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405Action: SF Gate: Fuel cell future bright, hopes electric vehicles dim

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  • Mike Thompson
    Jan 8, 2002
      Anyone feel like letting this guy know about EV availability and whether
      consumers like them?
      (Thanks to EV1 club / Margaret Cheng for passing this on!

      Bcc: All ev lists

      This article states no one wants EVs..... Fuel Cells instead, in 2010 or

      Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer
      SF Chronicle main phone line
      415-777-1111 9 (by name) 42763 (garof)

      I've already started talking with him. But I'm sure ohters have opinions
      also! The more people he hears from, the more he'll realize that EVs ARE
      IN DEMAND! And they work. Today. (As opposed to maybe in the next decade
      for fuel cells.)

      As for current EV availability there's the Toyota RAV4-EV
      and the Th!nk among others.

      Ford Th!nk Press Release:
      (They don't have a direct URL :-( )

      Ford Delivers Urban Solution with All-New TH!NK city Electric Car

      LOS ANGELES, Jan. 4, 2002 Ford Motor Company today introduced the companys
      first purpose-built electric car the all-new 2002 TH!NK city for sale to
      consumers at Ford dealers this fall.

      Unveiled today at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show, the TH!NK city is
      designed to tackle driving in both city traffic and on the highway. A full
      battery charge provides more than 50 miles of travel range, with speeds up
      to 62 mph.

      "TH!NK city is an affordable, fun-to-drive alternative transportation
      choice when a full function car isnt needed, said Jim OConnor, Ford
      Division president. Many urban areas are facing challenges, including air
      pollution and congestion. TH!NK city is one step Ford is taking to help
      provide a solution."

      The TH!NK city was first introduced in Europe in 2000. The all-new version
      includes interior and exterior styling tailored to U.S. customers, as well
      as such features as power steering, power windows and power locks, dual
      cup holders; air conditioning; driver and passenger-side front air bags,
      and a 5 mile per hour bumper.

      The city meets all U.S. federal government safety regulations. The city
      will come in a choice of five exterior colors and boasts a clean design.
      The body panels are molded from a combination of pressure-formed,
      co-extruded ABS and PMMA plastics.

      The city is a front-wheel drive car with an AC electric powertrain and
      single- speed gear reduction drive. Its designed with a high-strength
      steel chassis and an aluminum upper space frame, along with a plastic body
      panel setup, much like a modern racecar.

      A range of charging options will be available, including 110 or 220-volt
      plug-in options as standard equipment. A 220-volt option provides for a
      full charge in six to eight hours.

      "A unique pilot program allowed us to put the several hundred European
      model TH!NK city cars in the hands of our target customers in urban areas,
      says Rob Stevens, president of TH!NK Mobility. After they had driven it
      for a period of time, we got input on what they liked, what theyd improve
      and what they wanted in future versions. The feedback we received went
      into the design of the new city thats headed for the U.S. this fall."

      Customer feedback led to the inclusion of air conditioning, power
      steering, power windows and locks, and improved cup holders. U.S. buyers
      will be able to choose an instantly available pre-heat/pre-cool feature
      that either warms or cools the interior of the car at the touch of the key

      TH!NK city is the flagship vehicle of Ford Motor Companys full line of
      environmentally responsible, zero-emission vehicles. TH!NK Mobility also
      offers the TH!NK neighbor, a two- or four-seat electric vehicle designed
      for travel on speed-limited residential roads.

      On Mon, 7 Jan 2002, Darell Dickey wrote:

      > Thanks for the post Margaret.
      > "Automakers have virtually stopped making the electrics for the mass market
      > because they were too expensive to build, didn't have much range and
      > consumers weren't buying them."
      > I'm still trying to figure out how they know we weren't buying them? I
      > don't recall being offered the chance. And it'll take a bit to convince me
      > that a hydrogen-fueled electric car will be a lot cheaper to build. Grr....
      > it's these comments that the public remembers.

      > -----Original Message-----
      > [mailto:owner-ev1-club@...]On Behalf Of Margaret Cheng
      > Sent: Monday, January 07, 2002 3:35 PM
      > To: Club EV1
      > Subject: [EV1-CLUB] SF Gate: Running on vapor/Fuel cell future shines
      > bright as hopes for battery-powered electric car dim
      > http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2002/01/07/MN62748.DTL
      > ----------------------------------------------------------------------
      > Monday, January 7, 2002 (SF Chronicle)
      > Running on vapor/Fuel cell future shines bright as hopes for
      > battery-powered electric car dim
      > Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer
      > They're hyped as a long-term savior of the Earth's atmosphere, a
      > technological godsend that will create pollution-free cars and liberate
      > Americans from importing petroleum from unstable countries.
      > Way down the road, some predict, this energy source could become so
      > compact that a family could powe! r its home by hooking it up to a car
      > sitting in the driveway.
      > Yet for now, the commercialization of fuel cell engines remains a
      > hydrogen- filled dream, possible only with major government subsidies to
      > pay for an expensive new energy infrastructure. Some wonder if fuel cell
      > technology -- which mixes hydrogen and oxygen to generate pollution-free
      > electricity -- can ever be mass-produced in a vehicle.
      > Still, its potential is so enchanting that it has inspired automakers,
      > oil
      > companies and the federal government to invest billions into an engine
      > that is 50 percent more efficient than the gasoline-powered internal
      > combustion model it is hoping to replace.
      > In California, these sometimes competing players have agreed to share
      > their research in a West Sacramento demonstration project. The
      > 2-year-old
      > California Fuel Cell Partnership unites 29 energy providers, automakers
      > and government agencies in a collaborative quest for the magic fuel
      > cellbullet.
      > Although dozens of fuel cell vehicles are being road-tested, California
      > requires that 10 percent of all model-year 2003 passenger vehicles
      > qualify
      > as zero-emission or nearly nonpolluting. Two percent of those
      > vehicles --
      > or roughly 40,000 cars -- must be fuel cell, battery-powered electric or
      > other zero-emission rides.
      > "There's not going to be 40,000 fuel cell cars out there next year
      > because
      > they're too expensive to build now," said Joe Irvin, spokesman for the
      > California Fuel Cell Partnership. "The automakers will find other ways
      > to
      > meet those goals."
      > In fact, automakers don't expect a decent selection of fuel cell-powered
      > vehicles in showrooms for at least 10 years. By the end of 2003, experts
      > expect owners of large fleets -- such as delivery firms and utilities --
      > to begin using fuel cell vehicles.
      > "I think (mass market commercialization) will happen no sooner than
      > 2010,"
      > said Toyota managin! g director Hiroyuki Watanabe.
      > Privately, others worry that all the rosy futurism about fuel cells
      > sounds
      > eerily familiar. Many of the same predictions were made about
      > battery-powered electric vehicles -- and not many of those rolled into
      > driveways.
      > But fuel cell cars don't need to be recharged, a chore that helped to
      > sink
      > the battery-powered electrics. Fuel cell cars would be refueled with
      > either a liquid or gaseous form of hydrogen instead.
      > Automakers have virtually stopped making the electrics for the mass
      > market
      > because they were too expensive to build, didn't have much range and
      > consumers weren't buying them. In their place, hybrid cars -- which
      > combine a gasoline engine and an electric motor -- have emerged as a
      > low-emission alternative until fuel cell technology is ready for the
      > mass
      > market.
      > Yet the comparison nagged experts at a recent Electric Vehicle
      > Association
      > of the Americas conference in Sac! ramento: What makes the hype
      > surrounding
      > fuel cells any different from the predictions about electric cars?
      > "It may not be that different," said John Wallace, executive director of
      > Ford Motor Co.'s electric-powered Th!NK cars and a fuel cell proponent.
      > "It's not a done deal yet. There is nothing inevitable about fuel
      > cells."
      > Wallace wasn't being pessimistic, merely realistic.
      > Experts are still trying to get a consensus on how to fuel the vehicles.
      > Although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe,
      > scientists
      > are trying to determine the best -- and safest -- way to capture and
      > store
      > it.
      > One option is to pump a gaseous form of the element directly into the
      > vehicle from a pumping station. This would allow the vehicle to be truly
      > emission-free, because, other than water, there would be no waste
      > products
      > created while hydrogen is converted into electricity on board.
      > The next problem is how to supply hydrogen. At this point, res! earchers
      > haven't figured out how to transform the gasoline pumps at the corner
      > Chevron into hydrogen refueling stations.
      > Hydrogen refueling stations would cost about $470,000 each for the 500
      > needed to satisfy the first phase of commercialization in California,
      > according to a recent study for the independent California Fuel Cell
      > Partnership.
      > Some experts say a better option is to create hydrogen on board by
      > extracting it from either methanol, ethanol or a sulfur-free gasoline
      > known as clean hydrocarbon fuel.
      > The upside to this technology is that it would cost about $70,000 to
      > modify a medium-size gas station into one that could deliver these
      > fuels,
      > according to the Fuel Cell Partnership's consultant. On their own,
      > automakers are testing vehicles that use methanol, petroleum, ethanol
      > and
      > other mixtures to produce hydrogen.
      > The downside is that this type of fuel would require cars to have an
      > onboard ref! ormer to transform the fuel into hydrogen -- which may add
      > a
      > $5,000 premium to each car, although that cost will decrease as the
      > technology improves.
      > "If fuel cells are going to happen, then a lot of critical decisions
      > must
      > be made in California over the next few years if these cars are going to
      > come to the showrooms by 2010," said Roland Hwang, a senior policy
      > analyst
      > with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
      > In October, the partnership decided to use hydrogen created from natural
      > gas as the first fuel source to be tested in its demonstration vehicles.
      > The partnership plans to erect four hydrogen refueling stations around
      > the
      > state by the end of 2003. Honda has already built a solar-powered
      > hydrogen
      > filling station on its Torrance (Los Angeles County) campus.
      > Slowly but surely, progress is being made. The groundbreaking
      > collaborative effort at the Fuel Cell Partnership -- its roster includes
      > oil companies suc! h as British Petroleum and Air Resources Board
      > officials
      > -- plans to demonstrate and test 70 fuel cell vehicles by 2003.
      > Yet automakers say they need government subsidies and tax incentives to
      > help commercialize fuel cell engines.
      > "If society benefits from a technology, then society has to be ready to
      > help support it," said Ford's Wallace. "The public sector needs to
      > support
      > research that is too financially risky for private industry to develop
      > on
      > their own."
      > Tom Gross, a deputy assistant secretary with the U.S. Energy Department,
      > acknowledges the need. Gross hopes next year's budget will contain a
      > substantial increase over the $40 million that his department spent on
      > fuel cell research this year. Gross said the terrorist attacks of Sept.
      > 11
      > made the search for alternative fuels more intense.
      > Not everybody is going full throttle in the drive toward
      > commercialization. In February, General Motors sued the Californ! ia Air
      > Resources Board over rules that require automakers to produce
      > pollution-free cars by 2003. The automaker said it couldn't meet the
      > requirement without producing dangerously small battery-powered cars.
      > Moves like that cause some industry observers to wonder if fuel cells
      > are
      > driving down the same dead-end road as battery-powered electric cars
      > did.
      > "No, this is different from electric cars," said Kateri Callahan. As
      > executive director of the Electric Vehicle Association of the Americas,
      > she witnessed the rise and plateau of interest in electric vehicles.
      > "This time, there is a lot more excitement from the automakers on a
      > corporate level with fuel cells," Callahan said. "Plus, this time the
      > oil
      > companies are involved. Before, they didn't want anything to do with
      > electric cars."
      > Fuel cells create electricity through an electrochemical process that
      > combines hydrogen and oxygen. Veh! icles running on fuel cells would
      > need to
      > be supplied with gaseous hydrogen extracted from a hydrocarbon fuel.
      > This
      > fuel could be natural gas, methanol or even gasoline, depending on the
      > various systems under development. .
      > -- How fuel cells work
      > 1. Hydrogen fuel is fed into the anode of the fuel cell. Helped by a
      > catalyst, hydrogen atoms are split into electrons and protons. 2.
      > Electrons are channeled through a circuit to produce electricity.
      > 3. Protons pass through the polymer electrolyte membrane.
      > 4. Oxygen (from the air) enters the cathode and combines with the
      > electrons and protons to form water.
      > 5. Water vapor and heat are released as byproducts of the reaction. .
      > -- Fuel cell stack
      > The reaction in a single fuel cell produces a very low voltage, so many
      > cells are combined into a stack to produce the desired level of
      > electrical
      > power.
      > -- Fuel cell car
      > Reformer Extracts hydrogen from fuel, delivers it to fuel cell stac! k.
      > .
      > Sources: Ballard Power Systems, Fuel Cells 2000, HowStuffWorks.com
      > E-mail Joe Garofoli at jgarofoli@....
      > ----------------------------------------------------------------------
      > Copyright 2002 SF Chronicle

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