CarList.com report on PHEVs and EVs
Plug-in Electric Vehicles
By Lou Ann Hammond
On August 19, 2005 the New York Mercantile Exchange posted crude oil at
$65.50 per barrel. According to the EIA, the U.S. average retail price for
regular gasoline increased by 18.2 cents, the largest one-week increase on
record, to 255.0 cents per gallon, the highest nominal price ever recorded.
Retail diesel fuel prices also experienced the largest one-week run-up on
record, rising 16.0 cents last week to 256.7 cents per gallon, an all-time
high (not adjusted for inflation). These are the hot days of summer in the
oil barrel and people are scrambling to find relief. An old technology may
be coming back into vogue; the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).
There are two types of PHEVS; an all electric vehicle or a gas-electric
hybrid, both of which needs to be recharged from an external electrical
outlet. According to dontcrush.com an electric car has no engine, no gas
tank, no tailpipe, muffler, catalytic converter, no noise and no emissions.
California spurred the invention of electric vehicles, trying desperately
to decrease emissions in a suffocating state. If one bought an electric car
they were allowed to drive in the carpool lane as a solo passenger in
Charging time on a plug-in varies depending on how empty the battery is and
how much energy the battery will hold (known in ICE language as how big the
tank is). On average it takes two to eight hours to recharge vehicles,
usually done while most are sleeping, but if youre shopping at Costco you
can charge your car while you shop - for free. Dan Neil, automotive
journalist for the LA Times, drove around Los Angeles for 144 miles and
used 7.092 kWh, which equals out to 68 cents of electricity and $2.50 worth
of gasoline, working out to about 4 cents per mile.
The auto industry embraced this technology, until the bills mounted and
there was very little demand. The lack of demand stemmed from the range the
car could go before needing to be recharged. Dave Barthmuss, General Motors
spokesperson laments the end of the EV, "There is a great deal of
technology that we have learned from the EV that is in the hydrogen fuel
cell vehicle. General Motors sees the hydrogen fuel cell as the ultimate
vehicle and, unfortunately, the demand for the EV never panned out."
General Motors pulled the plug and sent the EV1s to metal heaven via a
crushing machine. In an "only in California" moment, a mock funeral was
held. There are people who have passed on to the next life that didnt get
the emotional send off that the beleaguered GM EV1 received.
But there are uses for electric vehicles that are making it worthwhile for
automakers to bring the plug-ins back. According to Nick Twork, powertrain
and technology spokesperson for Ford Motor Co., "The plug-ins were part of
a Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate that was eventually replaced with
the Partial Zero Emissions Ford is studying plug-ins for the future
solution, but currently there are technical problems."
According to Nick Cappa, Daimler Chrysler is producing a plug-in hybrid
built on the 15-passenger van platform of the Mercedes Sprinter. Daimler
Chrysler is working with the Electric Power Research Institute of Palo
Alto. The New York Power Authority is helping to fund the five-cylinder
diesel cargo van that will allow the New York Times to deliver their papers
without using a drop of diesel fuel for the first twenty miles. There is an
"electric only" switch inside the cargo van that can be turned on when one
wants to use only electricity. According to Cappa, "Some cities dont allow
commercial vehicles because of their emissions. The electric car is less
noisy and zero emissions, so it is the perfect vehicle to deliver the
Pressure is mounting from different sources to consider plug-ins as a
viable option. "Such development should have the highest research and
development priority because it promises to revolutionize transportation
economics and to have a dramatic effect on the problems caused by oil
dependence," wrote George Shultz, former U.S. secretary of state, and James
Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, in a June
position paper on oil and U.S. national security. Woolsey just took a ride
in a plug-in Prius yesterday, according to Greg Hanssen, of edrivesystems.com
According to Hanssen, of "the nickel-metal hydride (NimH) battery systems
in todays Prius arent powerful enough to make a plug-in hybrid practical.
But moving to the more advanced and powerful lithium-ion battery allows us
to change out Toyotas system and create a plug-in."
The most significant issue in a Lithium-ion (Lion) battery is in heating.
Lions are vulnerable to "thermal runaway" meaning they can heat up to 800
degrees Celsius, break in half and shoot flames out, resulting in batteries
catching on fire or blowing up.
Valence says it has overcome this safety issue by altering the chemistry of
lithium-ion systems. It uses batteries based on iron phosphate rather than
cobalt, reducing temperatures in the case of a thermal runaway to less than
200 degrees Celsius.
The plug-in upgrade for the Prius is 6-7 months away from production,
according to Hanssen. Clean-techs plug-in will take out the NiMH system in
the Prius and install their system, utilizing a secret storage area in the
rear to house the extra 180 pounds of weight that the Lion carries with it.
The plug-in installation will start in Los Angeles, near LAX. Hanssen hopes
to have the installation take only 24 hours.
The grass roots folks will buy the car just because it is the latest in
technology towards cleaner running automobiles and it gets us closer to
getting off the dependence of foreign oil. But next to sex, people think
about money the most and there is a savings there. A regular Prius will get
around 50 mpg and the average miles driven by a consumer is 50 miles. At
almost $3.00 per gallon that is over $1,000 per year in gas for a Prius
According to Hanssen, the plug-in Prius gets between 100-150 mpg. Using the
same calculation, adding in the electricity cost, the savings would only be
a couple hundred dollars. However, if you calculated the gas at $4.00 per
gallon, or used the discount that the government gives on all-electric
vehicles for electricity the savings could be up to $500 per year.
Hanssen acknowledges that the price doesnt cover the savings, "the problem
is the cost of the Lithium Ion battery. They are expensive. If just one OEM
would use lithium ion it would have a dramatic effect on the cost of the
battery and the plug-in Prius."
The iron phosphate Lithium Ion battery is what allows this installation to
take place. Mark Kohler, business development manager of Valence
Corporation says that Valence has already modified a Prius with its Saphion
technology, giving it 18 times more usable energy and tripling its fuel
economy. "We dont have to worry about recycling the Saphion battery
because there is nothing in the battery that is harmful to the environment
and the material inside the
Valence automotive lithium-ion battery battery is not worth extracting."
Consider the lead acid battery, lead is toxic and worth something once it
is extracted, the same thing for nickel out of the NiMH and cobalt out of
the cobalt lithium ion. The Saphion battery is made with dirt and rust,
neither of which are traded on the stock market as of yet. Wait till there
are 300,000,000 vehicles running around with Saphion batteries, though, and
then well talk.
The other reason to use the Saphion battery instead of a cobalt battery is
thermal runaway. Kohler explains that cobalt will heat up and catch on
fire, not something you want to have happen when youre driving down the
highway. Valences batteries are already being used in North Carolina in
some of the hybrid,fuel-cell, plug-in electric ATVs supplied by clean-tech.
Dean Bogues of Valence says that Valence is having "dialog with OEMs
worldwide. We are talking with manufacturers that want to use our batteries
in 3-5 years and we are taking advantage of more immediate opportunities,
such as European utility vehicles that are government owned and want to
replace them with hybrid-electric vehicles.
Valence has two manufacturing plants in Suzhou, China, the one country that
isnt beholden to the internal combustion engine. According to Bogus they
have also hired a sales team in China and have a systems engineering group
in Shanghai, China. Valence is a publicly held company in the United States
(NASDAQ:VLNC) and a wholly owned subsidiary in China (not a joint venture
with a Chinese group like all the automobile manufacturers).
The grass roots folks that have embraced each technology as soon as they
come out are to be applauded. Because of these consumers willing to pay
extra for their beliefs the auto industry has been able to make strides
toward better fuel economy, and hopefully someday, independence from
foreign oil. The Nickel Metal hydride hybrids will eventually be eclipsed
by another technology. The auto industry is already looking at ways to keep
these vehicles around. They dont need another group of grass roots folks
with signs pleading for the life of their Nickel Metal Hydride hybrid vehicle.
Toyota RAV4E from don't crush
The EVs in metal heaven don't crush
Valence automotive lithium battery
a plug-in Prius made possible by a lithium ion battery
Electric vehicles have been around for many years and all of these vehicles
are still able to go through the HOV carpool lanes for free in California;
# 2005 Phoenix LIO
# 2003 Phoenix 1
# 2002 Club Car Pathway
# 2002 Zone Electric Renegade
# 2002 NEVCO Gizmo
# 2002 Lafayette - Series II, IV
# 2002 NEV Commuter
# 2001-03 Western Golf Car
# 2001 Dynasty Motorcar IT
# 2000-01 Nissan Hypermini
# 2000-01 Ford Th!nk City
# 2000 Corbin Motors Sparrow
# 1999-03 GEM
# 1998-00 Bombardier - Sport-e,
# 1998-03 Toyota RAV4 EV
# 1998 Hyundai Accent EV
# 1998-02 Nissan Altra EV
# 1997-99 GM S10 Pickup
# 1997-99 Plymouth Voyager Epic
# 1997-99 GM EV1
# 1997-99 Honda EV Plus
# 1996-98 and 2001 Ford Ranger Pickup
# 1995 Renaissance Cars Tropica
# 1994 Solar Electric Electron Voyager
# 1994 Solar Electric Electron Metro
# 1994 Solar Electric Electron Ranger
# 1994 Solar Electric Electron Prism
# 1994 GM Impact
# 1993-94, 97 and 99 Dodge Caravan
# 1993 Green Motorworks Kewet El-Jetv
# 1993 Ford Ecostar
# 1991-2001 Solectria Force and Citivan
# 1993-98 Cushman Electric ZEV
# 1993-94 Solar Electric Electron Paseo
# 1993-94 Solar Electric Electron Consular
# 1993-94 Citycom City-El
# 1992-94 Solar Electric Electron Escort
# 1992-94 Solar Electric Electron S10 Pickup
# 1992-94 Solar Electric Electron Saturn
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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