Jan 3, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Below we include news about Toyota's latest comments, Honda's puzzlement, coverage of PHEVs in Wired Magazine, a strong plug in Newsweek for the Volt and Bob Lutz, and news of a new PHEV "bucket truck" for the electric utility industry.
1. TOYOTA EDGING SLIGHTLY CLOSER TO PHEVS (after previously indicating they could follow GM, i.e. wait until 2011-2012) was widely reported in year-end stories. But it's unclear whether the company is looking beyond its current partnership with Panasonic to develop lithium-ion batteries using cobalt rather than other safer competing chemistries.
ASSOCIATED PRESS STORY EXCERPTS
Toyota muscles in on GM's No. 1 title
December 27, 2007
By YURI KAGEYAMA Associated Press Business Writer
NAGOYA, Japan (AP) - Toyota plans to sell 9.85 million vehicles worldwide in 2008, the company said Tuesday, setting an ambitious target despite worries about a slowing U.S. car market, as it tries to become the world's top automaker.
Toyota also said it was preparing to start mass producing lithium-ion batteries for low-emission vehicles.
Lithium-ion batteries, already widely used in laptops and other gadgets, are smaller yet more powerful than the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in gas-electric hybrids like the Prius now.
Lithium-ion batteries will not be used in the Prius, on sale for a decade and the most popular hybrid on the market, according to Toyota.
The lithium-ion battery will be used in a plug-in hybrid, which would recharge from a regular home socket, and travel longer as an electric vehicle than the Prius. Toyota has started tests on its plug-in hybrid, but has not shown a model using the new battery.
Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto, who oversees technology, said Toyota had developed the lithium-ion battery to a level that it is almost ready for mass production, although that won't start until sometime after next year.
GREEN CAR CONGRESS STORY EXCERPTS
Panasonic EV Energy Co. Starting Studies Geared to Mass Production of Li-Ion Cells for Toyota
25 December 2007
Panasonic EV Energy Co., the battery-making joint venture between Toyota and Matsushita, has begun studies at its Omori factory geared to the mass production of lithium-ion batteries, said Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe in his end-of-year press conference. The Omori factory currently produces NiMH cells.
Lithium-ion batteries are better suited than NiMH cells for use in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, Watanabe said. Toyota, Matsushita, and Panasonic EV are currently conducting development on the cells and systems. Toyota’s current prototype plug-in hybrid uses a NiMH battery pack. (Earlier post.)
In the press conference, Watanabe briefly described Toyota’s three-pronged approach to sustainability: R&D into technology in pursuit of sustainable mobility; sustainable manufacturing and social contributions.
Hybrid technology will play a central role in achieving sustainable mobility, according to Watanabe, who noted that Toyota has now sold a cumulative 1.25 million hybrid vehicles worldwide. As previously stated, Toyota is targeting annual hybrid sales of 1 million units as early as possible in the 2010s, and will have a hybrid model in all Toyota series vehicles.
Watanabe referenced the ongoing testing of the plug-in hybrid prototypes in Japan and the US, saying that the company is making steady progress toward the commercialization of the plug-in vehicles.
ONE MORE NOTE ABOUT HOW WE SEE FUTURE BATTERIES
Among the dozen comments to the Green Car Congress story, we find several posters pinning their hopes on new "carbon nanotube" technology still in the lab at MIT, and others asking about the long-awaited EEStor "ultimate energy storage" solution. They heard that it's has been postponed once more. Over the holidays, we received emails from many people pointing to new research at Stanford University reporting on a paper published in Nature, about "silicon nanowire" technology that could allow ten times the energy storage of today's lithium-ion batteries.
As always, we'd rather emphasize that today's technology is good enough to get started; laboratory breakthroughs or commercial preannouncements are of little interest to those working to promote rapid commercialization based to today's "good enough" technology.
2. HONDA MYSTIFIED ABOUT PHEVS
Honda boss sceptical about plug-in hybrids
Dec 18, 2007
TOKYO (AFP) — The head of Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co. said Wednesday he saw no value in developing plug-in hybrid vehicles.
But Honda president Takeo Fukui said he expects competition in conventional petrol-electric hybrids to shift into high gear in the coming year amid growing demand for fuel-efficient vehicles. "Until now, the hybrid vehicle business has been about creating impressions and images among potential buyers, and not about producing profitable vehicles at affordable prices," he told the group's annual year-end press conference.
He acknowledged that rival Toyota Motor Corp. had made headway with its popular Prius hybrid, but added that the "real competition" begins now. Honda will introduce a model in 2009 that will only be available as a hybrid, like the Prius, in a bid to highlight the technology, Fukui said. A new sports hybrid, based on the CR-Z, which was introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show, would also be launched globally sometime in the next few years, he added.
But Fukui said he saw no significant value in researching plug-in hybrid models, which can be recharged by connecting to a power plug. Such systems would require significant improvement in the capacity, weight, and size of batteries, motors, engines, and other components, he said. "I do not understand why people see value in plug-in (hybrids)," he said. "I cannot understand the rational for (developing) plug-ins."
3. 100 MPG HITS WIRED MAGAZINE'S COVER
You know how products seem cheaper when they're $9.99 not $10? It turns out that sometimes using the larger number pays off. Back in 2005, after our first conversion, we were trying to explain why we were excited about PHEVs. We started off putting headlines on flyers saying "99+MPG" -- but they didn't resonate. We eventually decided to plaster our cars and handouts with the "100+MPG" message (along with a footnote when practical explaining that this was really "100+MPG gasoline plus a penny a mile of electricity"). That message turned out to travel well. It's been broadly picked up in public awareness, and by the Automotive X-Prize, which has worked to translate it into meaningful goals for vehicles of many fuel types.
Now the cover of the January 2008 issue of Wired Magazine has a photo of a gas can in the desert, and the headline, "100 MPG! THE RACE TO BUILD THE ULTIATE FUEL-EFFICIENT CAR." You can read the eight-page story by Eric Hagerman in print or find it at at http://www.wired.com/cars/futuretransport/magazine/16-01/ff_100mpg . The story includes the Aptera three-wheel PHEV we've covered frequently (by the way, see Popular Mechanics' video test-drive of the Aptera at http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/new_cars/4237853.html?page=1 ), a small-garage effort called Illuminati Motor Works from Illinois converting a Dodge Neon, and a discussion of why the Tesla Roadster may not meet the X-Prize criteria but Tesla's next-generation vehicle might.
4. GM'S BOB LUTZ IN NEWSWEEK, SAVING THE ELECTRIC CAR
The media drive for the Chevy Volt keeps getting bigger. Three years before the earliest time the car will arrive, the company's ads for the Volt are everywhere (see the building-sized one at the LA Auto Show, with our PHEV parked in front of it at http://www.calcars.org/photos-scenic.html ). Automotive journalists like to write about turnarounds; now GM's Bob Lutz gets the full treatment by long-time Newsweek automotive reporter Keith Naughton. Below we reprint the entertaining two-page story (2/3 of which is one photo).
BUSINESS: Bob Lutz: The Man Who Revived the Electric Car By Keith Naughton
NEWSWEEK Dec. 31, 2007 - Jan. 7, 2008 issue
When General Motors was fingered as the prime suspect in the 2006 documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?" Bob Lutz's inbox filled with hate mail. "I hope you rot in hell," read one missive to the GM vice chairman, known for his love of gas-guzzling sports cars. But now the movie's director wants Lutz to star in a possible sequel, "Who Saved the Electric Car?" "Now that they've done their mea culpa, I'm bullish on GM," says director Chris Paine. "I'd like to include Lutz in my next film."
What explains this turn of events? Lutz--the man who brought us the Dodge Viper muscle car and the 1,000-horsepower Cadillac Sixteen--has become the unlikely champion of the Chevy Volt, a 150mpg plug-in electric car that GM is fast-tracking for production in 2010. GM's car czar now admits he was wrong to dismiss the popular Toyota Prius hybrid as a PR ploy. Though he still loves fast cars (and fast fighter jets, which the ex-Marine flyboy pilots on weekends), Lutz, 75, is undergoing a green conversion in the twilight of his career. "I believe strongly that this country has to get off oil," he says, sitting beside a massive V-16 engine on display in his office. "The electrification of the automobile is inevitable."
Skeptics initially viewed the Volt as Lutz's own PR ploy. But they've come to believe in the plug-in, as GM has poured millions into developing a lithium-ion battery (like those in laptops) that will allow the car to go 40 miles on pure electricity before a tiny gasoline motor kicks in to recharge the battery. (It also can be juiced up by plugging it into a wall outlet for about six hours.)
But the biggest naysayers Lutz faced were inside his own company. After being burned by the failure of its EV1 electric car in the '90s (the subject of Paine's film), GM was gun-shy about plugging in again. When Lutz first proposed creating an electric car in 2003, the idea "bombed" inside GM, he says. "I got beaten down a number of times." After pouring billions into engineering futuristic fuel-cell cars (still years away from production), GM engineers didn't want to switch gears to a plug-in electric, which they insisted couldn't be run on lithium-ion batteries. The turning point came when tiny Tesla Motors, a Silicon Valley start-up, announced in 2006 that it would produce a speedy electric sports car powered by those same laptop batteries. "That tore it for me," says Lutz. "If some Silicon Valley start-up can solve this equation, no one is going to tell me anymore that it's unfeasible."
So in 2006, Lutz formed a skunkworks team of engineers and designers to quickly cobble together the Chevy Volt concept car, which became the star of the 2007 Detroit Auto Show. And then he persuaded the brass to greenlight the Volt for production by arguing that they must try to seize the green high ground from Toyota, which is battling GM for the title of the world's No. 1 automaker. "We saw Toyota getting highly beneficial rub-off from their Prius success, which permitted them to cloak themselves in the mantle of total greenness," says Lutz. "This was starting to hurt because it was one reason for a sudden surge in Toyota's market share."
Now Lutz envisions selling hundreds of thousands of Volts a year, probably priced below $30,000. Detroit's horsepower jockey insists the Volt will be his crowning achievement--and his swan song. "This is like JFK's call for the moon shot," he says. "I want to stick around to see the Volt come to market. Then I'll pack it in around 80." And ride off into the sunset on electric power.
5. UTILITIES "BUCKET TRUCKS" ARE EARLY MARKET FOR PHEVS. While PG&E and others are planning to get PHEVs based on Ford working with integrator Eaton, this vehicle appears to be built on an International chassis. Odyne Corp. Receives Purchase Order for Twenty Five Plug-in Hybrid Aerial Lift Truck Systems http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&
December 19, 2007 HAUPPAUGE, N.Y.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Odyne Corporation (OTCBB:ODYC), a leading developer of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technologies, today announced it had received a purchase order for 25 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle systems from Dueco, Inc., one of the nation's largest utility equipment manufacturers.
The systems will be installed by Dueco, Inc., to power the first plug-in hybrid electric aerial lift trucks, "bucket trucks," used by utility companies to maintain electric, telephone and cable lines.
The system will provide the fuel efficiency and emission enhancements, typical of a hybrid vehicle, while the truck is traveling to and from the work site. While at the work site, the Odyne Stored Energy System will power all of the necessary job-site related equipment directly, including the aerial lift device, air conditioning and heating, with the engine off.
Odyne and Dueco estimate that the vehicles will reduce fuel consumption by approximately 6-10 gallons per day, eliminate on-site engine emissions, as well as eliminate on-site noise.
"Since the introduction of the Dueco-Odyne hybrid vehicle, the response has been very positive," says Odyne CEO Alan Tannenbaum. "Utility companies particularly value the opportunity to utilize their own low-cost, off-peak grid power to charge the vehicles overnight, while creating a safer and healthier environment for their employees and the community."
"We estimate that nationwide, there are more than 30,000 aerial lift trucks in operation," explains Joe Dalum, Vice President of Dueco, Inc.
DUECO, the largest privately owned final stage manufacturer of Terex Utilities and Hi-Ranger products in the country, is a family company with over 50 years of experience in the sale and service of aerial devices, digger derricks, cranes and other equipment. The company also provides its customers with conductor handling equipment, pullers and tensioners, trailers, excavators, loader backhoes, and wheel loaders. Committed to customer satisfaction, DUECO is the source for electric utility, telecommunications, contractor, electric cooperative, municipality, railroad and tree care needs in a 14-state region that reaches from the Midwest to the East Coast. Visit www.Dueco.com for more information.
Odyne Corporation is a clean technology company that develops and manufactures propulsion systems for buses, trucks and other hybrid electric vehicles. The company has developed a proprietary system combining electric power conversion, power control and energy storage technology, with standard electric motors, storage batteries and other off the shelf components to create a lower fuel cost, lower operation and maintenance cost, substantially lower emission and quieter vehicle. Visit www.odyne.com for more information.