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Plug-In Races Intensify: Automakers Announce PHEVs/EVs

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  • Felix Kramer
    We re back online with CalCars-News after a break for a few weeks. We ll do our best to go back and point to the most important developments of the past month.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 12, 2009
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      We're back online with CalCars-News after a break
      for a few weeks. We'll do our best to go back and
      point to the most important developments of the
      past month. Today's post summarizes and analyzes
      the breaking news from Detroit.

      (Shortly after it goes out on email, this posting
      will also be viewable at
      http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html -- there
      you can add CalCars-News to your RSS feed.)

      THE GREEN DETROIT AUTO SHOW: For the past few
      weeks, we've been hearing that the all-important
      show (which opened to media yesterday) would be
      muted because of the global fiscal crisis and the
      woes of the global auto industry, and that
      "environment-friendly cars" would be a principal
      focus. But if anything, the green car reality is
      exceeding expectations. The news from the show
      confirms that carmakers are approaching a tipping
      point. While not yet a wholesale commitment --
      more like plans, intentions and limited
      experiments -- it's the start we've been hoping for.

      GROWING COMPETITION: Because the automakers all
      watch each other, we can expect that the pace
      will continue to accelerate. Below we include a
      snapshot of today: company-by-company
      developments with our comments and some links to
      media. Since at Google-News you'll find over
      3,000 stories about PHEVs in the past 24 hours,
      at the end of this post, we list many of our
      favorite sources and suggest a way you can customize your own news summaries.


      FIRST, THOUGH, THIS IS A VERY SATISFYING MOMENT
      FOR ADVOCATES OF PLUG-IN VEHICLES. It vindicates
      our assertions that plug-in cars can be
      introduced now with today's technology and
      today's infrastructure. And from every direction
      we're hearing that plug-in cars could be a way to
      save the US auto industry. Today's favorite quote
      comes from Justin Hyde's the Detroit Free Press
      story, "Faith rests in hybrids, electric"
      http://www.freep.com/article/20090111/BUSINESS03/901110375/1014/BUSINESS01/Faith+rests+in+hybrids++electric

      "Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could lead to
      the salvation and resurrection of the American
      auto industry, because that's a technology we're
      on the forefront of," said Daniel Weiss, director
      of climate strategy for the Center for American
      Progress, a progressive think tank.

      [CAP was founded by Obama transition co-chair
      John Podesta. The story continues with Weiss
      accurately describing the relationship between
      the auto industry and the U.S. government, and
      making clear that it will take both to scale and
      speed production and market penetration:]

      Weiss says the potential benefits of electric
      models to cut oil demand and global warming gases
      will make them viable eventually, but that
      governments should jump-start the first
      generation to get the less-expensive successors.
      "The government hand isn't necessary to get them
      off the ground," he said. "The question is
      whether plug-in hybrids will remain a boutique
      car or actually have any mainstream impact."

      In a Reuters story, "AUTOSHOW-GM, rivals spark
      race for new batteries"
      http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUSN1236017620090113
      , Kevin Krolicki sees the automakers'
      announcements as a response to "skeptics [who]
      have offered a running rebuttal: show me the
      batteryÂ…. Taken together, analysts and green car
      advocates said the announcements showed the auto
      industry was beginning to make needed advances in
      battery technology to put a first wave of
      rechargeable electric cars like the Volt on the
      road. 'I'm truly delighted that GM and others are
      going to make these cars and that we can now
      start the electric car race,' said Felix Kramer,
      a California-based advocate for electric cars and founder of CalCars.org."


      SUMMARY OF PHEV DEVELOPMENTS FROM THE AUTO SHOW


      BYD showed its F3DM, the first PHEV on the
      market. BYD has a one-year headstart on the
      competition, though its cars are available in
      limited quantities, starting only in China. The
      company landed on the front page of the Wall
      Street Journal, with a perceptive profile by
      long-time global automotive reporter, Norihiko
      Shorozou. Aptly titled, "Technology Levels
      Playing Field in Race to Market Electric Car,"
      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123172034731572313.html
      , the author speculates the BYD (10% owned by
      Warren Buffet's Mid-America Holdings) could
      become the first start-up to become a major
      automaker in 50 years. It helps that BYD, with
      10,000 engineers and technicians, is the world's
      second-largest manufacturer of lithium batteries.
      And BYD's opportunity exists because electric
      vehicles (and series PHEVs) are easier and
      cheaper to design and build than internal
      combustion engine vehicles. (Example in the
      article: 210 primary parts in BYD's e6
      all-electric vehicle, 1,440 in its F6 gasoline vehicle.)


      TOYOTA AND THE PHEV RACE: The news from Toyota,
      which posted its first annual operating loss
      since World War II, is more about positioning. It
      announced what it had previously hinted at: the
      company will produce 500 lithium-battery Prius
      PHEVs in 2009, with 150 going to the U.S. Still
      no definite date for mass production.

      This led to some overstatements in the media,
      such as the headline by Michelline Maynard of the
      NY Times: "Toyota Plans to Leapfrog G.M. With a
      Plug-In"
      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/automobiles/autoshow/12toyota.html
      . Maynard saysToyota Motor Sales USA President
      James Lentz "did not say why Toyota had sped up
      its program. But if Toyota stayed on its new
      schedule, it would win at least a psychological
      advantage over G.M., said Andrew Shapiro, an
      industry analyst with the Casesa Shapiro group.
      'G.M. announced it first, and Toyota gets it to
      the market first,' Mr. Shapiro said. Maynard then
      points out that "Mr. Lentz sought to play down
      any impression that Toyota was in a race with
      G.M. The initial Toyota plug-ins will not be
      available to individual consumers, unlike the
      Volt, which G.M. says will go on sale to the
      public at the end of 2010. She may not know that
      in fact, Toyota might not beat GM with its
      introduction of 500 vehicles, since GM has
      already said it may bring some vehicles to test
      customers in late 2009. We all know, however,
      that Toyota is fully capable of speeding up these
      timetables if it chooses to do so -- and, as The
      Godfather said so eloquently, if public demand
      and government incentives make them "offers they can't refuse."

      TOYOTA'S NEW PRIUS: The company finally unveiled
      its long-delayed third-generation Prius.
      (Technically fourth-generation, since the first
      version was available only in Japan starting in
      1997.) The 2010 Prius looks only slightly
      different, but everything has been improved and
      optimized. The results are better MPG and more
      bells-and-whistles. Notable from our perspective:
      the EV button has been enabled globally (not just
      in Europe and Japan) for about a mile of
      electric-only driving. The car offers an optional
      photovoltaic solar roof. (This is mainly
      important symbolically -- as we respond often to
      inquiries, the available power is sufficient to
      pre-cool the car on hot days. With today's
      technology, you need solar panels on a garage
      roof for enough power for double-digit mile
      electrical range.) And the user interface has
      been improved with a heads-up display showing
      driving efficiency -- now, like the Camry,
      showing one-minute intervals instead of five on
      the MPG indicator. See Toyota's website on the
      car at
      http://www.toyota.com/vehicles/minisite/prius/ ;
      see photos of the exterior and the displays at
      http://jalopnik.com/5128924/2010-toyota-prius-bigger-longer-and-with-higher-fuel-economy
      ; and read the Toyota specifications at
      http://www.toyota.com/vehicles/minisite/prius/assets/site/pdf/2010_Prius.pdf
      . (The company also announced plans to sell a
      lightweight two-passenger 50-mile-range EV in
      2012 - and a hydrogen fuel-cell car in 2015.)


      GM PICKS LG CHEM AS VOLT BATTERY SUPPLIER: After
      months of speculation, GM announced it has chosen
      the Compact Power/LG Chem consortium to provide
      batteries for the first generation of the Chevy
      Volt. GM also announced it will develop its own
      in-house capacity to manufacture batteries, with
      a large new design laboratory. Kevin Bullis
      reports that GM could use batteries from other
      suppliers in future vehicles at "GM to Build Its
      Own Batteries"
      http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/21957
      . See "GM CEO Rick Wagoner Announces Chevy Volt
      Battery Details"
      http://jalopnik.com/5129294/gm-ceo-rick-wagoner-announces-chevy-volt-battery-details
      for the press release and analysis. (On the
      photo on that page, we're glad the announcement
      included not only GM's Ric Wagoner and Bob Lutz
      with LG Chem CEO Peter Kim, but also Denise Gray,
      Director of Hybrid Energy Storage Systems, the
      powerhouse behind GM's battery programs.)

      WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE A123 SYSTEMS? A123, which
      with Contintental had bid for the Volt contract
      (and is in a pre-IPO quiet period), clearly hopes
      for deals with other automakers. Announcing plans
      to build a factory in Michigan, it described
      partnerships with Chrysler and Better Place. The
      company hopes to take advantage of up to $335M in
      state tax credits and is seeking $1.8B in loans
      from the US DOE's $25 billion Advanced Technology
      Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program to make
      enough lithium-ion batteries for 500,000 plug-ins
      or 5 million hybrid vehicles by 2013. See the
      company's announcement at
      http://www.a123systems.com/news/135 and
      "A123Systems to Spend $2.3B Building Factories in
      Michigan"
      http://earth2tech.com/2009/01/07/a123systems-to-spend-23b-building-factories-in-michigan/
      and

      GM EXPANDS VOLT TO ESCALADE: The company showed a
      concept Cadillac Converj, using the same
      technology as the Chevy Volt to make the point
      that it plans the extend electrification to more
      models. It has branded its "revolutionary
      electric propulsion technology" formerly called
      E-Flex as "Voltec." Although we had seen some
      indications the company might drop its use of the
      term "EREV" (extended range electric vehicle)
      instead of "series plug-in hybrid," it's sticking
      to that name. For more about the no-compromises
      luxury Cadillac (which also includes a PV solar
      roof to power accessories), see
      http://media.gm.com/us/gm/en/news/events/autoshows/09naias/brands/cadillac/09_NAIAS_Cadillac%20Converj%20Concept.htm


      CHRYSLER: MORE PHEV PROTOTYPES Chrysler shows
      more "production-intent" series PHEVs, based on
      existing platforms, which means it can design and
      test them quicker. The compact SUV Jeep Patriot
      and the 200C EV Sedan join the Jeep Wrangler and
      Chrysler minivan series PHEVs showed last year.
      And the Dodge Circuit EV sportscar updates the
      Lotus prototype previously shown. For an
      entertaining speculation, see Dan Neil, writing
      in the LA Times, "Chrysler (again) works to
      design itself a miracle,"
      http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-design11-2009jan11,0,4856432.story
      -- which begins, "The company has a long history
      of pulling itself out of deep trouble. This time,
      it's counting on electric cars to save it."

      ARMY GOES ELECTRIC WITH CHRYSLER: In a very
      encouraging related note, the Arm announced it
      would lease 4,000 "non-tactical" neighborhood
      electric vehicles, with the first ones coming
      from Global Electric Motorcars of Chrysler
      http://www.army.mil/-newsreleases/2009/01/12/15707-army-announces-historic-electric-vehicle-lease
      . We hope this is a preview of other federal
      purchases included in Barack Obama's campaign program.


      FORD GOES HYBRID AND ALL-ELECTRIC: Ford, which
      could be accelerating work that is so far leading
      to a handful of PHEV Escapes, showed its Fusion
      hybrid, positioned as a competitor to the Toyota
      Camry. The company plans an EV van in 2010, a
      passenger EV in 2011 and a PHEV in 2012. Dan Neil
      at the LA Times wrote about the Fusion (which can
      drive briefly up to 47 MPH on electricity) on
      December 19: "2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid: 52 mpg and
      the darkness before dawn"
      http://www.latimes.com/classified/automotive/highway1/la-fi-neil19-2008dec19,0,2503132.story
      :

      "On a test drive of a Fusion Hybrid last week in
      West L.A. traffic, I managed, without much
      trouble, to get 52 mpg in mixed city-highway
      driving. Wait, so, has somebody invented the car
      of the future and didn't tell us? It's a worthy
      question. The scolding undercurrent of recent
      congressional hearings on the auto-industry
      bailout was the notion that Detroit had failed to
      invest in next-generation technology that could
      help wean us off foreign oil. Not so. What they
      did fail to do was sufficiently commercialize
      this technology so that it was ready and waiting
      at dealerships when people got stampeded this
      year by spiraling gas prices. Had Ford made a few
      hundred thousand of these cars available in June
      -- along with the financing to sell them -- we'd
      be erecting 50-foot equestrian statues of William
      Clay Ford and Alan Mulally in city squares, and
      the streets of Dearborn, Mich., would be repaved with diamond cobblestones."

      Neil also points out: "The nickel battery will
      please many in the green-car movement who argue
      that the search for the perfect battery -- a la
      the Chevy Volt -- has only delayed development of
      the good. ( Edmund Burke said the worst thing a
      man can do is do nothing because he can do only a little.)"


      HONDA: The company is sticking to its gameplan of
      hybrids and fuel cells, plus the possibility
      someday of pure EVs. Its new hatchback Insight is
      positioned to be the lowest-price hybrid for sale
      in the U.S. Asking, "Why Doesn't the New Insight
      Get Better MPG than the Civic Hybrid?"
      http://blogs.motortrend.com/6398120/green/why-doesnt-the-new-insight-get-better-mpg-than-the-civic-hybrid/index.html
      Motor Trend found out that the company (having
      been burned once with the "muscle hybrid" Accord,
      is now trying for a car that is "Clean and Green,
      Fun and Affordable." We hope someday Honda will
      see electrification as the way to optimize their goals.


      FISKER: The California company showed a
      production version of its $87,900 Karma series
      PHEV. It has presold 1,300 and said it planned to
      sell 15,000 annually. It also showed a concept
      convertible version for 2011. The company
      announced it has 22 dealers and is seeking a
      total of 40.
      http://www.freep.com/article/20090112/BUSINESS03/90112065/1016/BUSINESS01/Fisker+signs+up+more+retailers



      WAYS TO STAY INFORMED: We get news from lots of
      sources, including the subscribers and other
      readers of CalCars-News. If you don't want to
      rely on us, today you'll find roundups on the
      auto show and in general you can keep up through
      these top green cars websites (alphabetically):
      http://www.autobloggreen.com |
      http://www.evworld.com | http://www.gm-volt.com |
      http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor |
      http://www.greencarcongress.com |
      http://www.hybridcars.com | http://blog.wired.com/cars/ .

      DO YOU KNOW ABOUT "RSS (Real Simple Syndication)
      FEEDS? If not, ask a friend to set you up so you
      can see the latest from these sources --
      miraculously and automatically, all on one page.
      While you're at it, consider adding a few other
      favorites from the automotive and clean-tech
      world: http://www.climateprogress.org |
      http://earth2tech.com |
      http://www.greentechmedia.com |
      http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/ |
      http://jalopnik.com |
      http://readjoel.com/joel_makower |
      http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com |
      http://www.technologyreview.com/energy . Then
      there are the carmakers:
      http://fastlane.gmblogs.com |
      http://blog.toyota.com . And, of course,
      http://www.calcars.org/news-archive/ and the
      advocates: http://plugsandcars.blogspot.com
      | http://revengeoftheelectriccar.com .


      P.S. This Saturday, come to Santa Monica, CA for
      the "Inaugural Parade West" -- bring your EV or
      PHEV if you have one....see announcement at
      http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/eaa-phev/message/3273

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      http://www.calcars.org
      http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
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