may be unique is consumer confusion. Clean Fleet Report refers to both the Volt and Prius Plug-in as plug-in hybrids.

In 2010, Toyota will put 500 PHV into fleet tests with car sharing services, corporate and government fleets, and some individuals; 150 will be in the United States. At first glance, these PHV look identical to the 2010 Prius. The Prius Plug-in however use lithium-ion batteries instead of the NiMH batteries of the Prius. The PHV can travel 13 miles in electric range at up to 60 miles per hour. The PHV’S 5kWh Panasonic lithium-ion batteries can be recharged in 1.5 hours with 220 three different pack configurations will be tested.

The Volt will have a 40 mile electric range; triple that of the Prius Plug-in. The Volt has a 16kWh battery pack being jointly developed by GM with LG Chem. A 220 volt recharge may take 4 hours. GM 16 kWh hours may add $10,000 to the vehicle cost over Toyota’s 5 kWh hours. Neither automaker has announced sale prices or lease rates.

Both automakers will first emphasize the California market. Most of the nation’s 40,000 electric vehicles are now on the road in California, a state with zero-emission vehicle mandates and greenhouse gas cap-and-trade being implemented.

GM has produced 80 Volt prototypes so far. In late 2010, Chevrolet starts taking orders for the Volt. In his keynote speech, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz estimated 2011 Volt deliveries at 8,000. Early in 2011, 400 Volts will be put into 2 year tests similar to GM’s successful Project Driveway that placed 100 Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles. Four utility partners will deploy 100 Volts each: Southern California Edison, Sacramento Public Utility District, Pacific Gas and Electric, and the Electric Power Research Institute. In parallel with these tests will be dealer sales to consumers and fleets.

These utilities and EPRI have worked closely with automakers to establish the new smart charging standard J1772. They have tested V2G, which will someday allow customers to sell power from the vehicle batteries at peak hours. All utilities have expressed interest in repurposing the lithium batteries in utility applications after 10 years of use in autos.

Plug-in hybrids will more aggressively use batteries than hybrids. Bob Lutz expressed confidence in a 10 year life for Volt batteries; he said the will use an 80/30 charge discharge cycle.

Premium Hybrids

The initial plug-in market share battle will extend up and down the product line of both automakers. Lexus currently offers four hybrid models; two have such good fuel economy that they are part of the Clean Fleet Report Top 10 Hybrids.

In the luxury model, GM may offer the Cadillac Converj plug-in hybrid to leapfrog Lexus. Converj is a concept car with breathtaking design; it has attracted cars at auto shows. The roomy luxury coupe would utilize the Volt drive system.

As competition gets interesting between Toyota and GM, they will have dozens of competitors to worry about. Nissan is actively promoting its battery-electric Leaf. Ford will be offering several models of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid.

What is Next?

Jim Lentz, TMS president, said, “Toyota’s hybrid leadership will continue to expand in the U.S. and around the globe. With 10 new hybrid models between now and 2012 in various global markets, we plan to sell one million gas-electric hybrids per year, worldwide, sometime early in the next decade.”

Toyota has announced that it wants all of its cars to have a hybrid option by 2020. Ford wants the hybrid option for 90 percent of its cars much sooner. Competition will force Toyota to keep moving forward.

Toyota will start volume manufacturing of the Plug-in Prius in 2012 according to Reuters. 2012 manufacturing of 20,000 to 30,000 Prius Plug-ins are expected. Toyota has not yet finalized 2012 pricing. With only a 5kWh battery, Toyota could under price the Chevy Volt, price near the Volt and enjoy profit margins, or offer a PHV with a larger battery. Competition will keep both companies on alert.

In 2012, Toyota will also start selling the less expensive 2-door FT-EV, a pure battery electric vehicle. This little car will probably be similar to the IQ concept car that it has shown for a few years. In the U.S. in 2012 Toyota will face intense EV competition with Nissan, Ford, and dozens of innovative younger companies such as Tesla.

The customer will be the winner in the battle for electric car market share.

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.

Duke Energy’s Electric Vehicle Future

By John Addison (Originally Posted 10/19/09 at Clean Fleet Report).

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) committed to an electric vehicle future when it committed with the FPL Group (NYSE: FPL) to buy 10,000 electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in the coming decade, as they upgrade their fleets. The energy storage in these vehicles could eliminate the need for peaking plants and enable the expanded use of renewable energy. Duke Energy’s electric vehicle future may save billions in future power plant investments.

On October 10, Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers shared a few minutes discussing electric vehicles and future strategy with me before he spoke at the Society for Environmental Journalist Conference. At first his commitments to electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and renewable energy seem surprising, given that he is CEO of the nation’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The emissions are largely the result of being the nation’s third biggest consumer of coal. He does not hide Duke’s emissions, instead he puts the issue right up front and talks about the future where Duke will replace all power plants between now and 2050.

First, let’s look at the commitment to 10,000 electric vehicles made with FPL at the latest Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). The $600 million investment over 10 years has more to do with good business than PR. Vehicle operations impact the earnings of any utility. Hybrid trouble trucks are already cutting fuel cost in half, as they use hybrid batteries to run lifts and auxiliaries for hours. Clean Fleet Report of PG&E. Plug-in hybrids would cut fuel more. Mr. Rogers stated, “We need to wean our country from dependency on oil.”

“A 10-year commitment gives us time to adopt, test and integrate new technology into fleets as a wider range of vehicles are developed,” said Jim Rogers at the CGI. “Currently, the only near-term options for available PEV supply are sedans, minivans, vans and a few bucket trucks. Over a 10-year horizon, it is expected that options will be available for most utility service categories.”

Electric vehicles including plug-in hybrids can be charged at night when there is excess electricity available. That electricity costs far less than gasoline and diesel. Duke Energy has 634 megawatts (MW) of land-based wind energy in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming and another 99 MW under construction. An additional 251 MW of wind projects scheduled to begin operation in 2010. Siemens (SI) is one beneficiary of Duke’s renewable expansion. Duke even plans to lead in a pilot of offshore wind in North Carolina. Offshore wind has benefited Denmark, providing electricity for longer hours than land-based and more renewable energy during peak demand hours. This December, global leaders will see the wind towers in Copenhagen Harbor as the leaders discuss climate solutions.

In a 1993 annual report, Mr. Rogers was ahead of other utility leaders in stating, “We must turn our attention to carbon.” Jim Rogers has been active in climate meetings leading up to Copenhagen including co-founding US-CAP, chairing the Edison Institute who supported Waxman-Markey, and as a Copenhagen climate counselor. Rogers sees it as unlikely that Congress will deliver a bill before Copenhagen, yet Duke’s CEO feels that business leaders can achieve significant progress. His progress in diversifying Duke away from coal and oil dependency is one example. Working with China is another.

“What I admire about China is the mindset of can-do,” said Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, who at CGI announced a joint technology development deal with Chinese energy giant ENN Group encompassing solar, biofuels, smart grid, efficiency, carbon-capturing algae and other areas. “They’re not looking for excuses as to why we can’t do something.” Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Quotations from Clint Wilder’s report at Clean Edge

The recession has given utility executives some breathing room by reducing electricity demand. Electricity consumption in the U.S. fell reports the EIA. Coal usage dropped 13 percent in one year. Nuclear is off 2 percent. Net generation from wind sources was 18 percent higher and was the second largest absolute increase after natural gas. New drilling techniques make natural gas cheap and plentiful.

Duke wants coal power with carbon capture and sequestration (CSS) to be a big part of its future generation. After 20 years of experiments, “clean coal” is still largely non-existent. No doubt that coal can be captured. It can even be sequestered, at least for years. There is no evidence, however, that coal with carbon sequestering can economically compete with natural gas plants. “Clean coal” takes significant extra coal, capital expenditure, pipelining of CO2 and finding a willing oil company or cavern owner to store the greenhouse gas. Coal mining causes environmental damage and release of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more destructive than CO2. Duke wants to bet on coal, yet it may find difficulty getting taxpayer or rate payer support for the added billions for CSS. For baseload power, natural gas would be cheaper, but natural gas prices have fluctuated wildly in the past years.

Utility executives want predictable pricing to make the best decisions about investing in power plants that may run for 40 years. Predicable pricing is one reason that Duke supports cap-and-trade. Rogers does not see cap-and-trade as hurting Duke or the U.S. economy. Rogers states, “We run our business as if COP-15 is in the rearview mirror.” A price for carbon is assumed in all Duke decision making.

Most promising for Duke, may be energy efficiency and renewable energy. Duke, like many utilities, has experimented with supporting electric vehicles. In partnership with Progress Energy, Duke is piloting drawing energy from vehicles during peak hours (V2G) using GridPoint technology. The key is to shape charging demand off-peak. Rogers feels that “variable pricing to shape demand is quite doable.” If successful, V2G could lower Duke’s investment in frequency management, spinning reserves, and peak generation.

It will be a smart grid that manages efficiency, demand management, critically needed distributed generation, and electric vehicles. Echelon (ELON), Cisco (CSCO), and GridPoint, are some of the suppliers for smart grid hardware and software for Duke. Renewables include wind, solar, woody biomass

“Water is going to be the next oil.” stated Rogers. Global warming is already correlated with draughts, loss of water storage in snow, and agricultural losses in Duke’s North Carolina headquarters state and in its multi-state service area. Although coal, nuclear, and natural gas are water intensive, wind and solar are not.

Jim Rogers is looking to the future, “We are in most transformative period in history of power industry.” He recognizes that challenges and opportunities are different in this 21st Century. Duke Annual Report Summary

By John Addison. 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.

Electric Vehicle Charging Passes Inspection

Plug-in Hybrids (PHEV) and Battery Electric Vehicles (EV) are destined for success. Thousands of key players have converged at the Plug-in 2009 Conference in Long Beach, California. In the opening workshop they talked about giving the customer a pleasant, easy-to-use, no hassle, safe and cost effective experience. The key players included auto makers, electric utilities, and community leaders who are installing thousands of vehicle charging stations.

President Obama has challenged the industry to sell or lease 1,000,000 PHEV & EV by 2015. This is an a challenge for the United States which currently has about 40,000 electric vehicles on our road, with less than 2,000 able to sustain freeway speeds. The race is on, however, as majors bring vehicles to market that can travel for 40 to 200 miles on an electric charge, not on foreign oil. The PHEV and EV makers include GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Tesla, BMW, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Smart, Think, and many others.

Given the potential for energy security, a climate solution, and lowering monthly fuel costs, who would want to stop this? Who could? A terrorist needing oil money? An oil executive? A conspiring auto maker? None of the above. The biggest concern is that the number one “speed bump” will be bureaucracy. Enid Joffe with Clean Fuel Connection was in the middle of the first wave of installing 7,500 chargers and in the current challenges of installing chargers from BMW’s MiniE.

Her customers have been caught in the catch-22 of the utility not approving charger installation without a city permit and the city refusing a permit without utility approval. A process that should take a few days and cost a few hundred dollars can take 45 days and cost thousands:

o Apply for license (in person in some locations, online in others)
o Proof of insurance
o City Permit to installer (much easier if charger is a legally categorized as an appliance)
o Utility Contract review
o Electrician installs adapter
o Utility returns to install separate meter

To encourage EV adoption, the City of New York has created a streamline process.

Fleet investment can be significant. They must often add electrical infrastructure, such as expanded switchboards and dedicated circuits.

EV adoption will accelerate if consumers can comfortably deal with one point of contact with a friendly website and friendly people. Easy installation and a modest added charge on their utility bill would be most desirable. It is encouraging that all the stakeholders recognize this and are negotiating solutions.

Also encouraging is common charging plugs, interfaces, and communication protocols. Over 10,000 charging stations are being planned for installation in the U.S. at major employers, busy city streets, busy garages, shopping malls, universities, and other places where people are likely to use their electric vehicles.

Many vehicles are not parked in garages. They are parked in carports, driveways, apartment parking lots, fleet parking lots, and on city streets. As GM readies introduction of its Chevy Volt, it demonstrated a 25-foot cable connector that it will provide with the vehicle. Yes, it will work outside. Getting it wet does not hurt it, or anyone standing in the wet. It adheres to new standards such as SAE J1772 so that it will work with any of the standard charging stations being installed. It communicates, so that a driver cannot forget and drive off while still plugged-in. Little details. Attention to the little details can make us optimistic about a driving future that is increasingly electric.

John Addison is reporting from Plug-in 2009 in Long Beach, California. California is currently home to 25,000 electric vehicles. Several thousand new charging stations are planned for 2010.

Intelligent Charging Infrastructure for New Electric Vehicles

By John Addison. Momentum continues for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. BMW is already leasing its freeway speed MiniE. Sports car lovers navigate curving mountain roads in their Tesla Roadsters. Toyota is putting 500 plug-in Priuses into fleet tests this year. Next year, Nissan, Chrysler, BYD, and Ford plan to start taking consumer orders for electric vehicles from cars to vans. Toyota and GM will be fighting for plug-in hybrid market leadership. Over 100 EV players will be competing for your business. Electric Cars for 2010

Forty-thousand electric vehicles are now on the road in the United States; 99 percent max out at 25 miles per hour. These light-electric vehicles (LEV) are surprisingly popular in college towns, retirement communities, and in a variety of practical fleet applications from maintenance crews to parking meter attendants. Most of these electric vehicles are in California.

Will consumers buy or lease EVs in large numbers? Yes, if a few problems are overcome. Most will want freeway speed. Customers want an affordable vehicle. Many will want the types of vehicles planned by Toyota, Nissan, and GM – four door sedans and larger vehicles that can carry several people and lots of stuff. The vehicles will need greater range than today’s LEVs. Although the average household in the U.S. has two vehicles, with one rarely going over 40 miles in a day, many people will insist on EVs and PHEVs with much greater range. Consumers fear getting stuck.

“There are 247 million cars in the U.S., but only 53 million garages,” observes Richard Lowenthal, CEO of Coulomb Technologies. Because they need less range, urban dweelers are most likely to benefit from owning an EV, but least likely to own a garage. One U.C. Davis study determined that 80 percent of plug-in car owners want to charge more than once a day. That means we only have 12 percent of the charging stations that we need.

Yesterday, the City of San Francisco demonstrated its installed Coulomb Smartlet Networked Charging Stations by charging a city-owned plug-in hybrid Prius. San Francisco is an ideal city to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Every year over 100 million rides are taken on the city’s fleet of electric trolley buses and BART rail/subway system. The city already has electric and plug-in vehicles in its fleet. San Francisco is recognized as one of the greenest cities in the United States, if not the world. Citizens have been early adopters of electric vehicles, e-bikes, and plug-in hybrid conversions.

San Francisco, like most cities, needs a charging infrastructure. Only 16 percent of vehicles in SF have access to a garage with an electric outlet. Most vehicles are parked on streets, apartment buildings, co-ops, and public garages without charging infrastructure.

“Our goal is to transform the Bay Area into the EV Capital of the United States, and a networked infrastructure is essential for the adoption of electric vehicles,” said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. “San Francisco is proud to be the first city to feature charging stations with technology to support our city’s clean electric fleet vehicles and car-share fleets.”

“Electric vehicles are the future of transportation and the Bay Area is the testing ground for the technology,” said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. “We began using plug-in hybrids in the city’s fleet last year. Now, for the first time the public can plug-in to the next generation of cars through car sharing organizations and take them for a drive in San Francisco.”

San Francisco is taking an important step forward by implementing a smart charging infrastructure that can be centrally managed and supported. The intelligent system can send text messages to drivers when their vehicle is charged, or that their hours of free parking are ending. The charging adheres to new SAE standards agreed upon by automakers and charging infrastructure providers. By making EVs a reality in a city with excellent transit and a future hub of high-speed rail, EVs will solve last-mile issues, and car sharing partnerships will allow long journeys to be zero-emission end-to-end.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. On March 25 his new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – will be available at Amazon and other booksellers.

2010 Prius Delivers Record Mileage and Accelerates Plug-in Plans

By John Addison. Toyota achieves a record 50 miles per gallon with the new 2010 Prius, which just made its formal debut at the North American International Auto Show. This article also covers Toyota’s latest plug-in hybrid and EV announcements.

Since the Prius was first went on sale in Japan in 1997, continuous improvements have been made. My 2002 Prius has a combined EPA rating of 41, and that has been its actual mileage. Newer models are rated at 46 mpg. The new 2010 should be rated at 50 miles per gallon, or better. Toyota

In addition to normal driving, Prius now comes with three selectable modes – EV, Eco and Power – to accommodate a wide range of driving conditions.

Hybrid components like the inverter, motor, and generator are now smaller and lighter. The new midsized 2010 Prius improves fuel efficiency with a 0.25 coefficient of drag making it the world’s most aerodynamic production vehicle. Hybrid components like the inverter, motor, and generator are now smaller and lighter. The new beltless 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder gas engine with 98 horsepower, runs at lower RPMs at highway speeds for better fuel efficiency and improved uphill performance. An exhaust heat recovery system, exhaust gas recirculation, and an electric water pump contribute to a more efficient hybrid system with a net horsepower rating of 134.

An exciting new option is the solar moonroof using Kyocera PV that automatically powers a ventilation system on hot days. This system allows fresh air to circulate into the vehicle, cooling down the cabin so that the A/C doesn’t have to work as hard, conserving battery power. The solar roof will be paired with a remote air-conditioning system that is the first in the world to run on battery power alone. LED head lamps are another exciting energy saving option.

The Prius will face increased competition. The new Honda Insight 4-door sedan, 5-seater, with an Ecological Drive Assist System is expected to be priced for thousands less than the Prius. Honda will start selling the Insight in North America in spring 2009. The Insight will have a combined EPA rating of 41 miles per gallon, over 20 percent less than the 2010 Prius.

The new Ford Fusion Hybrid midsize 4-door sedan will be on sale in the US this next spring, with an EPA certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid may travel up to 47 miles per hour in pure electric mode. The Advanced Intake Variable Cam Timing allows the Fusion and Milan hybrids to more seamlessly transition between gas and electric modes.

Toyota is also accelerating its roll-out of plug-in hybrids. Beginning in late 2009, Toyota will start global delivery of 500 Prius plug-in hybrids powered by lithium-ion batteries. Of these initial vehicles, 150 will be placed with U.S. lease-fleet customers.

The first-generation lithium-ion batteries powering these plug-in hybrids will be built on an assembly line at Toyota’s Panasonic EV Energy Company battery plant, a joint-venture production facility in which Toyota owns 60 percent equity. During its development, the new Prius was designed and engineered to package either the lithium-ion battery pack with plug-in capability, or the nickel-metal hydride battery for the conventional gas-electric system.

Toyota plans to make a hybrid drive system optional on all vehicles by 2020. At the North American International Auto Show, Toyota confirmed its plan to launch a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) by 2012. The FT-EV concept shares its platform with the revolutionary-new iQ urban commuter vehicle. Toyota continues to give customers an increasingly exciting selection of fuel-efficient hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. His new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – goes on sale March 25.

General Motors Bailout

Op-Ed by John Addison (11/17/08). On September 24, Congress approved a $25 billion bailout for GM, Ford, and Chrysler. “It seemed like a lot when we first started pushing this,” says Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, one of the bill’s sponsors. “Suddenly, it seems so small.” The three troubled automakers are already back in Washington D.C. asking for another $25 billion.

A couple of weeks ago, GM said that the future of our nation depended on it getting added billions so that it could buy Chrysler. GM has changed its mind. It just wants taxpayers to give the Detroit three another $25 billion. The problem is that the total of $50 billion is paid by taxpayers like you and me.

Congress would do well to have some national goals for the $50 billion, not goals set by auto lobbyists. Goals include America’s need to become competitive with the world if we hope to create more jobs and end this recession. Workers need help by either keeping their jobs or by getting new jobs. Americans need cars that cost less at the pump and better alternatives to always using a car. America needs to be energy secure, not desperately dependent on oil. To meet these goals, several alternatives are being considered:

  • Another $25 billion with no strings attached.
  • Let GM reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
  • Boost consumer auto purchases with tax credits for buying vehicles with excellent fuel economy.
  • Invest the $25 billion in rail and transit.

When Chrysler got its 1980 loan guarantee, Lee Iacocca cut his annual salary to a dollar and slashed the wages of other top workers by 10 percent. The tax payers never paid a cent. It was a $1.5 billion loan guarantee.

This time around, Chrysler will be fine. Chrysler President Jim Press, when talking in September at a Western Automotive Journalist meeting, stated, “We need a new business model based on one word – Reality.” The new management team at Chrysler inherited a 4 million car per year overhead with sales falling to one million per year. Chrysler is privately owned by Cerberus Capital Management. Chrysler has been actively downsizing to be smaller, agile and profitable.

Ford is also moving to a business model that matches the name of its best selling car – Focus. In recently discussing its third quarter results, Ford stated that it remains on track to achieve $5 billion in cost reductions in North America by the end of 2008 compared with 2005. After a quarterly pre-tax loss of $2.7 billion, Ford had overall liquidity of $29.6 billion. The company promised shareholders further cost cuts and cash improvements.

In his November 17 Wall Street Journal article, Michael Levine discusses why Chapter 11 bankruptcy is the best option for GM. Chapter 11 would allow GM to be more competitive with Toyota, which now has now the world leader in market share. Over the years, GM has lost about two-thirds of its market share. Only with bankruptcy can GM be free of restrictions that prevent it from being competitive. It has 7,000 dealers compared to Toyota’s 1,500 successful dealers. GM has enormous pension and health care costs that add thousands to the cost of cars. The burden is so great, that GM needs SUVs to make money and sees no margin in fuel efficient cars. Yet, it is fuel efficient cars that customers are now buying. If GM reorganizes under bankruptcy, creditors will be forced to give it breathing room and paralyzing restrictions will be removed.

Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary, wrote on November 11, “When a big company that gets into trouble is more valuable living than dead, there used to be a well-established legal process for reorganizing it – called chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. Under it, creditors took some losses, shareholders even bigger ones, some managers’ heads rolled. Companies cleaned up their books and got a fresh start. And taxpayers didn’t pay a penny. In exchange for government aid, the Big Three’s creditors, shareholders, and executives should be required to accept losses as large as they’d endure under chapter 11, and the UAW should agree to some across-the-board wage and benefit cuts.”

Al Gore, in his November 9 NY Times Op-Ed identifies a major opportunity, “We should help America’s automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new startup companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available as the rest of this plan matures. In combination with the unified grid, a nationwide fleet of plug-in hybrids would also help to solve the problem of electricity storage.”

Now law, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 gives tax credits exceeding $7,000 for the purchase of plug-in hybrids. President-elect Obama, when campaigning, favored expanded use of tax credits to speed the transition to a competitive auto industry that makes clean cars. Consumer vehicle spending could be boosted now by expanding the offering to include a $2,000 tax credit for vehicles getting over 35 miles per gallon and up to $10,000 for zero-emission vehicles. Auto industry sales would immediately jump without a $25 billion give away.

In the seventies, I left my job with a major Detroit corporation, Burroughs, then the second largest computer firm. At the time, all makers of mainframe computers were in trouble, including IBM. If the government had done a massive bailout and protected their businesses, the United States would not have transitioned into the global giant of information technology. Lacking a bailout, IBM reinvented themselves into a global leader in IT services with a deep new patent portfolio. Burroughs became Unisys. Honeywell redefined itself. GE exited the computer field. An industry thrived instead of died. The transition made the United States the global leader in the Internet and technology innovation, creating millions of jobs.

Big corporations resist change, yet change they must. To grow and be profitable, the United States transportation industry must be innovative and responsive to customers.

Car customers are voting with their pocketbooks. The average car owner spends $8,000 on their car. The average household with two cars spends $16,000. People are demanding fuel economy. They have stopped buying vehicles with lousy mileage. They want hybrids that deliver over 40 miles per gallon. There is a pent-up demand for millions of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

Only a smaller innovative customer-oriented GM can create permanent jobs. Yes, a GM bankruptcy reorganization could lead to the short-term loss of over 100,000 jobs at GM, its suppliers, and some of its dealers. These laid-off workers, however, could be part of a million new workers. Federal government tax credits could be given to any company hiring laid-off auto workers. Community colleges could be funded in Michigan and other states to retrain workers for jobs of the future.

$25 billion invested in public transportation would create over one million new jobs in the United States. The America Public Transportation Association has learned that every $1 billion invested in public transit capital projects generates 30,000 jobs, and the same amount invested in transit operations generates 60,000 jobs.

U.S. citizens want better public transportation as ridership soars to 11 billion this year. This November, voters across the country in 16 states approved 23 measures out of 32 state and local public transit ballot initiatives, authorizing expenditures approximating $75 billion. Clean Fleet Report

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to move forward with a bill that would give the auto industry access to the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program set up by the government in October to help ailing banks and other financial firms.

As Ben Franklin observed, “Great haste makes great waste.”

Congress may release the total $50 billion by Thanksgiving. Such haste sends all taxpayers a message, “Enjoy this turkey. You can pay for it later with interest.”

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report.

A lightning bolt Chevy Volt

by Cristina Foung

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

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

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

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

Where can you find it?

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

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

A Passion for Plug-ins

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

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

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

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

General Motors has made clear statements that it will start taking orders for the Chevy Volt from U.S. consumers by the end of 2010. Last December, I attended a General Motors showing of its Chevy Volt – an elegant four-door sedan shown in this photo which I took. One GM designer admitted that the Mercedes CLS gave some inspiration for the Volt. The Chevy Volt can be driven 40 miles in electric-mode using 16kW of lithium batteries, before its small one liter engine is engaged. 16kW is twelve times the storage of my Prius NiMH batteries.

The Volt uses an electric drive system with a small ICE in series that is only used to generate added electricity, not give power to the wheels. GM’s modular E-Flex propulsion could be adapted to various engines including diesel, fuel cells, and potentially battery-electric.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article about New Plug-ins

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report.