PLUG OK license plate
Roundup: Vue Delay, Chrysler Concepts; Nissan Nix; Khosla; Johnson Controls; Visionary/Electrovaya
Jan 16, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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Most days when you search for "plug-in hybrid" media mentions in the last month at Google News, you get about 200 entries; today, you get 1,200 in the past day.

Below are mostly excerpts with some key developments:

  • Associated Press Summary
  • Chrysler's 3 Concept Cars: PHEV/FCPHEV/EV
  • GM's Saturn Vue PHEV for 2010 not 2009
  • Nissan negative on PHEVs
  • More on Toyota and BYD PHEVs and batteries
  • Johnson Control uses PHEV to show multiple technologies
  • Electrovaya batteries for Visionary Vehicles PHEVs
  • VC Vinod Khosla now favors diesel PHEVs

This story covers most of the developments includes some great quotes about why this is happening now -- ackmowledging the impact of popular demand, and how slow carmakers have been to recognize we're in a changed world.­article/­ALeqM5jTNXOyP-ou59ROVHQCzYw3IVRRmQD8U5U8R01
Automakers Roll Out Plug-In Concepts
By JEFF KAROUB ­ January 14, 2008
Associated Press Writer Ken Thomas and Auto Writers Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin contributed to this report.

DETROIT (AP) — Chrysler LLC on Monday rolled out three plug-in concept cars at the North American International Auto Show, the venue where rival General Motors Corp. made a splash one year ago with its Chevrolet Volt electric concept. Not to be outdone, GM announced production may begin as soon as 2010 on a plug-in hybrid electric version of the Saturn Vue Green Line, which it expects to be the first regular production plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. And Toyota said it plans to test hundreds of plug-ins with fleet and commercial customers worldwide by the same year.

It's an electrifying race with many entrants, but one analyst says it's more of a public relations scramble right now for an industry that's lagged on drivers' demand and desires for alternative power. "The automotive industry is trying to have this green image, but I don't see a true commitment ... where a company is taking a leadership role," said Thilo Koslowski, an automotive analyst for Gartner Inc. "The concepts trickling down are primarily based on consumers demanding them. ... From the initial perspective, we see a lot of talk about concepts. It doesn't mean you can actually realize those ... for the mass market."

Chrysler's entries in the concept race are Chrysler ecoVoyager, Dodge Zeo and Jeep Renegade. Officials say consumer demand isn't generated solely by technology. It also needs to come with distinctive designs — in other words, no one-size-fits all approach. Frank Klegon, Chrysler's product development chief, said the Zeo concept, which is completely electric, is designed to maintain Dodge's tradition of performance. The ecoVoyager, coupled with a fuel cell, is meant to convey Chrysler's reputation as an "iconic American brand." And the Renegade, combined with a low-emission diesel engine, is envisioned as a vehicle that could "go anywhere" and "go green." Still, he said, they are purely concepts with no production guarantees. "With emerging technologies, you don't really know which one is going to be the right solution, or something else that leapfrogs in the meantime," he said. "That's one challenge for us as an industry and a company."

GM hopes to have the Volt on the market by 2010 but is setting no firm date. This year, it's showing a similar plug-in hybrid concept that's a collaboration between Saturn and Opel. GM also will extend its hybrid lineup, releasing a new Saturn Vue two-mode hybrid, which is expected to boost fuel economy by about 50 percent when it hits showrooms later this year. And it predicts the Vue plug-in hybrid will be the first regular production vehicle of its kind.

Ford Motor Co. has a partnership with Southern California Edison to develop a small fleet of plug-in hybrids. The automaker delivered its first plug-in to the utility late last year. "The intention there is for us to learn with them what are the opportunities for a workable business model for batteries of plug-in hybrids because there is still a significant cost associated with batteries," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford's head of global product development.

The auto show also features Toyota's plug-in hybrid prototype, which, like the current Prius, switches from pure electric to gas engine to a blended gas electric mode. But the plug-in has a second battery pack that allows it to store greater levels of electricity and is capable of operating in pure electric mode for longer periods of time and at much higher speeds. Company officials said that when the plug-ins make it to showrooms depends a lot on their ability to mass produce the batteries and the usage by fleet and commercial customers.

Even upstarts are getting in on the act. California-based Fisker Automotive announced Monday it will begin producing a plug-in sports car in late 2009. The Fisker Karma will cost around $80,000, with projected sales of 15,000 per year.

Chinese automaker BYD, which is also one of the world's top battery suppliers, said it will begin selling a plug-in hybrid sedan in China by the end of this year and wants to bring the vehicle to North America in three to five years.

Many automakers say this time, the market is ready for electrics. The 1990s and early 2000s saw the rise and fall of GM's EV1 and offerings from Toyota and Audi. Koslowski, who worked for Audi, said it's true that there wasn't as strong demand then. But he also blames the automakers for not promoting the technology or accepting lower profit margins in the short term as they boosted investment in batteries and other technology necessary to make it happen. "Why didn't we do this before? The simple answer is nobody really forced the automakers to make these changes," he said. "The fact that we haven't had changes over the past couple of decades is shameful."

Troy Clarke, GM's North American president, said that GM fully understands the technological pitfalls of electric vehicles, such as the limited range of the batteries. He said the technological timing is right, and comes at the convergence of three trends: concern over climate change, the need for U.S. energy independence and the high costs of oil. "You don't really need anybody to convince you that this is the right time to start doubling down on your bets with this type of technology," he said.

Up until now we'd been hearing 2009 from the company (well before the Volt's hoped-for time). Now we'll see the 2009 Saturn Vue Green Line Two-Mode Hybrid SUV perhaps in 2008, followed by the PHEV version considerably later. Also at the Auto Show, GM showed its Saturn Flexstreme Plug-in Concept, a diesel version of the E-Flex system Opel Flexstreme shown in Frankfurt in 2007.­article/­reutersEdge/­idUSN1441672720080114
GM's Saturn Vue plug-in could precede Volt
Mon Jan 14, 2008 5:05pm EST
By Jui Chakravorty Das

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Corp could launch a plug-in version of the Saturn Vue crossover in 2010, possibly making it the first commercially available electric vehicle, a GM executive said on Monday. "It could precede the Volt," GM's head of North American operations, Troy Clarke, told reporters at the North American International Auto Show, referring to GM's much-touted concept electric car, which it hopes to produce by the end of 2010. "For the Volt we are re-engineering an entire vehicle to be optimally designed to support the architecture," Clarke said. "At the Saturn Vue we are adapting an electric drive system to an existing architecture. It's a quicker way to do it."

Chrysler is playing catch-up and has no production plans.
GREEN CAR CONGRESS:­2008/­01/­chryslers-three.html
The Jeep Renegade. The Renegade concept also uses also an electric vehicle with the common 40-mile, 16 kWh lithium-ion battery module, but uses dual 200 kW motors­one on each axle­for four-wheel-drive capability. Driving range is extended by an electric generator coupled to a 1.5-liter, 3-cylinder BLUETEC diesel engine. Renegade has a 400-mile combined range, and is capable of achieving an equivalent petroleum fuel economy of 110 mpg.

Chrysler’s New Electric Brain Trust Takes on GM With Three Concepts:
Live From the 2008 Detroit Auto Show (With Three Videos and Interview)
[the videos are all colors, lights and applause -- no info!]­blogs/­automotive_news/­4244912.html

DETROIT — When it comes to plug-in and alt-fuel cars, Chrysler isn’t going to let General Motors steal all the headlines this year like it did in 2007. Last year at this very show, GM launched the Chevrolet Volt plug-in, and said it would be a production model by 2010. That was a big deal then, and continued to be as GM unveiled a version of the Volt’s E-Flex series hybrid architecture with different propulsion systems in concept cars around the world.

Now, as more 2010 plug-in promises spill in for the Toyota Prius and Saturn Vue Green Line series, Chrysler is attempting to make a splash of its own. Coming off its big sale last year, Chrysler decided it needed one team to mastermind its next-gen programs, just like the E-Flex group. Enter Envi.

For this new electric vehicle brain trust, Chrysler rounded up some of its best and brightest from within late last year, installed Lou Rhodes as Envi president, and hustled to show the first results of the team’s effort with three concept vehicles introduced at the Detroit this year. [Check out video of all of them here; story continues below ...]

With the ecoVoyager using hydrogen fuel cells, the Jeep Renegade employing a BlueTec diesel engine and the Dodge ZEO running purely electric, Chrysler has shown it will explore numerous avenues. “Envi’s basic goal is to make electric drive a viable business for Chrysler,” Rhodes says, “no matter the source for extending the range.”

Rhodes called the tech involved in all three cars “modular,” stressing Envi’s flexibility in moving toward production in sync with ever-evolving technology. In other words, Chrysler can plug the power behind these concepts into various platforms. Not that they don’t have a lot of power already: Rhodes told PM that all three carry a heavy-duty, 200-kW electric motor—compared to 30 to 50 kW for most hybrids and their shorter EV range parameters.

Chrysler and Envi will focus on lithium-ion battery technology, but that doesn’t mean they’re naming their pack supplier just yet. “The battery technology is emerging quickly,” Rhodes says, “and what is state-of-the-art today will become common place in the next three or four years.”

The company was quick to insist that all automakers ultimately get their tech from the same pool. In other words, it’s unlikely that one supplier will produce that Holy Grail li-ion pack for just, say, one of the Big Three. It’s more likely that many suppliers will solve the safety and longevity issues associated with the batteries at about the same time.

Chrysler didn’t officially announce plans to actually produce any of the three concepts shown here on Monday. But by creating an entirely new electric coalition, the company is obviously committed to bringing the technology to market in the near future. Will they beat GM to the showroom with a plug-in? Time will tell. —Ron Moorhead

Toyota lays down hybrid gauntlet Pivotal battle with GM on horizon;
Toyota says it will beat CAFE deadlines
Mark Rechtin at mrechtin@...
Autoweek| January 14, 2008 - 12:01 am EST­apps/­pbcs.dll/­article?AID=/­20080114/­FREE/­394386099/­1056

DETROIT - In an escalating war of green-fuel rhetoric, Toyota Motor CEO Katsuaki Watanabe laid forth several bold moves for the automaker in the next several years. In a speech delivered here Sunday evening....“I have asked my engineers to come up with plug-in hybrid not at end of 2010, but earlier than that,” Watanabe said.

In a subsequent interview Monday morning, Watanabe cautioned against assuming that lithium-ion battery performance is scalable. “As of today in the lab, the small volume of lithium-ion we have already developed is closer to the level we are satisfied with, but that is only in small quality. There is a huge difference between small volume and mass production of lithium-ion,” Watanabe said.

Added Masatami Takimoto, Toyota executive vice president in charge of r&d and powertrain: “It is most difficult related to mass production, whether stable performance is assured. Unless you have a plant that can produce a large quantity of lithium-ion batteries, we cannot verify if we have good tech or not.”

These comments could be interpreted as a direct shot at General Motors recent alliance with small-time battery maker A123 Systems of Watertown, Mass. GM is relying on A123 to deliver the lithium-ion technology for its Chevrolet Volt, but A123 has yet to develop a mass production assembly line.

Toyota’s plant expansion with Panasonic EV Energy in Japan will include a separate assembly line for lithium-ion only batteries. That will be in addition to an expansion of the Prius battery pack line, from 500,000 units to 600,000 units.

MORE ON BYD'S CHINA PHEV­apps/­pbcs.dll/­article?AID=/­20080115/­BUSINESS03/­801150318/­1002/­BUSINESS
Cautious start for Chinese hybrid
By Justin Hyde, Detroit Free Press
Washington Staff, January 15, 2008
Glenn Mercer, director of the International Motor Vehicle Program, an industry research group, said it was unlikely a Chinese automaker would gain significant U.S. market share before the middle of the next decade. "Until a Chinese automaker has a value proposition other than 'we're cheaper,' they'll have a tough time," Mercer said.

"Everyone else in the world is going to China to take part in their market." Of the three automakers, the most ambitious is BYD, a 120,000-employee firm. The company unveiled its F6DM, a midsize plug-in hybrid it said can travel 60 miles on electric power alone, and 250 miles on just over five gallons of gas.

Micheal Austin, vice president of BYD America, said the sedan is able to reach those numbers thanks to a new battery technology developed entirely by BYD that does not involve lithium or nickel, the two most common designs.

For its American drive, BYD Chairman Wang Chaung Fu steered the F6DM forward about a foot, then backed it up. Austin said BYD plans to put the F6DM into production late this year with a price of $20,000 to $30,000 in China, with the battery pack and hybrid system accounting for $6,000 in cost. The F6DM could hit the United States in three to five years, "when we share our technology leadership with North American customers," Austin said. "We really want to carve a niche here."

BYD didn't offer any independent evaluation of its statistics for the F6DM. Menahem Anderman, president of Advanced Automotive Batteries, a consulting firm that tracks the hybrid vehicle market, said he was unaware of BYD's technology.

Nissan says it'll have own hybrid in 2010
by Joe Guy Collier Detroit Free Press Business Writer
January 15, 2008­apps/­pbcs.dll/­article?AID=/­20080115/­BUSINESS03/­801150383/­1002/­BUSINESS

Nissan Motor Co. is developing a hybrid for 2010 that will provide better acceleration and fuel economy than hybrids on the road today, said Mitsuhiko Yamashita, Nissan executive vice president of research and development. Among full-line automakers, Nissan has been near the back of the pack in bringing hybrids to market. Last year, it began selling an Altima hybrid that uses Toyota technology.

In 2010, Nissan will launch a new hybrid using its own system, said Yamashita, who was in Detroit this week for the North American International Auto Show. The automaker has not said which car will get the system, but it will be a rear-wheel drive vehicle, he said. Nissan also is designing the hybrid to use more electric power than current hybrids, extending the range that can be driven without using the gas engine, Yamashita said. Toyota has been successful in marketing the Prius, but the contest is not over, he said. "This is just starting," Yamashita said. "We still don't know who will be the winner eventually."

Although Toyota and General Motors Corp. are promoting plug-in hybrids as the next stage, Yamashita said he has doubts about this technology. Plug-ins require even more battery capacity, the most expensive part of the hybrid system, he said. "Putting a more expensive battery on top of the battery ... that's not a good solution," he said.

Johnson Controls is a partner with SAFT in developing batteries that may be used in the Saturn Vue PHEV. See Edmunds for more about the car's features:­insideline/­do/­News/­articleId=124309
Johnson Controls Rolls Out I3 Plug-in Hybrid Concept Car­news.cfm?newsid=17187

DETROIT, Jan. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- When it comes to delivering innovative systems and products for current and future vehicles, Johnson Controls is committed to enhancing safety, comfort, and sustainability. Reflecting this commitment, the company today unveiled the I3 concept at the 2008 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The I3 -- which offers innovations in "Ingenuity, Integration and Interface" -- includes "industry first" technologies for vehicle interiors and battery systems -- all in a flexible, comfortable and user-friendly package. The I3 concept targets the fast-growing, crossover-utility-vehicle (CUV) segment, and also addresses the growing market interest in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) as a sustainable mode of transportation

In developing the I3 concept, Johnson Controls designers and engineers zeroed in on the needs of CUV consumers, who seek individuality and flexibility; vehicles that serve work -- and leisure -- time needs; and interiors with a harmonious ambience. New seating solutions in the I3 give a spacious feel and allow enhanced room for storage. A variety of electronic innovations promote comfort and convenience based on a unique Johnson Controls approach to interior packaging and integration called "Human Machine Interaction" (HMI). An advanced lithium-ion battery is the technology enabler of the concept vehicle's PHEV propulsion system, one that offers substantial fuel economy and security benefits. Also reflected in the I3 concept is another important goal of the Johnson Controls design team -- to leverage global synergies and sustainable solutions.

Integrated into the vehicle's trunk is an advanced lithium-ion battery that has been specially designed for plug-in, hybrid-electric vehicles. PHEV batteries are one element of the company's advanced energy solutions portfolio that targets the full range of hybrid applications, from micro-hybrids to full hybrids. Advanced battery technologies from Johnson Controls support low-emissions HEVs, and help to reduce consumer dependence on fossil-fuel resources. Compared to nickel-metal hydride batteries, the lithium-ion battery from Johnson Controls takes up one-third less space and weighs 50 percent less. It has a service life of approximately 10 years. When regularly plugged into the electric grid at night, the PHEV drivetrain can yield fuel economy performance that is nearly double that of the conventional drivetrains.

To ensure safe and reliable performance, the battery system is engineered with multiple "layers" of protection against abusive operating conditions. This layered approach complements the cell electrochemistry and container design with system-level software and hardware features to maintain functional integrity.

The battery is not the only sustainable feature onboard the I3 concept car. Overall, the I3 concept is designed to fulfill the requirements of the 2015 ELV (End of Life Vehicles) directive in Europe. This directive mandates 95 percent recyclability for all new-vehicle systems, components and materials.

Electrovaya and Bricklin’s Visionary Vehicles to
Establish JV for PHEV Batteries
Green Car Congress 14 January 2008­2008/­01/­electrovaya-and.html#more

Electrovaya has signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with New York-based Visionary Vehicles (VV) to establish a joint venture to develop, manufacture and provide Electrovaya’s Lithium-Ion SuperPolymer batteries and intelligent battery management systems for use in Visionary Vehicles plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). More details at­mw/­

Last year, Electrovaya introduced its“MN-Series” Lithium Ion SuperPolymer battery technology. The MN-Series, which is a Lithiated Manganese Oxide-based system, offers up to 50% higher energy density and comparable safety characteristics to Electrovaya’s Phosphate-Series chemistry. Electrovaya’s proprietary Lithium Ion SuperPolymer technology is independent of the composition of the positive electrode active material. As such, ongoing advances in positive electrode chemistry, such as the MN-Series, are expected to enable better technical performance and safety characteristics at more economical price-points, according to the company.

Leading venture capitalist Vinod Khosla (Sun co-founder, former Kleiner Perkins partner), heavily invested in biofuels, who in mid-December told a Cleantech conference­articles/­khosla-calls-plug-in-cars-toys-366.html "Forget plug-ins. They are nice toys. But they will not be material to climate change," now favors the idea of a diesel PHEV.­portal/­site/­google/­index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&

Khosla Ventures Invests in EcoMotors to Deliver Efficient Diesel Engines
Low-Emission EcoMotors Engine Targets the 100 Miles Per Gallon Car by 2011

MENLO PARK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Khosla Ventures today announced an investment in EcoMotors, an automotive company with a focus on fuel efficiency, low emissions and cost effective solutions for developing markets. EcoMotors has developed an innovative diesel engine that is aiming at delivering 100 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2011. This investment expands the venture capital firm’s focus on vehicle efficiency.

Coinciding with this announcement, Vinod Khosla will address North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Sunday, January 13, 2008. Mr. Khosla will share with Detroit his vision for the automotive industry, supported by anecdotes and developments from the innovative work coming out of the portfolio companies that Khosla Ventures has invested in.

There is substantial market opportunity for EcoMotors’ engine, as evidenced by the following industry demands and environmental considerations: • New CAFE Standards • More Stringent Diesel Emission Standards • The Rising Demand for Cars in Developing Countries • $100 per Barrel Oil • Flex Fuel Vehicles • The Need for Better Engines for the Truck Market [and the one we're interested in:] • Hybrid Vehicles: we believe that serial plug-in hybrids will be the real solution as opposed to the parallel hybrid solutions on the market today. EcoMotors will have serial plug-in hybrid adaptations of its highly efficient engine for diesel, gas or ethanol

“We’re focused on powering the automotive fleet of tomorrow with fuel efficient building blocks,” said Vinod Khosla, Founder and Managing Partner of Khosla Ventures. “This new investment in efficient diesel engines from EcoMotors complements our firm’s other investments in the engine space. These companies are at the forefront of forming a serial plug-in hybrid platform with our multiple investments in new battery technology,” continued Khosla. “The EcoMotors founders are experienced with multiple generations of engine design at top automotive companies. This experience will apply towards the design of the 100 mpg car.”

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