Roundup: BMW Hydrogen to Electric; Tesla PHEV GM & Incentives; BYD Production; Honda's Doubts
- Excerpts from some of the top news stories we're
tracking: BMW is backing off hydrogen and talking
about electric cars; Tesla's second car will be
available as a PHEV; GM raises expected price of
Volt, promotes tax credits; Honda and GM face off
on PHEVs; BYD sees a PHEV on sale in China at the end of this year.
BMW RECONSIDERS HYDROGEN: though the company
continues to promote its Model 7 hydrogen
internal combustion engine, it is now finally
distancing itself from this direction. The ranks
of the hydrogen holdouts continue to dwindle as
alternatives become more compelling and
governments are no longer willing to promise
increased resources and dispensations on near-term MPG improvements.
BMW Sees Slow Hydrogen Progress, Eyes Electric Car
Posted by John O'Dell Feb 1, 2008 9:55 am
Fuel for BMW Hydrogen cars is scarce and likely
to remain so, company says. In yet another blow
to those who hope to see hydrogen become the
world's preferred automotive fuel sooner rather
than later, BMW long a hydrogen proponent now
says it doesn't see much chance of widespread
commercialization of the fuel over the next 15 to
20 years. While it will still keep experimenting
with liquid-hydrogen fueled internal combustion
engines, BMW now is working on an electric car as
well, the German automaker's clean technologies
director, Jochen Schmalholz, told Australian journalists this week.
Battery Bimmer Not Certain
As for an electric Bimmer, the company is
developing a prototype, he said, but is "not
really convinced it will work for BMW. But if it
makes commercial sense and it makes sense to our
customers, then we will do it. Even if BMW
doesnt go into production with its own model,
Schmalholz said he said agrees with GM Chairman
Rick Wagoner that electric vehicles will be a
reality within the next 5 to 10 years.
TESLA'S PHEV: We've previously reported that
Tesla's Board Chair, Elon Musk, said PHEVs were
now a possibility. Now, days after delivering its
first Tesla Roadster, Tesla's CEO sees a market
opportunity for what he, like GM, calls a
"range-extended vehicle" rather than a PHEV.
Tesla to make gas-electric car
CNET Posted by Michael Kanellos February 1, 2008
Tesla Motors, the people who put the all-electric
car on the map, are going to work with gas too.
The San Carlos, Calif.-based company will produce
two basic types of its Whitestar sedan, due
toward the end of 2009. One will run completely
on batteries. The other will be a range-extended
vehicle, or REV, CEO Ze'ev Drori said in an
interview. In an REV, a small gas motor recharges
the battery pack while the car is being driven.
The battery pack on these types of cars only goes
about 40 to 50 miles on a charge, but because it
gets recharged while driving, the range of these cars will be longer.
"It is more than research. We intend to have it
as part of the offering," Drori said. "The
Whitestar can be all-electric or it can be an REV."
The gas-electric version of Whitestar will cost a
little less than the all-electric version, Musk
added, but the difference will be fairly minimal.
Building a gas-electric isn't cheap. Automakers
have to insert generators. The battery pack also requires different cells.
Whitestar is expected to sell in the $50,000 to
$70,000 range, depending on the configuration
(some of the all-electric cars will have bigger
batteries than others and vary in price, for
instance). The car will likely compete against
luxury sedans from companies like BMW. Later,
Tesla will also come out with an economy car, Musk said.
GM REITERATES GOAL, RAISES PRICE, WANTS TAX
INCENTIVES: Two stories on General Motors' plans:
the news here is that GM is sticking to its late
2010 goal (though Green Car Advisor's John O'Dell
translates that to a 2012-model car in early
2011; that the vehicle may cost closer to $40,000
than the previous $30,000-range target, and that
the company may put its muscle behind efforts to
gain new federal incentives that will lead to
economies of scale and reduced prices for mass-produced cars.
GM plans to build 'tens of thousands' of Chevy Volt plug-ins, official says
David Shepardson / The Detroit News Thursday, January 31, 2008
WASHINGTON -- General Motors Corp. plans to build
"tens of thousands" Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid
electric cars by 2011, a senior executive said today.
"We're not doing the Volt to sell 500 or 1,000
(vehicles)," Jonathan Lauckner, GM's vice
president for global program management, said
today at forum sponsored by the Center for
American Progress here. "We're talking about tens
of thousands and more than that within the year."
Lauckner reiterated GM plans to start production
of the concept electric vehicle by the end of 2010.
The Volt will be able to meet the commuting needs
of 78 percent of drivers, who travel less than 40
miles a day, he said, adding that. GM plans to sell the car "around the world."
A version of an energy bill passed by the House
would have given consumers a $3,000 tax break to
buy a plug-in hybrid. Lauckner said federal tax
incentives would be "very helpful."
The incentives prompt consumers to adopt new
technology early on, Lauckner said. The tax
breaks, however, were dropped from the final
version of the energy bill over an objection by
the oil industry to rolling back some of their tax breaks.
GM also confirmed remarks made byVice Chairman
Bob Lutz in an interview earlier this week that
the Volt was likely to cost more than the earlier target of $30,000.
"He said, 'Maybe it's closer to 40 (thousand)
than 30," Lauckner said an interview after the
forum. "We're still fairly early in the program.
We haven't sourced the battery yet."
GM Urges Tax Incentives to Boost Plug-Interest,
Restates Intent for High-Volume Volt Production
Posted by John O'Dell Feb 1, 2008 3:02 pm
GM's global programs veep says the federal
government needs to get plugged-in, so to speak,
and realize that tax incentives are going to be
necessary to get people to buy the first
generation of advanced technology electric
vehicles cars such as the Chevrolet Volt.
Without tax rebates or write-offs, the vehicles
are simply going to be too expensive for most
people and demand will never get to the point
that economies of scale kick in and technology
costs drop, GM's John Lauckner said during an
energy forum this week at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Despite the costs, GM still intends to launch its
eagerly anticipated Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid
car with a bang "tens of thousands" of vehicles
rather than a whimper. "It's not a niche market," he said.
That's not news GM executives have said all
along that they planned a hefty roll-out for the Volt.
What's important is that the company is still
saying it and, in speeches such as Lauckner's,
publicly sticking to its guns about starting
production in 2010 albeit the end of the year
rather than the beginning, which could mean
introduction of the car as a 2012 model early in 2011.
Lauckner said battery costs for vehicles such as
the Volt, which will rely on lightweight lithium
ion batteries that are still under development,
will be very high initially but will fall as
technology improves and volume grows.
Auto and battery industry experts estimate that
it now costs about $1,500 for each 10-mile
increase in a hybrid or all-electric vehicle's range on battery power alone.
HONDA VS. GM FACE-OFF: Another story about the
event reported by the Detroit News includes a
report and video showing (hydrogen holdout) Honda
debating PHEVs with GM. Others participating
include Jim Kleisch, recently moved to Union of
Concerned Scientists (see our September 2007
analysis of his PHEV studies when he was at the
American Council on Energy Efficiency
All of the participants seem to accept the idea
that customers for for plug-in cars will base
their decisions primarily on payback. In fact,
it's clear that hybrid buyers want to pay for the
"environmental feature" (and see studies done at
UC Davis and elsewhere confirming that hybrid buyers don't sweat the math.)
The green-eyeshade skeptics see no need to take
with a grain of salt a $15K price increment for
mass-produced PHEVs over HEVs or to factor into
their calculations buyers' understanding (or
hope) that we'll soon be in an end-of-business-as-usual environment in which:
* steps to electrify cars will receive substantial incentives
* oil prices will rise well beyond current levels
* electricity will come from increasingly renewable sources.
In that context we find the comments by Honda's
John German, pre-disposed toward hydrogen, that
'efforts to force feed [plug-ins] in the
short-term are diverting resources from finding
a long-term strategy on reducing global warming
emissions' are breathtakingly short-sighted.
Plug-In Hybrids: The Future of Cars
Center for Ameircan Progress February 1, 2008. Report and video at:
America today faces the challenges of global
warming, rising emissions, and dependence on oil.
To meet these challenges, the automobile
industry can no longer exclusively rely on oil as
fuel for our vehicles, said Jonathan J.
Lauckner, a Vice President at General Motors, at
a Center for American Progress event yesterday.
Plug-in hybrids may be just the answer we need.
Lauckner joined John German, Manager of
Environmental and Energy Analyses at American
Honda Motor Company; Jim Kliesch, Senior Engineer
at the Union of Concerned Scientists; and Jack
Deppe, Energy Storage Consultant of the Office of
Vehicle Technologies at a panel moderated by
Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow and Director of
Climate Strategy at CAP in discussing the future
of plug-in hybrid and other electric cars.
Commercialization of plug-ins depends on these
batteries, noted Kleisch. There are still
questions about battery technology. Deppe argued
that there are no batteries now that are
inherently safe, and durability over the life of
the vehicle has not been proven. In addition,
plug-in recharging relies on convenient access to
electrical outlets. Consumers who lack access to
outlets in urban parking garages or street
parking in front of their homes would find it
difficult to recharge plug-in hybrids.
Although Lauckner argued that plug-in hybrids
could last long enough to meet design guidelines
of 10 years and 150,000 miles, no battery yet
has shown that level of durability and
reliability. Furthermore, the $1000 per kilowatt
hour cost of lithium batteries would be a
significant burden to the consumer, requiring
government incentives or tax rebates for
consumers who purchase plug-in hybrids to speed
their adoption. Hondas German argued that
efforts to force feed [plug-ins] in the
short-term are diverting resources from finding
a long-term strategy on reducing global warming emissions.
Despite these concerns, plug-in hybrids offer
part of the solution to the need to reduce oil
use and global warming emissions. The panelists
agreed that easing the financial burden on both
consumers and manufacturers would require
government help, either by funding research and
development and process technology, or by
offering consumer tax rebates. Other issues, such
as safety and durability of batteries, will need
to be solved with future innovation and development.
In the long run, plug-in hybrids are just one
weapon in a larger arsenal of tactics to fight
global warming and oil dependence. The United
States must embrace the coming energy opportunity
and lead the world in implementing a
comprehensive strategy to reduce global-warming emissions
2-PRONG APPROACH: The Chicago Tribune comes up
with this new play on words for its article on
the wave of interest in PHEVs. The story includes
GM, AFS Trinity and Karma; the news is a
timetable from Chinese manufacturer BYD, which
had previously said it would have 60-mile range
PHEVs at the Shanghai Olympics and hoped to sell
them in the US around 2010 (see
now says it will sell them in China late this year.
2008 shaping up to be the year of the plug-in at auto shows
By Rick Popely | TRIBUNE REPORTER February 3, 2008
Seldom talked about two years ago, plug-in
hybrids are popping up all over the auto-show circuit.
Even the Chinese, who are poised to enter the
U.S. auto market, are getting into the act. BYD
Auto Co., which hopes to sell cars here in three
to five years, used the Detroit Auto Show to
display a prototype sedan it says can run 60
miles on batteries developed in-house and another
190 miles on a gas/electric system.
BYD said the F6 DM (dual mode) sedan will go on
sale in China in the fourth quarter for $20,000
to $30,000. The batteries fully recharge in nine
hours on household current and can get a 50
percent recharge in 10 minutes with a BYD high-voltage charger.
BYD Auto, a subsidiary of one of the world's
largest manufacturers of rechargeable batteries
for cell phones and other portable devices, began
building cars in 2003. The F6 DM uses ferrous
batteries, with no lithium content, that BYD says
are high-energy density and low cost. BYD also
developed the motors and software for the system.
The company, which sold 100,000 cars last year,
says the dual-mode system costs about $6,000.
And then there's the Fisker Karma, a plug-in
luxury sedan projected to go on sale at the end
of 2009 with a 50-mile range on lithium-ion
batteries. Then a 4-cylinder gas engine takes
over. Fisker says the base price will be $80,000.
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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