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Toyota's 2012 PHEV; Suzuki/Mitsubishi/Volvo/Chrysler/Ford; Utilities; A123s IPO
Oct 17, 2009 (From the CalCars-News archive)
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Second of three catch-up postings. Analysis of Toyota's long-awaited announcement of sales of PHEVs (in 2012); new concept PHEVs from Suzuki, Mitsubishi; Volvo's European PHEV plans; Ford's Gioia gets promotion; Duke and FPL utilities commit to switch their entire fleet; utilities vs. carmakers on tax credits; results of A123Systems IPO; Detroit area and plug-ins (on the eve of the first Detroit conference on plug-ins).

TOYOTA SETS A DATE FOR SELLING PHEVS: We'll see Toyota PHEVs in 2012 (with 20-30,000 in the first year, according to some reports). That welcome news remains underwhelming: it's a long wait for consumers, and analysts expect it to be very pricey (especially given its likely relatively moderate electric range). For Toyota's perspective, see testimony by Michael O'Brien, US corporate manager for advanced technology vehicle planning, at the California Air Resources Board's Zero Emissions Vehicle Technology Symposium in September -- he described why the company is going slowly because of the concerns about battery limitations and uncertain customer demand. http://www.greencarcongress.com/­2009/­09/­obrien-20090923.html

In a dialogue distributed by Climatewire http://www.nytimes.com/­cwire/­2009/­10/­16/­16climatewire-toyota-seeks-a-short-range-plug-in-hybrid-fo-14547.html we read: "It's not a bad strategy, according to [PHEV inventor] Andrew Frank... 'for the amount of lithium available today, you can build three times more Priuses that are plug compatible than Chevy Volts, since the battery packs are one-third the size. And you make money by selling cars and not batteries!!'.... 'From an environmental perspective, the more [electric] range the better,' said Roland Hwang, transportation program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in an e-mail. He said Toyota's strategy on plug-ins 'seems at first oddly conservative,' and that the company risks 'being seen as a technology and environmental laggard, and losing their current perceived pole position on environmentally friendly cars.'"

SUZUKI AND MITUBISHI INTRODUCE THEIR PHEV CONCEPT CARS: We're encouraged to see two new players with series PHEVs coming to the Tokyo Auto Show: Suzuki with the Swift concept crossover and Mitsubishi with the PX-MIeV four-wheel drive vehicle. We commented at earth2tech: "We expect more concept cars will turn into production-intent vehicles and deadlines will advance as competition and market opportunities increase." http://earth2tech.com/­2009/­10/­14/­preview-green-cars-to-watch-at-the-tokyo-motor-show/

VOLVO'S SERIES PHEV FOR EUROPE IN 2012: At the Frankfurt Auto Show, Volvo announced plans to introduce a 30-mile-electric range diesel PHEV in Europe in 2012.

NOW WHAT HAPPENS TO CHRYSLER? The Detroit Free Press reports: "While Fiat is better known for its diesel engines than hybrids, Chrysler's new partner is developing a lithium-ion hybrid system that could be coupled with a new 900-cc, two-cylinder engine, according to Quattrouote, an Italian automotive magazine. That system could be offered in the 500 minicar that Chrysler is expected to put on sale in the United States sometime in 2011. Fiat also is designing the system so it can have plug-in capability ... . Chrysler is making progress on its own, too. The U.S. government is granting more than $300 million to Chrysler and its battery partner, A123 Systems, to produce a fleet of 100 plug-in hybrid Dodge Ram pickups and 100 Chrysler Town & Country minivans. In May, Chrysler and A123 pledged to deliver 165 Town & Country battery-powered minivans to the U.S. Postal Service. http://m.freep.com/­news.jsp?key=513838&rc=bz

FORD ADVANCES ELECTRIC STRATEGY: Ford has announced it expects to build two million plug-in vehicles in the next 10 years, making its fleet 10-25% "electrified." (We can't tell if this includes conventional hybrids; Ford's first PHEV is planned for 2012.) The announcement came along with the promotion of Nancy Gioia (formerly director of sustainable mobility technology and hybrid vehicle programs for North America) to a new position, Director of Global Electrification. http://news.cnet.com/­8301-11128_3-10375326-54.html

TWO UTILITIES GO ALL-IN FOR PLUG-INS: FPL Group (which includes Florida Power and Light) and Duke Energy will replace all 10,,000 of their vehicles with plug-ins starting next year, getting to all plug-in by 2020 at a cost of $600M. "We really feel it is time for our industry to put our money where our mouth is," said Christopher Bennett, FPL's executive vice president and chief strategy, policy and business process improvement officer. "We are ready to start purchasing when we see vehicles that are available and fit our needs." http://online.wsj.com/­article/­BT-CO-20090924-705557.html . FPL will move into large vehicles including bucket trucks, and will include conversions in its mix.

CARMAKERS VS. UTILITIES: WHO GETS LOW-CARBON CREDITS: This is the first round of a what may be an extensive scramble: for the credits provided in state (and eventually federal) laws promoting low-carbon fuels, who gets the credit? See discussion at http://www.bloomberg.com/­apps/­news?pid=20601080&sid=aRintGBhdP7Q

A123SYSTEMS IPO: The IPO, originally expected to price under $10/share, went off at $13.50 on Sept.30 and jumped 50% as it began trading. Since then, AONE stock has ranged between $20 and $26, and is now around 23, giving the company a market capitalization (value) of $2.3B. By business standards, the initial public offering was a success, and it has resulted in far more attention to the investment opportunities in plug-in cars and components.

DETROIT AREA'S ROLE OF PLUG-IN REVOLUTION: A good roundup of the companies and organizations working to revive the epicenter of the US auto industry. http://features.csmonitor.com/­economyrebuild/­2009/­10/­12/­can-detroit-go-green/

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