Aug 22, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
GM/DaimlerChrysler/BMW, all trailing Toyota and Honda in hybrids, got lots of attention when they announced (in April) and recently gave more details about their $1B investment in a new hybrid system -- including $300M for transmission technology. We asked Prof. Andy Frank of UC Davis, inventor of the modern plug-in hybrid, with whom CalCars works closely, and Ron Gremban, CalCars Technology Lead, what they thought. Their comments are followed by the news report.
You can comment at the CalCars Blog, Power Plugs and People at http://www.hybridcars.com/blogs/power/gm-bmw-dc-billion.
ANDY FRANK: I've known about this development for the last few years. It unfortunately will be more costly than the Toyota system -- which is already too costly! The GM-Daimler-BMW system is essentially a two-motor continuously variable transmission. The best way to compete is to build something more efficient at half the cost. That's what we have been developing for the last 15 years. Our one-motor CVT hybrid transmission has no limitations and can be half the cost of the current Toyota system, and less than half the cost of the GM-BMW-Daimler system.
RON GREMBAN: This "dual-mode" system consists of the Toyota system plus one more planetary gear. The advantage is supposed to be somewhat improved efficiency (at around 80%, the Toyota system leaves room for improvement) and the ability to downsize the motor/generators. Of course, downsizing the motor/generators makes the system less capable of pure electric driving, and thereby less capable as a potential PHEV -- which GM-Daimler-BMW consider an advantage!
GM, BMW, Daimler to Invest US$1 Billion in Hybrid Project US: August 10, 2006 REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - A research alliance consisting of General Motors Corp., BMW AG and DaimlerChrysler AG plans to invest over US$1 billion in the development of a new hybrid transmission and related systems that backers say will leapfrog the market-leading technology now offered by Toyota Motor Corp.
The three automakers have about 500 engineers who have been working for the past 18 months on the joint development of the next-generation hybrid engine technology, which combines a battery-powered electric motor with a conventional gasoline combustion engine, company representatives said on Friday on the sidelines of an industry trade meeting.
The so-called dual-mode hybrid technology that has been under development by the consortium includes an onboard fuel-optimization computer that determines when and at what speeds the two motors will be used for power and how the on-board battery will be recharged.
Development of the transmission -- the core of the project -- is expected to cost about US$300 million for the partners, said Andreas Truckenbrodt, executive director of DaimlerChrysler's hybrid programs. The remainder of the investment represents the cost of integrating the new hybrid system with other vehicle components, he said.
"What's often forgotten about the hybrid technology is that you have to put it into the car," Truckenbrodt told reporters.
The hybrid engine will be made available in two rear-wheel drive configurations or a front-wheel drive system, said representatives of the joint development project based in the Detroit suburb of Troy, Michigan.
Depending on the requirements of the market and the automaker, the system can be adjusted to provide either improved value or high performance, they said.
"We believe that our two-mode hybrid is the best of the hybrid systems," Truckenbrodt said. "I think all three of us can say it's truly amazing what you can get out of if you bring wild, dedicated engineers together."
DaimlerChrysler plans to use the new hybrid system in its 2008 Dodge Durango sport utility vehicle.
GM will use the hybrid in versions of the Tahoe and Yukon SUVs it plans to make available at the end of 2007.
BMW has not committed to a timetable for using the new engine system, but has said that it will make vehicles available with the upcoming hybrid engine system over the next three to five years.
Truckenbrodt and representatives of both GM and BMW said a collaborative development effort on an expensive emerging technology such as hybrid transmissions would become increasingly common in the auto industry as companies look to share such costs.
"It's an expensive venture," said Larry Nitz, executive director of GM's global hybrid powertrain development. "But working together not only shares the cost but improves the (product). Working together we were able to pick the highest bar."
GM is currently considering an alliance with Renault-Nissan that could include shared development efforts and other collaboration that has been urged by the automaker's largest individual investor, billionaire Kirk Kerkorian.
COMPETITION HEATS UP
Carmakers in a rush to develop hybrids
BY HERB SHULDINER
Newsday, ,August 20, 2006
Honda and Toyota have reaped huge rewards for being first on the market with hybrids. Not only are sales of their hybrid vehicles skyrocketing, but the companies are also scoring public relations benefits for selling "green" vehicles.
Hybrid vehicles operate both on gasoline internal-combustion engines and electric motors. The gasoline engine acts as a generator to recharge the battery packs in hybrids and also to drive the vehicle at higher speeds.
Sales of hybrid vehicles are 26.4 percent ahead of last year, but hybrids account for a mere 1 percent of the more than 16 million vehicles sold in the United States annually. But the segment is going to grow dramatically as American and European carmakers rush to develop competitive hybrids.
Ford, which already sells the Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrid sport utility vehicles, plans to introduce the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids in 2008. Next year Ford's Japanese subsidiary, Mazda, will introduce a hybrid Tribute, which is similar to the Escape and Mariner.
GM now offers hybrid versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks. Starting next year GM plans to introduce its next-generation hybrid system in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. A Cadillac Escalade full-size SUV and Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size crew cab pickups with the new hybrid system are to debut in 2008.
Chrysler has scheduled the introduction of a hybrid Durango SUV in 2008. Like the new GM hybrids, the Durango will use a new generation of two-mode hybrid engineering developed in a venture with BMW and DaimlerChrysler.
Mercedes and BMW have not yet announced what models they will offer with the two-mode system, but German magazines report that Mercedes will introduce a hybrid S-Class in 2008. BMW probably will introduce at least one two-mode hybrid in the 2008-09 time frame, according to some reports.
The two-mode system hybrids have electric motors with low- and high-speed electric continuously variable transmissions. But the transmission also incorporates four fixed gear ratios that give the hybrids more efficiency and power-handling capabilities. This actually gives two-mode hybrids six operating modes.
An electronic control unit optimizes the system to provide the best power level demanded by the driver. Unlike other hybrid systems that have only one torque-splitting system and no fixed mechanical ratios, the two-mode system uses smaller electric motors to save weight and ease packaging under the hood.
Its characteristics allow the two-mode system to be used in a broad range of vehicles, including those with big engines for towing, hill climbing or hauling heavy loads. The two-mode hybrid system also can accommodate most existing internal combustion engines and can be used in front-engine, rear- and four-wheel-drive vehicles. Its flexibility will also allow it be used in front-engine, front-wheel-drive vehicles in future years.
It will take some time for GM, DaimlerChrysler and BMW to catch up to Toyota and Honda in hybrid sales. Toyota has sold about 351,000 hybrids. Jim Press, Toyota's top U.S. executive, says the company plans to offer hybrids as options across its full car, SUV and truck lines.
"We're working hard to bring down hybrid premiums significantly by reducing the size of components by 75 percent and costs by half," he says. Toyota is also working on a plug-in hybrid that can be recharged with household current and be driven for greater distances without using the gasoline engine.
Honda has sold 137,452 hybrids since it introduced the Insight in 1999, and now offers hybrid Civic and Accord models. A Honda spokesman says the company will introduce an all-new Civic hybrid in 2009 that will be less expensive than the current model.