Study Says Big Impact of the Plug-In Hybrid Will Be Decades Away

By dancurranjr On January 17th, 2010

Despite recent excitement about a type of electric car called a plug-in hybrid, such vehicles are unlikely to arrive in meaningful numbers for a few more decades, according to new analysis by the National Research Council.

The study, released on Monday, also found that the next generation of plug-in hybrids could require hundreds of billions of dollars in government subsidies to take off.

Even then, plug-in hybrids would not have a significant impact on the nation’s oil consumption or carbon emissions before 2030, the report estimated. Savings in oil imports would also be modest, according to the report, which was financed by the Energy Department.

Several carmakers, including Toyota and General Motors, are developing plug-in hybrid models, which will appear in showrooms next year. Toyota just announced on Monday that it planned to begin selling “tens of thousands” of plug-in hybrid Priuses in two years.

Plug-in hybrids are cars that would be built to run primarily on an electric battery, but if extra power were needed for a long drive, a gasoline engine would kick in. Users would recharge the cars by hooking them to electric power outlets at home or work, meaning they could cover most or all of a daily commute on battery power, not gasoline.

The report found that plug-in electric vehicles could number 40 million by 2030 — provided that rapid progress was made in battery technology, and that the government provided large subsidies and incentives. However, the study suggested that a “more realistic” number would be closer to 13 million vehicles. That would represent 4 percent of the 300 million vehicles projected to be on the road by then.

The main reason for the slow rollout is the potential cost of batteries. Manufacturers are betting on lithium-ion battery technology similar to that in laptops and cellphones. While the technology has evolved rapidly, the report noted that declines in cost would not be steep enough over the next few decades to crowd out other types of cars.

Under the report’s most optimistic assumptions, 6.5 million plug-in hybrids could be sold annually in the United States by 2030, out of total sales of 19.4 million vehicles. Under the more realistic assumptions, 1.8 million plug-in hybrids would be sold that year.

Michael P. Ramage, who headed the study, said that its assumptions — and results — were more conservative than other studies. “Over the next 20 years, we felt that a 50 percent reduction in battery costs would take place,” he said in a telephone interview. “Other people have assumed a lot greater battery cost reductions.”

Building a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that could run for 40 miles on electricity would cost $18,000 more than for a similar conventional car, including a $14,000 battery pack, according to the report. While each mile driven on electricity costs less than a mile powered by gasoline, “it is likely to be several decades before lifetime fuel savings start to balance the higher first cost of the vehicles,” the report stated.

More recharging outlets, as well as other infrastructure improvements, must also be in place for plug-in hybrids to reach large numbers of American households, the report said.

The National Research Council, in Washington, provides scientific and technical advice to the federal government under a Congressional charter.

SOURCE: New York Times

Entry Level Mercedes C Class Coupe Hybrid a Possibility

By dancurranjr On January 16th, 2010

Mercedes entered the entry level luxury vehicle category years ago with it C230 Kompressor coupe.  The vehicle was a capable model with strong performance, solid handling and a refined driving experience.  Mercedes buyers showed little interest and sales were unexpectedly low.  Then BMW entered the same segment with its recent 1 Series.  A capable performer on all fronts with a price that undercut the 3 Series by thousands and according to sales numbers, the model is a hit.

Why is the BMW a success and the Mercedes a failure?  It could easily be a result of the economic times right now and Mercedes seems to think so too as they are now considering a second go around at the entry level luxury segment.  The company is expected to offer a 2 door C-Class to compete with BMW’s 1 Series, but this time around Mercedes will offer a hybrid option as a a fuel efficient alternative to competitors.

The hybrid is rumored to be powered by a V6 engine from the Mercedes lineup.  It will be naturally aspirated and is expected to be the most efficient vehicle in its class.   Along with the hybrid option, Mercedes is considering a twin turbo V6, a 5.5 liter twin turbo V8 AMG model, and a DOHC V6 as the base engine.  Interestingly, no diesel option has been reported.

The C-Class coupe is expected to go on sale in 2011.  There is no word if the hybrid option will be available immediately at launch and pricing has yet to be announced.  Stay with us for more details as they emerge.

SOURCE: All Cars Electric

Calling Your Car from Your Smartphone

By dancurranjr On January 15th, 2010

Hello hybrid, this is your driver calling.

In a move that makes remote car starters seem so – well, last decade – Chevrolet will be giving owners of its new Volt hybrid a direct line to their new cars via their smartphones.

Chevrolet and OnStar announced the new smartphone application in Las Vegas, where the Consumer Electronics Show is getting underway.

The application lets drivers carry out of a range of tasks, using Motorola’s Droid, Apple’s iPhone or the Blackberry Storm. Besides the usual open doors remotely, it displays the charge status of the car, lets drivers start charging or schedule charge timing, shows the miles per gallon usage and other monitoring info.

OnStar features like unlocking doors and remote operation of the horn and lights, which have only been available by calling the OnStar call centre, will be available through the smartphone application.

While production of the Volt isn’t due to begin until late this year, demonstration applications for the Motorola Droid and Blackberry Storm and the iPhone are available now. A car that you plug in overnight to recharge, the Volt is an electric hybrid designed to drive up to 64 kilometres (40 miles) on electricity, after which an engine/generator kicks in to extend the driving range to about 480 kilometres or 300 miles.

SOURCE: Vancouver Sun

Auto Industry Focused on Hybrids, Survey Says

By dancurranjr On January 14th, 2010

Biodiesel technology is low on the list of priorities for auto industry research, according to a global survey of 200 senior auto executives conducted by KPMG that was released Thursday.

When asked to rate which were the most important alternative fuel technologies to the auto industry over the next five years, hybrid systems were ranked first followed by battery electric power, fuel cell electric power, and biodiesel, respectively.

Fuel efficiency was ranked as the feature auto executives believed makes the biggest impact on customers’ purchasing decisions, while “environmental friendliness” was second followed by safety innovation in third.

A car’s style and looks came in last on the list of factors auto executives thought customers looked at these days when deciding which car to buy. They’re likely right. The information follows news that Ford Motor announced in December it saw record sales for its hybrid cars in 2009 compared to hybrid car sales in other years.

“Automotive manufacturers are in the challenging position of being asked to compete on both technology and cost. With global consumers still feeling the pinch of the recession, those OEMs who can deliver on this equation will be in the driver’s seat,” Gary Silberg, national automotive industry leader for KPMG, said in a statement.

The survey was conducted September through November 2009.

SOURCE: Cnet

2010 Hyundai Blue-Will Hybrid Hatchback Concept

By dancurranjr On January 13th, 2010

Hyundai plans to show off its Blue-Will hybrid concept to North America during the 2010 Detroit auto show next week. The Blue-Will debuted in Seoul last March, but the visit to Detroit will be the first time we’ve seen the concept in person.

“Blue-Will’s bold character lines and innovative design language give the perfect expression to the advanced eco-friendly technologies found beneath the skin,” said Oh Suk-Geun, executive vice president of design for Hyundai. “At a time of rising concern about the environment and our energy future, Blue-Will demonstrates to eco-conscious car buyers everywhere that Hyundai has practical hybrid solutions that will appear on the next generation of vehicles.”

The Blue-Will, also known as the HND-4, features a host of alternative energy and eco-friendly technologies including recycled materials and solar panels integrated into the all-glass roof. Other tricks include a thermal generator to turn exhaust gas heat into electricity and a new Lithium Polymer battery, the first to be used in a car. It powers a 100 kW electric motor that’s mated to Hyundai’s new 152-hp 1.6L direct-injected four-cylinder engine, both of which send power to the ground via a continuously variable transmission. As a parallel hybrid, the Blue-Will can be powered be either motor alone or any combination of the two as driving conditions dictate. This new hybrid architecture is more than just a science experiment – it will be the basis of the new Sonata Hybrid that will debut in the U.S. later this year.

Not all of the Blue-Will sleek technology is under the skin. All the lighting up front is LED to save power, and it only gets better inside. Transparent Organic LEDs create a high-resolution, ultra-thin color screen in place of the traditional gauge cluster, while a touchscreen replaces the traditional center stack and takes over all of its duties, including climate control, stereo control, navigation, and even the transmission gear selection. Topping off the green creds is the Eco-Coach, a graphic-based program designed to teach you to be a more economical driver.

SOURCE: Automobile Magazine