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Roundup: BMW Hydrogen to Electric; Tesla PHEV GM & Incentives; BYD Production; Honda's Doubts

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  • Felix Kramer
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 4, 2008
      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
      doesn’t 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.

      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
      http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/526.html ).
      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. Honda’s 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
      http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/900.html )
      now says it will sell them in China late this year.

      2-prong approach
      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.

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
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