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More on SAE Conference from Motor Trend & CalCars

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  • Felix Kramer
    A few days ago, at PHEVs Analyzed/Debated at Society of Auto Engineers Event http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/916.html we posted Jack Rosebro s report,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 27, 2008
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      A few days ago, at "PHEVs Analyzed/Debated at Society of Auto
      Engineers Event" http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/916.html we
      posted Jack Rosebro's report, "To PHEV or Not To PHEV (At Least in
      the Near-Term)." Here are two followups:

      * another report on the event, in Motor Trend Magazine,
      * a response by CalCars' Tech Lead Ron Gremban.

      Motor Trend Editorial
      To Make The Volt Affordable, GM Needs Toyota
      Sharing battery technology is the key

      By Kim Reynolds

      When it comes to cars we'll be driving in the future, this much was
      clear at the 2008 Society of Automotive Engineers' Hybrid Symposia in
      San Diego last week: The future is far from clear.

      There were some pretty sharp papers being delivered by such stars as
      Ford, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, GM and Chrysler at the event. But by far
      the most thought-provoking presentation was given by Dr. Menahem
      Anderman of Advanced Automotive Batteries. His paper, 'PHEV - A Step
      Forward or a Detour?' took a cold-eyed view of the debate over
      plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) based upon his interviews
      with over 40 companies, including all the major car manufacturers and
      battery makers.

      Dr. Anderman's analysis shows that, for one thing, when we talk about
      hybrids, we're still effectively talking about one company - Toyota.
      With an 83% hybrid market share in 2007, Toyota is the 900-pound
      gorilla in the business of mass manufacturing and selling
      nickel-metal hydride batteries for automobiles. Moreover, the
      transition to lithium-ion batteries (as needed by GM for the Volt)
      will be based less on particular chemistries and technical details
      than their suitability for being mass manufactured in a reliable,
      economic fashion.

      At present, and in the near future, Dr. Anderman doubts PHEVs will be
      very significant players, as the price of the battery packs - $4000
      in the case of a PHEV-10 (one which can travel 10 miles on its
      battery alone) or $10,000 for a PHEV- 40 (the Volt, for instance) -
      is too high for them to be economically replaced during the vehicle's
      service life. At present, Dr. Anderman contends that the longevity of
      lithium-ion is just too sketchy.

      The best way to restrain CO2 emissions, by Anderman's thinking, is to
      as quickly as possible promote present hybrid technology (like
      Toyota's) throughout the entire vehicle fleet, as it offers a bigger
      efficiency jump over conventional gasoline cars than PHEVs do above
      hybrids - and they're a ready-to-go technology. Then, as lithium ion
      battery life is verified, the PHEV battery price problem can be
      meaningfully hacked by riding on the back of the HEV big boys
      (basically, Toyota) as they transition to the new chemistry. In other
      words, Anderman says a vehicle like the Volt will be too expensive to
      sell in meaningful numbers until Toyota is ready to move from
      nickel-metal hydride to lithium-ion batteries and helps pull down the
      price of the battery technology.

      As for hydrogen fuel cell technology - forget it; the money would be
      much better spent on PHEV development. Despite his frosty assessment
      of the PHEV situation, Anderman nevertheless sprinkled in a few
      intriguing tidbits regarding near-term lithium ion use - for
      instance, the technology's employment in an upcoming Mercedes-Benz
      S-Class hybrid and an unnamed Toyota/Lexus model. Hmmm.

      From GM came a presentation from Peter Savagian, Engineering
      Director of Hybrid Powertrain Engineering. Title? 'Driving the Volt'.
      Unfortunately, it really wasn't about driving the Volt, but a recap
      of the rigorous analysis that's led them to the Volt's radical
      powertrain architecture. Consider Mr. Savagian's facts: by 2020 there
      will be more than 180,000,000 additional cars on the world's roads.
      And by 2030, we're going to need 70% more energy than we are so
      hard-pressed to crank-out now.

      GM's energy answer is to diversify our transportation energy sources
      beyond our current 96% dependence on oil. And GM's Hail-Mary
      vehicular answer is the Volt's E-Flex platform which, they go to
      great pains to explain, is an 'extended-range electric vehicle', not
      a 'plug-in hybrid'. Whatever, you say? Well, there's actually a big
      difference between the two. Operationally, a PHEV can be rigged to
      function in two ways - either in blended mode where it's frequently
      sipping from its battery, or in initial EV mode, where its battery is
      relied on for a modest number of miles before the engine gets
      involved and the sipping scenario starts. EREVs employ really big
      batteries and moreover, stretch their battery-only reliance out to
      the maximum of miles before a motor-generator intercedes full-bore.
      With EREVs, most drivers would rarely see a gas station. PHEV drivers
      would visit them occasionally.

      Gary Oshnock, of Chrysler LLC's Environmental and Energy Planning
      offered some interesting regulatory as well as technical insights. He
      began with a run-through of 2007's dizzying string of legislative
      events: in January was the President's '20 in 10' challenge to reduce
      gasoline consumption by 20% in 10 years. In April, the Supreme Court
      ruled that CO2 is a pollutant. In May came a Presidential executive
      order to "ensure effective coordination between agencies regulating
      vehicle greenhouse gases". And, of course, on December 19th came the
      Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 - the now famous Energy
      Bill, which requires by 2020 an industry average of 35 mpg, and after
      that, the maximum feasible mpg through 2030. On the same day (just a
      coincidence, mind you) the EPA denied California its waiver needed to
      implement AB1493 which would have mandated a much stiffer 43.5 mpg
      average for cars and light trucks by 2016. What a year.

      He also offered a few interesting observations on fuel efficiency.
      For instance, on a ton-mpg basis, fuel efficiency has actually been
      climbing by a steady 1.2 % per year for the last 22 years. Trouble
      is, our liking for added creature comforts, structural stiffness, and
      crash-safety features - all of which add weight - has pretty much
      nixed any actual fuel efficiency gains. What does 35 mpg by 2020
      translate into on a year-by-year basis? 3.5% per year. In other
      words, the new CAF standards are going to require three times the
      recent historical annual rate of efficiency improvement - and
      notably, that's after you factor-in any concomitant weight gain, not
      before. We may be using sun-dials to measure zero-to-sixties before
      this is done.

      Sherif Marakby, Ford Sustainable Mobility Technology Chief Engineer,
      spoke about the upcoming Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids.
      Basically, these two are slated to get the 2009 Escape and
      Mountaineer's upgraded hybrid powertrain which is distinguished by
      greater displacement (2.3 liters to 2.5), quieter operation, smoother
      transition from electric to mixed mode, greater electric-only
      operation during city driving, twice the frequency of engine
      stop/starts, fuel shut off during deceleration, and better
      regenerative braking feel. All told, the Fusion and Milan Hybrids
      will offer over 60% better city mileage than a comparable,
      conventional-tech, four-cylinder engine.

      Tom Turrentine of UC Davis's PHEV Research Center argued that car
      buyers don't really calculate the payback periods of advanced
      technology offered by their improved fuel economy; lots and lots of
      other reasons come first. And maybe he's right. The initial buyers of
      hybrids were by in large 'greens'; they were followed by tech geeks,
      then folks concerned about oil security, and now good old fashioned
      cheapskates who just hate to waste money at the gas pump. Heaven
      knows there's a lot of those. It was also stressed that clear and
      instructive info displays which readily portray the vehicle's energy
      use have been very important to the Prius's good results, and might
      be even more significant for PHEV owners.

      Dr. Mark Duvall of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) noted
      that construction of coal-fired power plants is currently at a
      standstill in the United States for fear of significant carbon
      penalties and restrictions looming in the near future. Nonetheless,
      he dismissed the sometimes-mentioned fear that a nation of PHEV
      driver's would swamp the grid's capabilities. At most, the increased
      demand would be something like 12%, and of course, the vast majority
      of the charging would take place at night, when the utilities are
      begging for customers. An interesting sidebar to this had to do with
      what the industry calls the 'Smart Grid'. Basically, there's a battle
      going on over the design and the operational protocol of future EV
      and PHEV plugs. What the utility industry would dearly like is a
      means by which, when you plug-in, information about your daily use is
      first transmitted to the utility (say, the car needs to be ready to
      go at 6:30 AM), and then your specific charging period would be
      intelligently scheduled during the night instead of everybody trying
      to simultaneously plug in at 12:01 AM.

      Other Hybrid Symposia highlights included a nice review of Nissan's
      progress, by Toshio Hirota, wherein the Altima Hybrid received due
      attention. Honda offered two talks, one on the mathematical modeling
      of electric motor controls which next to no one understood, the other
      on a peculiar prototype which captures the heat normally lost through
      the exhaust system to drive a small Rankine-cycle steam engine
      instead. I guess this qualifies as a hybrid. And of personal interest
      is the progress of an updated SAE standard for testing PHEVs - J1711
      for those of you keeping score at home. Dr. Anderman's reservations
      not withstanding, we're going to want to have our ducks in a row when
      GM finally delivers on the Volt.

      Posted by: Ron Gremban, CalCars' Tech Lead | Feb 25, 2008 9:19:05 PM

      This splash of cold water by Dr. Anderman appears to be the main
      media take-out from the recent SAE Hybrid Symposium, which included
      many other discussions and information, so I'll address it here:

      1. Dr. Anderman accurately claimed that our standard U.S. measure of
      mpg overstates the value of additional fuel savings to
      already-thrifty vehicles. For example, the savings from an 80mpg
      vehicle over that of a 40mpg vehicle (40mpg difference and 1/80
      gallon per mile savings) is less than that of a 40mpg vehicle over
      that of a 20mpg one (20mpg difference but 1/40 gallon per mile
      savings). He then went on to use this point and various mpg figures
      to indicate that there is a bigger difference between ICE and hybrid
      fuel usage than between that of hybrids and PHEVs, and that
      hybridization therefore has a higher incremental value than plug-in technology.

      2. Dr. Anderman then pointed out that, due to their newness, there is
      some uncertainty in the longevity of Li-ion batteries in automotive
      applications. However, he immediately took that to the overblown
      conclusion that the auto manufacturers would need to include the cost
      of a warranty battery replacement -- at today's, not lower future,
      prices -- in their cost calculations for production PHEVs.

      3. As a result of these two assertions, Dr. Anderman placed PHEVs on
      a graph where their incremental value is smaller than that of hybrids
      but their incremental costs are much higher. From that, he asserted
      that promoting further penetration of hybrids into new vehicle fleets
      would do more to eventually bring about PHEVs than promoting the
      production of of PHEVs themselves at this time.

      Let's look at Dr. Anderman's assertions:

      1. "Hybridization has a higher incremental value than PHEV
      technology." Using fuel consumption rather than mpg figures to avoid
      Dr. Anderman's overstatement issue, strong hybrids have generally
      been able to reduce fuel consumption by 15-40%. Solid figures are
      hard to obtain because performance also varies between hybrid and
      non-hybrid versions of vehicles that have both. Let's use 30% as a
      rule of thumb. PHEVs don't improve fuel economy so much as they
      displace liquid fuels, by 30-90% in normal daily driving. Of course
      this 30-90% is of the remaining 70% of ICE consumption still
      occurring after hybridization, so it amounts to 21-63% of the
      original consumption, potentially a significantly larger cut than for
      mere hybridization.

      Of course, CO2 emissions are not cut by as much, as electricity is
      now consumed, too -- giving Dr. Anderman the chance to say the result
      is less significant. But the switch to electricity gives us a chance
      for future CO2 emissions decreases that continued complete reliance
      on liquid fuels cannot, as well as flexibility not provided by
      ordinary hybrids in the case that we really are seeing peak oil (see
      below). Also, two things that no one has yet figured into ICE and
      hybrid CO2 emissions figures are that real-world all-weather mileage
      is significantly lower than EPA estimates (2008 sticker figures are
      now better compensated for this, but the automaker CAFE requrements
      are NOT!), and well-to-tank emissions are set to spike with increased
      use (already begun) of both harder-to-pump deep, low-grade oil and
      far more carbon-intensive substitutes from tar sand and even coal.

      Of course, Dr. Anderman might say that the answer is then a
      combination of hybrids and biofuels. I would agree that at little
      more than $100/vehicle added cost, there is no excuse for all
      vehicles manufactured today NOT being flex-fuel -- capable of running
      on biofuels as well as gasoline or Diesel. However, two major studies
      (one California state and one national) have concluded that the
      biomass available without cutting into world food production or
      cutting down forests, even with expected advances in cellulosic
      technology, is capable of supplying no more than 1/3 of our current
      transportation energy, without even allowing for growth of the
      transportation sector. Therefore, I would submit that the value of
      the leap from hybrid to PHEV is significantly LARGER, not smaller,
      than that from ICE to hybrid.

      2. "Auto manufacturers would need to include the cost of a warranty
      battery replacement, at today's prices, in their cost calculations
      for PHEVs." In spite of their newness, GM has stated that there are
      Li-ion cells that meet their criteria, which means that must have
      passed laboratory lifetime tests indicating an expected lifetime
      matching or exceeding the expected life of a PHEV. Additionally, NiMH
      batteries, now used in all hybrids, have a strong track record in EVs
      and are fully capable of powering PHEVs with up to 20 miles EV range,
      if not more. For now, battery prices are high -- e.g. $250 per mile
      of EV range -- but Li-ion materials costs are low (and estimates of
      world lithium reserves are enough for 2.5 billion PHEVs), so there is
      plenty of room for eventual cost reductions of a factor of four with
      automotive-scale mass production. Even if auto manufacturers did have
      to replace some -- even all -- of the batteries in the first year or
      two of PHEV production, the cost of the replacement packs would no
      doubt be dramatically lower by the time the replacements were
      actually needed, and many risk-sharing options and incentives have
      been proposed to displace much of the early risks from the automakers.

      On the other side of the cost equation,

      3. "The incremental value of PHEVs is smaller than that of hybrids
      but their incremental costs are much higher." To hybridize a
      vehicle's powertrain requires a large amount of change, mechanical as
      well as electrical and electronic. Large tooling is needed to produce
      new mechanical powertrain components like motor/generators,
      power-split transmissions, etc. And achieving 25-40% fuel economy
      improvements also requires major redesign and re-tuning of the ICE
      itself (check out what Toyota has done to improve the Prius'
      Atkinson-Miller engine's efficiency over that of an ordinary
      Otto-cycle ICE). Once the hybrid's electric propulsion system is
      already in place, the changes required to turn it into a PHEV are
      very minor, as proven by all the aftermarket hybrid conversions that
      have proliferated since we at CalCars first converted my Prius into a
      PHEV. The only big additional expense is that of the larger battery.

      The other side of the cost equation is fuel savings. Electricity
      costs the equivalent of $1.00 per gallon of gasoline or less. All
      return-on-investment (ROI) calculations have been done with today's
      $3.00, or yesterday's much cheaper, gasoline. Recent gasoline pricing
      predictions have been consistently low, world production is now near
      world capacity, new oil discovery has for years been 1/4 the rate of
      extraction, and China and India's auto ownership is growing
      exponentially. The probability is that the cost equation is going to
      continue changing rapidly and consistently in PHEVs' favor.

      Dr. Anderman also relies on two more unstated assumptions:

      * "Advances in battery production and pricing cannot be hurried-up."
      The availability of cells that can do the PHEV job -- which GM has
      announced are available -- means that the biggest issues are further
      testing, integration into packs, and high volume production. Although
      there are limitations to how fast these things can proceed, rapid
      ramp-up of high volume, low cost production is amazingly amenable to
      infusions of large investment. With the right incentives, it could
      happen far faster than the multi-decade process that Dr. Anderman predicts.

      * "The changeover from ICE to hybrid, then PHEV powertrains will
      happen in a business-as-usual way, as it has up to now." IPCC
      scientists are indicating that we need to cut worldwide CO2 emissions
      by 50% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 to avoid the worst consequences of
      climate change and/or a tipping point that cannot be reversed; it is
      possible that we have already hit peak oil; and China and India's
      economies are expanding exponentially. At some point soon, when we
      see a quantum leap environmental and economic urgency, not only will
      new vehicles quickly need to use dramatically less fossil fuel,
      especially since they will be burning fuel for at least a decade
      after manufacture, but we will need to rapidly begin doing something
      about the 820 million vehicles already on the world's roads.

      Since PHEVs do have significant added value beyond that of ordinary
      hybrids, and because the main extra cost is only for a larger
      battery, immediate promotion and incentivization of of PHEVs does
      make sense, as it will further speed up the mass production of PHEV
      batteries, which require different tuning, testing, and field
      experience from those for non-plug-in hybrids!

      [Second posting]:
      After all that I forgot to mention that immediate promotion and
      incentivization of PHEVs is also needed to begin the education of the
      public to the myriad social and personal values of automotive
      electrification. Most of us don't fully "get it" until we have
      actually experienced driving a PHEV. I myself was surprised and
      excited by my first experience, and I have been a builder of and
      advocate for electric vehicles since 1968!

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