Below we include news about Toyota's latest
comments, Honda's puzzlement, coverage of PHEVs
in Wired Magazine, a strong plug in Newsweek for
the Volt and Bob Lutz, and news of a new PHEV
"bucket truck" for the electric utility industry.
1. TOYOTA EDGING SLIGHTLY CLOSER TO PHEVS (after
previously indicating they could follow GM, i.e.
wait until 2011-2012) was widely reported in
year-end stories. But it's unclear whether the
company is looking beyond its current partnership
with Panasonic to develop lithium-ion batteries
using cobalt rather than other safer competing chemistries.
ASSOCIATED PRESS STORY EXCERPTS
Toyota muscles in on GM's No. 1 title
December 27, 2007 By YURI KAGEYAMA Associated Press Business Writer
NAGOYA, Japan (AP) - Toyota plans to sell 9.85
million vehicles worldwide in 2008, the company
said Tuesday, setting an ambitious target despite
worries about a slowing U.S. car market, as it
tries to become the world's top automaker.
Toyota also said it was preparing to start mass
producing lithium-ion batteries for low-emission vehicles.
Lithium-ion batteries, already widely used in
laptops and other gadgets, are smaller yet more
powerful than the nickel-metal hydride batteries
used in gas-electric hybrids like the Prius now.
Lithium-ion batteries will not be used in the
Prius, on sale for a decade and the most popular
hybrid on the market, according to Toyota.
The lithium-ion battery will be used in a plug-in
hybrid, which would recharge from a regular home
socket, and travel longer as an electric vehicle
than the Prius. Toyota has started tests on its
plug-in hybrid, but has not shown a model using the new battery.
Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto, who
oversees technology, said Toyota had developed
the lithium-ion battery to a level that it is
almost ready for mass production, although that
won't start until sometime after next year.
GREEN CAR CONGRESS STORY EXCERPTs
Panasonic EV Energy Co. Starting Studies Geared
to Mass Production of Li-Ion Cells for Toyota
25 December 2007
Panasonic EV Energy Co., the battery-making joint
venture between Toyota and Matsushita, has begun
studies at its Omori factory geared to the mass
production of lithium-ion batteries, said Toyota
President Katsuaki Watanabe in his end-of-year
press conference. The Omori factory currently produces NiMH cells.
Lithium-ion batteries are better suited than NiMH
cells for use in plug-in hybrid electric
vehicles, Watanabe said. Toyota, Matsushita, and
Panasonic EV are currently conducting development
on the cells and systems. Toyotas current
prototype plug-in hybrid uses a NiMH battery pack. (Earlier post.)
In the press conference, Watanabe briefly
described Toyotas three-pronged approach to
sustainability: R&D into technology in pursuit of
sustainable mobility; sustainable manufacturing and social contributions.
Hybrid technology will play a central role in
achieving sustainable mobility, according to
Watanabe, who noted that Toyota has now sold a
cumulative 1.25 million hybrid vehicles
worldwide. As previously stated, Toyota is
targeting annual hybrid sales of 1 million units
as early as possible in the 2010s, and will have
a hybrid model in all Toyota series vehicles.
Watanabe referenced the ongoing testing of the
plug-in hybrid prototypes in Japan and the US,
saying that the company is making steady progress
toward the commercialization of the plug-in vehicles.
ONE MORE NOTE ABOUT HOW WE SEE FUTURE BATTERIES
Among the dozen comments to the Green Car
Congress story, we find several posters pinning
their hopes on new "carbon nanotube" technology
still in the lab at MIT, and others asking about
the long-awaited EEStor "ultimate energy storage"
solution. They heard that it's has been postponed
once more. Over the holidays, we received emails
from many people pointing to new research at
Stanford University reporting on a paper
published in Nature, about "silicon nanowire"
technology that could allow ten times the energy
storage of today's lithium-ion batteries.
As always, we'd rather emphasize that today's
technology is good enough to get started;
laboratory breakthroughs or commercial
preannouncements are of little interest to those
working to promote rapid commercialization based
to today's "good enough" technology.
2. HONDA MYSTIFIED ABOUT PHEVS
Honda boss sceptical about plug-in hybrids
Dec 18, 2007 Agence France-Presse
TOKYO (AFP) The head of Japanese automaker
Honda Motor Co. said Wednesday he saw no value in
developing plug-in hybrid vehicles.
But Honda president Takeo Fukui said he expects
competition in conventional petrol-electric
hybrids to shift into high gear in the coming
year amid growing demand for fuel-efficient
vehicles. "Until now, the hybrid vehicle business
has been about creating impressions and images
among potential buyers, and not about producing
profitable vehicles at affordable prices," he
told the group's annual year-end press conference.
He acknowledged that rival Toyota Motor Corp. had
made headway with its popular Prius hybrid, but
added that the "real competition" begins now.
Honda will introduce a model in 2009 that will
only be available as a hybrid, like the Prius, in
a bid to highlight the technology, Fukui said. A
new sports hybrid, based on the CR-Z, which was
introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show, would also be
launched globally sometime in the next few years, he added.
But Fukui said he saw no significant value in
researching plug-in hybrid models, which can be
recharged by connecting to a power plug. Such
systems would require significant improvement in
the capacity, weight, and size of batteries,
motors, engines, and other components, he said.
"I do not understand why people see value in
plug-in (hybrids)," he said. "I cannot understand
the rational for (developing) plug-ins."
3. 100 MPG HITS WIRED MAGAZINE'S COVER
You know how products seem cheaper when they're
$9.99 not $10? It turns out that sometimes using
the larger number pays off. Back in 2005, after
our first conversion, we were trying to explain
why we were excited about PHEVs. We started off
putting headlines on flyers saying "99+MPG" --
but they didn't resonate. We eventually decided
to plaster our cars and handouts with the
"100+MPG" message (along with a footnote when
practical explaining that this was really
"100+MPG gasoline plus a penny a mile of
electricity"). That message turned out to travel
well. It's been broadly picked up in public
awareness, and by the Automotive X-Prize, which
has worked to translate it into meaningful goals
for vehicles of many fuel types.
Now the cover of the January 2008 issue of Wired
Magazine has a photo of a gas can in the desert,
and the headline, "100 MPG! THE RACE TO BUILD THE
ULTIATE FUEL-EFFICIENT CAR." You can read the
eight-page story by Eric Hagerman in print or
find it at at
. The story includes the Aptera three-wheel PHEV
we've covered frequently (by the way, see Popular
Mechanics' video test-drive of the Aptera at
), a small-garage effort called Illuminati Motor
Works from Illinois converting a Dodge Neon, and
a discussion of why the Tesla Roadster may not
meet the X-Prize criteria but Tesla's next-generation vehicle might.
4. GM'S BOB LUTZ IN NEWSWEEK, SAVING THE ELECTRIC CAR
The media drive for the Chevy Volt keeps getting
bigger. Three years before the earliest time the
car will arrive, the company's ads for the Volt
are everywhere (see the building-sized one at the
LA Auto Show, with our PHEV parked in front of it
Automotive journalists like to write about
turnarounds; now GM's Bob Lutz gets the full
treatment by long-time Newsweek automotive
reporter Keith Naughton. Below we reprint the
entertaining two-page story (2/3 of which is one photo).
NEXT 2008 | BUSINESS: Bob Lutz: The Man Who Revived the Electric Car
By Keith Naughton | NEWSWEEK Dec. 31, 2007 - Jan. 7, 2008 issue
When General Motors was fingered as the prime
suspect in the 2006 documentary "Who Killed the
Electric Car?" Bob Lutz's inbox filled with hate
mail. "I hope you rot in hell," read one missive
to the GM vice chairman, known for his love of
gas-guzzling sports cars. But now the movie's
director wants Lutz to star in a possible sequel,
"Who Saved the Electric Car?" "Now that they've
done their mea culpa, I'm bullish on GM," says
director Chris Paine. "I'd like to include Lutz in my next film."
What explains this turn of events? Lutz--the man
who brought us the Dodge Viper muscle car and the
1,000-horsepower Cadillac Sixteen--has become the
unlikely champion of the Chevy Volt, a 150mpg
plug-in electric car that GM is fast-tracking for
production in 2010. GM's car czar now admits he
was wrong to dismiss the popular Toyota Prius
hybrid as a PR ploy. Though he still loves fast
cars (and fast fighter jets, which the ex-Marine
flyboy pilots on weekends), Lutz, 75, is
undergoing a green conversion in the twilight of
his career. "I believe strongly that this country
has to get off oil," he says, sitting beside a
massive V-16 engine on display in his office.
"The electrification of the automobile is inevitable."
Skeptics initially viewed the Volt as Lutz's own
PR ploy. But they've come to believe in the
plug-in, as GM has poured millions into
developing a lithium-ion battery (like those in
laptops) that will allow the car to go 40 miles
on pure electricity before a tiny gasoline motor
kicks in to recharge the battery. (It also can be
juiced up by plugging it into a wall outlet for about six hours.)
But the biggest naysayers Lutz faced were inside
his own company. After being burned by the
failure of its EV1 electric car in the '90s (the
subject of Paine's film), GM was gun-shy about
plugging in again. When Lutz first proposed
creating an electric car in 2003, the idea
"bombed" inside GM, he says. "I got beaten down a
number of times." After pouring billions into
engineering futuristic fuel-cell cars (still
years away from production), GM engineers didn't
want to switch gears to a plug-in electric, which
they insisted couldn't be run on lithium-ion
batteries. The turning point came when tiny Tesla
Motors, a Silicon Valley start-up, announced in
2006 that it would produce a speedy electric
sports car powered by those same laptop
batteries. "That tore it for me," says Lutz. "If
some Silicon Valley start-up can solve this
equation, no one is going to tell me anymore that it's unfeasible."
So in 2006, Lutz formed a skunkworks team of
engineers and designers to quickly cobble
together the Chevy Volt concept car, which became
the star of the 2007 Detroit Auto Show. And then
he persuaded the brass to greenlight the Volt for
production by arguing that they must try to seize
the green high ground from Toyota, which is
battling GM for the title of the world's No. 1
automaker. "We saw Toyota getting highly
beneficial rub-off from their Prius success,
which permitted them to cloak themselves in the
mantle of total greenness," says Lutz. "This was
starting to hurt because it was one reason for a
sudden surge in Toyota's market share."
Now Lutz envisions selling hundreds of thousands
of Volts a year, probably priced below $30,000.
Detroit's horsepower jockey insists the Volt will
be his crowning achievement--and his swan song.
"This is like JFK's call for the moon shot," he
says. "I want to stick around to see the Volt
come to market. Then I'll pack it in around 80."
And ride off into the sunset on electric power.
5. UTILITIES "BUCKET TRUCKS" ARE EARLY MARKET FOR
PHEVS. While PG&E and others are planning to get
PHEVs based on Ford working with integrator
Eaton, this vehicle appears to be built on an International chassis.
Odyne Corp. Receives Purchase Order for Twenty
Five Plug-in Hybrid Aerial Lift Truck Systems
December 19, 2007 HAUPPAUGE, N.Y.--(BUSINESS
WIRE)--Odyne Corporation (OTCBB:ODYC), a leading
developer of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle
technologies, today announced it had received a
purchase order for 25 plug-in hybrid electric
vehicle systems from Dueco, Inc., one of the
nation's largest utility equipment manufacturers.
The systems will be installed by Dueco, Inc., to
power the first plug-in hybrid electric aerial
lift trucks, "bucket trucks," used by utility
companies to maintain electric, telephone and cable lines.
The system will provide the fuel efficiency and
emission enhancements, typical of a hybrid
vehicle, while the truck is traveling to and from
the work site. While at the work site, the Odyne
Stored Energy System will power all of the
necessary job-site related equipment directly,
including the aerial lift device, air
conditioning and heating, with the engine off.
Odyne and Dueco estimate that the vehicles will
reduce fuel consumption by approximately 6-10
gallons per day, eliminate on-site engine
emissions, as well as eliminate on-site noise.
"Since the introduction of the Dueco-Odyne hybrid
vehicle, the response has been very positive,"
says Odyne CEO Alan Tannenbaum. "Utility
companies particularly value the opportunity to
utilize their own low-cost, off-peak grid power
to charge the vehicles overnight, while creating
a safer and healthier environment for their employees and the community."
"We estimate that nationwide, there are more than
30,000 aerial lift trucks in operation," explains
Joe Dalum, Vice President of Dueco, Inc.
DUECO, the largest privately owned final stage
manufacturer of Terex Utilities and Hi-Ranger
products in the country, is a family company with
over 50 years of experience in the sale and
service of aerial devices, digger derricks,
cranes and other equipment. The company also
provides its customers with conductor handling
equipment, pullers and tensioners, trailers,
excavators, loader backhoes, and wheel loaders.
Committed to customer satisfaction, DUECO is the
source for electric utility, telecommunications,
contractor, electric cooperative, municipality,
railroad and tree care needs in a 14-state region
that reaches from the Midwest to the East Coast.
Visit www.Dueco.com for more information.
Odyne Corporation is a clean technology company
that develops and manufactures propulsion systems
for buses, trucks and other hybrid electric
vehicles. The company has developed a proprietary
system combining electric power conversion, power
control and energy storage technology, with
standard electric motors, storage batteries and
other off the shelf components to create a lower
fuel cost, lower operation and maintenance cost,
substantially lower emission and quieter vehicle.
Visit www.odyne.com for more information.
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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