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

Hybrids Score High in Crash Safety

By dancurranjr On August 17th, 2009

In addition to getting higher gas mileage, there’s good safety news about three 2010 small cars – including two hybrids – from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The Honda Insight and Toyota Prius hybrids and the Kia Soul all received the Insurance Institute’s top rating of Good (on a scale of Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor) in front, side and rear crash testing. They are all going to be Top Safety Picks. To be a Top Safety Pick, a vehicle has to earn good ratings in all three tests and must offer electronic stability control.

Electronic stability control comes as standard equipment on all Soul and Prius models. It is standard equipment on the more expensive models of the Insight, the EX and EX with the navigation system; it is not even available as an option on the least expensive model, the LX.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety The Kia Soul, post front crash test.

The Insurance Institute did not conduct its own front and side crash tests of the Prius. Because the previous generation of the Prius received good ratings in the two tests, it was eligible for the agency’s crash test verification program. Under this program, the Insurance Institute asks automakers to provide their crash test data and film of the crash tests for a particular vehicle. The Insurance Institute’s engineers then verify the data, said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the institute. During the year they will then randomly crash test a couple of vehicles from the program as a spot check to ensure they are getting accurate information from the automakers.

Here are some detailed findings from the crash tests:

  • In the Insight’s frontal crash, the driver dummy’s head hit the side curtain air bag, which deployed, keeping the head away from stiff structures in the vehicle that could cause injury. In the Insight’s side impact there was a possibility of rib fractures, but the risk of other significant injuries was low.
  • In the Prius’ frontal crash test, the driver dummy’s head hit the B-pillar (the one next to the shoulder), but the impact was relatively low. The dummy’s head also hit the steering wheel through the air bag and that impact was hard.
  • On the frontal impact in the Soul, the dummy’s head leaned part of the way out the open side window and hit the top and rear portions of the window frame, but the force was low. The dummy’s head also hit the steering wheel through the front air bag, indicating that head injuries would be possible.

It is important to keep in mind that the frontal impact results are valid only when comparing models of about the same weight. A Prius and an Insight would do a good job of protecting occupants if they were in a crash with each other or other vehicles of similar size. If they were in a crash with even a slightly larger vehicle, which a recent test done by the institute showed, the same results would most likely not apply. Side crash test results, however, apply no matter what size vehicles you are comparing.

SOURCE: New York Times

July Hybrid Sales Reach Record High Market Share

By dancurranjr On August 4th, 2009

toyota-phev-priusWith nearly all gas-electric hybrid cars qualifying for the Cash for Clunkers vouchers, hybrid sales in July grew to 3.55 percent of the new car market—its largest market share ever. New car dealers sold 35,429 hybrids, with more than half of the sales coming from the Toyota Prius.

Hybrid sales jumped by 35 percent in July compared with last month and a year ago—while sales of conventional new vehicles rose 15.4 percent for the month and were down 13 percent from July 2008.

Toyota sold 19,193 Priuses, making it one of America’s best sellers in July. Prius sales rose by 47.5 percent for the month and were up 29.7 percent from July 2008.

On a unit basis, April 2008 was the biggest month for hybrid sales, when 40,198 hybrids were sold. But July 2008 represents the largest market share for hybrids, considering the reduced size of the overall vehicle market.

Other big sellers in July were the Lexus RX450, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Ford Fusion and Ford Escape Hybrid. Sales of the Ford Escape Hybrid increased by 80 percent compared to June, and more than doubled from July 2008.

Unfortunately, Honda and General Motors did not enjoy the bump in hybrid sales. While the 2010 Honda Insight rose by a mild 10.4 percent, the Honda Civic Hybrid dropped by 38.8 percent compared to last month. The combined sales of seven hybrids from General Motors increased by just 2.3 percent from June.

SOURCE: Hybrid Cars

Study: 20% of Cars Will Be Hybrids in 2020

By dancurranjr On June 4th, 2009

hybrid-car-parking-only“Is 12 years enough time to get your octane-loving soul behind the wheel of a hybrid?” Motor Trend asks.

One prominent auto industry analyst thinks so. “Based on its latest industry projections, JPMorgan predicts there will be a massive surge in hybrid popularity in the coming years as emissions requirements tighten and hybrid technology costs fall.” While hybrids last year made up just 0.7% of new cars sales globally, JP Morgan’s analysis says “those numbers will surge 13.3%” globally, and 19.4 percent in the U.S., by 2020.

Autoblog adds, “The study suggests that the increase in hybrid vehicle sales will be influenced by such factors such as increased pressure from government agencies to reduce fuel consumption and overall vehicle emissions, as well as a drastic reduction in the cost of hybrid technology.”

The study considers extended-range electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt and Cadillac Converj to be hybrids.

If you’re in the market for a new car, check out the U.S. News rankings of this year’s best cars as well as this month’s best car deals

SOURCE: US News and World Report

Online Survey Supports Hybrid Vehicles

By dancurranjr On May 19th, 2009

2010-madza3-mpA new survey commissioned by Johnson Controls (JCI), the leading supplier of lead-acid batteries for vehicles, shows that more than four in five U.S. adults believe the country must become a leader in hybrid vehicles and that the government should support battery technology.

The survey was conducted online nationwide by Harris Interactive between March 9 and March 11 among 2,309 adults ages 18 and older.

According to the survey, 88% of those surveyed said the U.S. must become a leader in hybrid vehicles. A total of 84% said the government should support advances in battery technology.

The survey said that the biggest reasons why U.S. adults think it is important for the country to lead in hybrid technology are to reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign oil (81%), create jobs (67%), and reduce the U.S. impact on the environment (64%).

According to the survey, 90% of those surveyed said they were open to choosing a hybrid if they were in the market for a new vehicle. At the same time, survey respondents cited cost concerns for making such a decision. Four in five adults (80%) think financial barriers such as price and/or insufficient cost savings prevent people from buying a hybrid car. Yet people see incentives and tax credits as an effective way to encourage people to buy such cars.

“The survey makes one message abundantly clear: despite recognizing the importance of hybrid technology and the role of government support, consumers need costs to come down for the hybrid industry to thrive,” said Kim Metcalf-Kupres, vice president of global sales and marketing for Johnson Controls.

The survey was weighted to reflect the population of the U.S. The survey was not based on a probability sample so sampling error can be calculated.