Sep 24, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Today's developments are an ideal follow-on to yesterday's news about Congressional tax credits:
- Chrysler plans new plug-in cars including an SUV and a minivan, with a 2010 production goal for one.
- Full-page PHEV ad in The NY Times and Washington Post
- V2Green acquired by Gridpoint
CHRYSLER may challenge GM to be first with a mass-produced plug-in car. At its HQ in Auburn Hills, it showed three breakthrough "production-intent" (as opposed to "concept") vehicles. The first two -- a Town & Country minivan and a Jeeep Wranger SUV, are both planned as series hybrids with a 40-mile electric range similar to the Chevy Volt. The third is an all-electric Dodge EV sportscar based on the Lotus Europa platform, with a 150-200-mile range -- an OEM Tesla Roadster competitor. Tantalizingly, the company said it plan to sell one in the US by the end of 2010, with small development fleets in 2009. See a short video on the intro of the cars at http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232?video=864784364&play=1 . For more on the vehicles, including specs, see the company's new website http://www.chryslergoeselectric.com/ and the report and dozens of comments at http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/09/chrysler-llc-pr.html
Chrysler Chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli said, "We have a social responsibility to our consumers to deliver environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient, advanced electric vehicles, and our intention is to meet that responsibility quickly and more broadly than any other automobile manufacturer. The introduction of the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge electric vehicles provides a glimpse of the very near future, and demonstrates that we are serious and well along in the development of bringing electric vehicles to market."
Chrysler's ENVI division (environment, not envy) aims to catch up with GM by using existing platforms rather than design new vehicles from the ground up, and by outsourcing many components. built largely on existing models in order to speed them to market, Klegon said. (This approach is similar to GM with the Saturn Vue, planned for 2010-2011, and Ford with the Escape, with no announced production plans.) The company apparently has no firm contracts yet for many aspects of these vehicles, but confirmed that A123Systems is one of its possible battery suppliers. Journalists say the company wants the "REV" acronym (Range Extended Electric Vehicle) to become broadly accepted, like SUV.
NEWS STORIES on the announcement pair the announcement with the company's business prospects: see for instance, "Chrysler's Jolt: Three Electric Cars/Aut Maker Discloses it has lost $400 Million This Year as It Unveils Battery-Powered Vehicles" http://s.wsj.net/article/SB122217870530867245.html . Last year Chrysler was acquired by private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. With sales down 24% in the first eight months of 2008 and continuing prospects of an industry-wide slowdown (see America's Credit Crisis May Prove Last Straw for Auto Buyers http://www.autoobserver.com/2008/09/americas-credit-crisis-may-prove-last-straw-for-auto-buyers.html ), all the carmakers that have the resources to do so are likely to accelerate their plans for plug-ins. The prospects of PHEV tax credits and loans to re-tool are additional carrots.
The AP story, "Chrysler plans to sell electric car in 2010" http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hNc7S9F0ntHtyL8ZMuEiOXqt3uEgD93CJC3G0 (headlined in San Jose Mercury News, "Chrysler jolts GM Volt, unveils 3 electric vehicles"), makes sheds light on Chrysler's position in the race, its views on federal loans. And, very notably, like GM, Chrysler now expects all of its vehicles to incorporate electric drive:
Chrysler's sales have taken the hardest hit, and the automaker appeared to be behind other manufacturers that have touted plans to launch electric vehicles in the next few years. But Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda said Tuesday that Chrysler is further ahead on developing electric vehicles than many had thought, though it kept the cars secret until recently. "We believe in the saying, 'Actions speak louder than words,'" LaSorda said.
Chrysler Chief Executive Bob Nardelli denied that Chrysler showed off its electric prototypes now because Congress is considering a $25 billion loan program to help automakers and their suppliers modernize plants to make more fuel-efficient vehicles. Vice Chairman Jim Press said the timing of the announcement also had nothing to do with the publicity GM gained last week by revealing the production version of the Volt. "This shows that our commitment is not to public relations, but to actually advancing technology and putting it in the hands of customers in an affordable manner," Press said. "These are vehicles that are being engineered to move from the laboratory into the street and the showroom. This isn't just for publicity. This is part of our development process."
Nardelli told reporters the government loans would help speed the technology to market. But if they aren't approved, Chrysler will have to spend limited resources on developing new technology and would have to make cuts elsewhere, possibly in employment and development of conventional products. "Unfortunately we have had to furlough many families as a result of the economy turmoil and certainly the downward spiraling in the industry," he said. "I'd like to make sure that we don't have to go further to be able to support advanced technology work."
The Chrysler executives said the day is coming when the whole Chrysler fleet has electric powertrains. "The goal is to achieve fundamental technology, get economies of scale, improve our ability to make the future generations more robust, less cost, smaller, more powerful, better performance," Press said. "Ultimately it will lead to a transformation of our entire fleet that will be in some manner electric drive."
BLOGOSPHERE REACTS TO CARMAKER POSITIONING: LA Times columnist Martin Zimmerman, in "The Ford of the future" http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/uptospeed/2008/09/we-here-at-up-t.html describes his reaction on getting Chrsyler's press release followed by one from Ford, "touting a conga line of Model Ts through the streets of Detroit this Saturday, 'celebrating the centennial anniversary of the "car that put the world on wheels." ' The column cites a J.D. Power study that Zimmerman summarizes: "To put it bluntly, Ford gets talked about a lot in the blog-o-verse (a good thing) but receives a lower percentage of positive commentary than most of its rivals (a bad thing)." Zimmerman notes that GM gets more positive commentary than Toyota -- "Even though the Volt isn't due out until late 2010 at the earliest, GM has been promoting the car like it was trying to get the last of the '08s off the lots to make room for next year's models." Zimmerman concludes, "Ford, in short, literally lacks a buzz machine: a car that runs on natural gas or electricity or stale Oreos or whatever and generates the sort of 'Welcome to the future!' headlines that every automaker craves today.
FIRST PHEV ADVERTISMENTS: Readers of the Washington Post and the New York Times woke up today to see full-page ads from AFS Trinity promoting PHEVs. Addressed to Congressional leaders and Senators McCain and Obama, the ads urged that 25% of the proposed $25B for automotive retooling go to "smaller innovative companies across America who have been developing such technologies." See jpg and PDF versions at http://www.afstrinity.com/press-ads.htm and press releases at http://www.afstrinity.com . The company as been demonstrating its "Extreme Hybrid SUV" conversion based on the Saturn Vue, using battery and ultracapacitor technology. The ad says "We are not alone" and lists several dozen US companies involved in vehicle design, integration and component production.
V2GREEN ACQUIRED: We saw with the 2007 publication of investor-oriented books like "Clean Tech Revolution and Future Energy" (see http://www.calcars.org/books.html ) and the emergence of many cleantech newsletters and blogs, venture capitalists and other investors have shown growing interest in plug-in cars and batteries. Now plug-in cars are also part of the M&A (mergers and acquisitions) landscape. V2Green, a startup founded in December 2006 by Seattle software/hardware/telecom entrepreneurs, quickly became a leader in the development of vehicle-grid integration technology, and now has been acquired by GridPoint, Inc. V2Green's on-board communication and charge management devices, including GPS, data collection and wireless communication to servers, are being used by many of the institutions evaluating PHEVs. (Its devices are in some of our PHEVs.) V2Green http://www.v2green.com has been working closely with aftermarket conversion companies, utilities, government labs and standards groups. Now the company has been acquired by Gridpoint, Inc., a company that works broadly with utilities. See the press release at http://www.gridpoint.com/news/press/20080923.aspx and a report and comments at http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/09/gridpoint-acqui.html . And here's what the V2Green team told its customers:
Exciting happenings at V2Green today! We are delighted to share the news that V2Green has been acquired by GridPoint. As many of you know, GridPoint is a leading clean tech company whose smart grid platform provides utilities with an intelligent network of distributed energy resources that controls load, stores energy and produces power.
Joining forces with GridPoint is a real win for V2Green customers, partners and employees. We share GridPoint's vision for empowering optimized grid performance while fueling the use of renewable energy and promoting environmental stewardship. Together, we are committed to delivering smart grid solutions that support the wide-scale adoption of plug-in electric vehicles.
Our efforts will be supported by a recent $120 million equity financing that GridPoint is also announcing today. This strong financial backing allows V2Green to focus on advancing our smart charging solutions for the electric vehicles of tomorrow. We'll be able to accelerate our product development efforts, continuing to innovate and design robust solutions that unite plug-in vehicles and the grid. We believe our customers will also benefit from having access to a single, comprehensive smart grid solution that meets all their needs
Nothing will change in your relationship with V2Green. We may start to look a little different, but the product and people you've been working will continue to be there for you. Many thanks for helping V2Green reach this point. We're excited by our future as part of GridPoint.