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Alternative Fuel Vehicle News


Full Member
May 11, 2002
Royal Oak, Michigan
New Economy: Fuel-cell work is helping build research prowess for Detroit.

The New York Times

By Steve Lohr

WARREN, Mich. -- IN 1956, when General Motors opened its sprawling research center here, President Dwight D. Eisenhower praised it as a symbol of democratic capitalism's natural impulse to explore the frontiers of technology. G.M. executives declared their commitment to making the Warren research center ''one of the nation's great resources.''

Yet the research centers of Detroit -- Ford Motor opened one in 1953 --never really rose to rival the labs of the information technology industry. A handful of computer and telecommunications companies, led by I.B.M.'s Watson Labs and AT&T's Bell Labs, were the places where the best and brightest minds gravitated to do pioneering work on everything from solid-state physics to software algorithms.

Detroit, however, seems to be making a comeback as an industry in which people are working on breakthrough technology. There is perhaps no better place to get a sense of that technological excitement than here in Warren. Today, it is a place of work spaces separated by shoulder-high partitions and informally dressed researchers carrying laptop computers. Except for the prototype automobiles, the place could be mistaken for an office in Silicon Valley.

One of the more intriguing projects is led by Christopher Borroni-Bird, a young research director who holds a Ph.D. in physics from Cambridge University and did post-doctorate work at Tokyo University before joining the auto industry. He worked for DaimlerChrysler and then moved to G.M. two years ago to help it completely rethink the conventional automobile -- its design, technology and propulsion.

Mr. Borroni-Bird is the program director for a concept car called the Automony, a sculptured, aerodynamic vehicle that is intended to be powered by hydrogen-based fuel cells and controlled electronically using so-called drive-by-wire technology. About the only thing left of the traditional automobile would be the wheels and the driver.

Gone would be the internal combustion engine and, oh yes, the petroleum-based energy economy. The electronic controls would mean there would be no need for foot pedals or even a steering wheel. The car could be driven with a joystick or a device resembling a video-game controller. With no hump for a drive shaft down the middle of the interior, design would be liberated. And the driver could sit anywhere in the car, since the portable electronic controls could be taken to any seat.

A working prototype of the Autonomy is scheduled to be shown later this year. Most other car companies, including Toyota and BMW, also plan to have demonstration fuel-cell vehicles ready soon.

The sincerity of the auto industry in developing fuel-cell cars is difficult to determine. Detroit has an enormous stake in the internal combustion engine and the status quo. But there are incentives to pursue a long-term transition: oil reserves will not last forever, and fuel-cell technology does provide a way to sell cars to the 88 percent of the world's households who still do not own automobiles, without choking the globe in pollution.

The G.M. concept has some particularly interesting elements that Mr. Borroni-Bird, a small, slight native of Liverpool, explained with animated enthusiasm. The Autonomy idea is to separate the chassis from the body. All the fuel-cell propulsion equipment is in the chassis, a series of modular components, beneath a solid platform. Mr. Borroni-Bird refers to the chassis as the skateboard, fittingly, since it resembles a giant skateboard riding on four automobile wheels.

All kinds of car bodies could, in theory, rest on a single platform, secured by mechanical locks. There could be a sports-car style body for a drive in the country or a van-like body for a family vacation. The skateboard platform would use sensors and software to automatically adapt to whichever body happens to plopped on top -- plug and play, as they say in the computer industry.

Such an approach to car-making has the potential to overhaul the structure of the industry. For example, some companies might specialize in making skateboard platforms, while other companies might make bodies. There could be a proliferation of companies and innovation. Yet if one company became the leading producer of skateboards, it could own the crucial technology platform in the industry -- just as, for example, Microsoft's Windows operating system is the dominant technology platform in the personal computer business.

The hurdles to bringing a car like the Autonomy into the mainstream market are daunting as well. Mr. Borroni-Bird is a veteran of fuel-cell research, and he is well aware of the progress that still needs to be made in cost, size and storage if fuel-cell technology is going to become commercially practical. But the trends are going in the right direction. A decade ago, a fuel cell to power an automobile was the size of a van, while today a vehicle like the Autonomy is possible. But can there be enough on-board storage to give a fuel-cell car the 300-mile range before refueling of a conventional car? And what about the fuel-distribution infrastructure? After all, there are roughly 175,000 gas stations in the United States.

Mr. Borroni-Bird and other experts see an evolutionary path toward fuel cells in which first gasoline and ethanol are used in a reforming process to produce hydrogen, which is then used by the cell to produce electricity that powers the car. Still, Mr. Borroni-Bird says, even the gasoline-to-hydrogen conversion would mean 50 percent greater energy efficiency and 50 percent less pollution than internal combustion cars.

Many experts predict that fuel cells will first be used on portable electronic devices like cellphones and laptop computers. Start-ups, like Neah Power Systems of Bothell, Wash., are developing such systems; plug a fuel-cell device the size of a lighter onto the side of a laptop, and it could run for days or a week.

Mr. Borroni-Bird said he was hopeful that by 2010 there would be substantial numbers of fuel-cell vehicles on the road.

Whatever the outcome, others have noticed the altered mood among the technologists of Detroit. ''They are pursuing a radical change in the design and power plant of vehicles,'' observed Peter Schwartz, chairman of the Global Business Network, a consulting firm in Emeryville, Calif. ''It has some of the feel of the early days of the Internet and biotechnology, a sense of vision, enthusiasm and desire to help the world. Microchips and PC's felt that way 20 years ago.''

Toyota Eyeing Cooperation With GM To Promote Fuel-Cell Cars

Associated Press
July 29, 2002

TOKYO, July 29 (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp. plans to cooperate with General Motors Corp. (GM) of the United States in promoting environment-friendly fuel-cell vehicles, company officials said Monday.

Establishing hydrogen-filling stations is one area of cooperation, the officials said.

Toyota plans to introduce a fuel-cell vehicle later this year.

German automaker BMW AG recently said it plans to ally with Toyota and other Japanese automakers in establishing international standards for hydrogen-filling stations.

Toyota expects fuel-cell vehicles to achieve widespread use after 2010.

The biggest Japanese automaker will therefore further promote hybrid cars combining a gasoline engine and an electric motor by adopting the system for more models than the current three such as the Prius, according to the officials.

For those of you that have seen the Autonomy, what do you think? I think we're going the wrong direction :(.
Everyone driving the same car :mad:.
No big growling V-8's with flowmasters to satisfy our needs >:D
GM Opens Fuel-Cell Development Center

Careful change, high car sales are goals

The Detroit Free Press
July 30, 2002
By Mark Phelan

HONEOYE FALLS, N.Y. -- General Motors Corp. moved a step closer to producing large numbers of fuel-cell powered cars with a new technical center it opened Monday.

About 100 scientists and engineers at GM's fuel cell development center will study manufacturing techniques and materials to make fuel-cell vehicles affordable, says Larry Burns, vice president of Research and Development.

"GM is committed to being the first company to sell one million fuel-cell vehicles," Burns says. "We're going to invest in the resources -- like this one -- necessary to get us there."

GM is "focused on making an affordable business case for customers and a profitable one for our stockholders," says Frank Colvin, vice president of Fuel Cell Activities.

With today's technology, fuel-cell vehicles would cost five times as much as conventional vehicles, GM says. The new tech center will work to make the cost comparable.

"We can't push technology at the customer," Colvin says. "We learned that with the EV1," he said of the Electric Vehicle, a car thatfell far short of GM's expectations.

GM plans to have a significant number of fuel-cell vehicles in production by 2010. The automaker will produce fuel cells for stationary power generation by 2005, says Tim Vale, director of Distributed Generation Solutions.

The company and its development partners just installed a stationary fuel cell to power a cell phone tower in California, Colvin says.

GM won't reveal how much it has invested in fuel-cell development, but knowledgeable observers estimate the total will reach hundreds of millions of dollars by the time it has the vehicles in high-volume production.

Other automakers have rushed to get small numbers of fuel-cell cars into customers' hands much sooner than 2010. Honda will deliver a few this year, DaimlerChrysler in 2003 and Ford is to begin low-volume production by the end of 2004.

"We've shied away from building vehicles by ones and twos. Every decision we make is predicated on the goal of being the first company to have sold -- have sold -- one million fuel-cell vehicles. If you put the million on it, you do things differently. You can't subsidize that. It's got to work," said J. Byron McCormick, executive director of Fuel Cell Activities.

Most of the fuel-cell vehicles other automakers have shown are based on their current production models. Honda's FCX is based on the Civic, Ford will use a version of the Focus, and DaimlerChrysler will use the Mercedes-Benz A-class and an as-yet unnamed Chrysler product.

GM is designing a vehiclewith fuel cells in mind. That concept, the Autonomy, replaced many conventional components -- including steering and brakes -- with new electronic systems.

GM said the Autonomy platform could form the basis for a wide variety of vehicles. One basic set of running gear could provide the underbody and drivetrain for everything from a Cadillac Seville to a Pontiac Montana minivan.

Just a half dozen or so such platforms could conceivably serve as the basis for every vehicle GM produces worldwide, ranging from tiny Japanese minicars to full-size trucks and SUVs.

GM also developed the first vehicle to use a chemical process to turn gasoline into hydrogen for a fuel cell.

Based on a Chevrolet S10 pickup, that vehicle is about 50-percent more energy efficient than a gasoline engine, says Larry Burns, GM vice president for research and development.

Turning gasoline into hydrogen is seen as a midpoint in fuel cell development, however. It allows the vehicles to use the existing refueling infrastructure, but the system adds cost and weight to the vehicle, making it unfit for the carmaker's million-vehicle vision.

Cost Major Hurdle For Fuel Cells
Automotive News
By Richard Truett
August 12, 2002

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The industry will have a tough time meeting some of the goals of the government’s main automotive research program by 2010.

That's the consensus of fuel cell experts who spoke about the FreedomCAR program during last week’s Management Briefing Seminars here.

Two challenges face the industry: Cost and durability.

The program calls for:
An electric propulsion system with a 15-year life that can deliver at least 55 kilowatts for 18 seconds. That would provide enough thrust to accelerate a five-passenger sedan up an interstate ramp and merge safely into traffic. Added to that is a goal of producing 30 kilowatts continuously at no more than $12 per kilowatt.

A 60 percent peak-energy efficient, durable fuel cell power system. The system would include hydrogen storage. It would have to operate at $45 per kilowatt by 2010 and $30 per kilowatt by 2015.

Today's systems are about 52 percent efficient. Matt Fronk, chief engineer for General Motors fuel cell systems, said 60 percent is possible.

Thomas Moore, the Chrysler group's vice president of technical affairs, said lowering costs may be impossible.

The most efficient fuel cells generate electricity at a cost between $800 and $1,000 per kilowatt hour.

"I believe we can meet the technical issues,” Moore said. “The hard part is this cost target. I don't think they are likely to be met."

It will take breakthroughs in materials to achieve a 15-year life span on fuel cell stacks, said Larry Johnson, director of the Transportation Technology and r&d center at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. "A 15-year life, that's a real stretch," he said.

Christine Sloane, GM's director of FreedomCAR and advanced technology strategy, said fuel cells have been tested in the lab for 500 and 1,000 hours, a long way from the estimated 5,000 hours that comprise a 15-year life span.

To complicate matters, the lab test equipment is proving less durable than the fuel cell equipment, she said.

"The stack's durability is going to be a challenge, but we have some other, bigger challenges ahead of that, like making it affordable," Sloane said.
To have any chance of meeting the government's goals, hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles will have to be in mass production, Johnson said. But that appears unlikely within eight years.

In addition to the numerous technical and refueling obstacles, no automaker has experience building fuel cell vehicles in large numbers.

There are no automated machines capable of assembling the many layers of a fuel cell stack fast enough to enable mass production.

GM has opened a $15 million plant near Rochester, N.Y., to develop manufacturing technologies for fuel cells.

Hy-Wire Fuel Cell Car Arrives

GM unveils its driveable version of concept vehicle shown recently at Detroit auto show

The Detroit News
August 14, 2002
By Mark Truby

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- General Motors Corp. has developed a new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle prototype that it hails as a major step toward breaking the auto industry's reliance on gasoline-powered engines.

The Hy-wire is a five-passenger sedan with a range of 70 miles and a top speed of 100 mph. GM plans to show the vehicle to the public next month at the Paris Motor Show.

The vehicle represents an important step toward the automaker's goal of producing affordable, customer-friendly fuel cell-powered vehicles by 2010 and sell them profitably and in large numbers by 2020, said Larry Burns, GM's vice president of research and development.

"We are talking about the reinvention of the car and possibly the reinvention of the entire business model for the industry," Burns said. GM, along with other major automakers, is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in its quest to produce marketable alternative-fuel vehicles. The winners in this technology derby will garner a huge advantage over its competitors. While the world has enough petroleum in reserve to last another 100 years, car companies are more conscious than ever about the environmental and geopolitical issues surrounding oil.

Major obstacles still remain. For one thing, there is no hydrogen refueling infrastructure. And scientists are still trying to develop hydrogen tanks that are both light and strong enough to transport hydrogen, a flammable gas, safely and at capacities large enough to provide an acceptable driving range of about 300 miles.

The car evolved from the Autonomy fuel cell powered concept vehicle GM showed at this year's Detroit auto show in January. Fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity.

The Hy-wire represents a very early, incremental version of what GM hopes to one day mass market, but the automaker says it shows the concept is workable.

All of the Hy-wire's propulsion and controls are contained within an 11-inch thick, skateboard-like aluminum chassis, leaving an unusual amount of interior space. Most striking is the absence of an engine or any other components in the front of the car. The fuel cell stack, which powers the car, is tucked in the rear of the chassis.

The ultimate goal of engineers is to fit all of the components into a 6-inch thick chassis. "This suggests GM is focusing less on the technical issues of making fuel cells operate and more on packaging," said Thad Malesh, director of alternative power technologies for the market research firm J.D. Power and Associates.

The car is controlled by a single unit called 'X drive,' wireless handheld controls that send electronic commands to the drive system.
GM To Give Away Thousands Of Electric Vehicles

August 14, 6:59 PM EDT
By Michael Ellis

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - General Motors Corp. will give away thousands of golf cart-like electric vehicles to comply with California regulations forcing automakers to sell pollution-free vehicles, GM officials said on Wednesday.

Over the next three years, GM will give the vehicles to California businesses and charitable organizations so the automaker can earn zero-emission vehicle credits, which are counted toward the state's goal of getting more environmentally friendly vehicles on the road.

Some will also be given away in New York, Vermont and Massachusetts, which have tended to follow California's lead in tightening environmental standards for the automotive industry, said GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss.

"Every one you sell, you're going to have to sell at a loss," Larry Burns, GM vice president of research, development and planning, told Reuters in an interview. The goal is to "sell as many as you possibly can in three years and pocket the credits, because they're not going to go away. California is never going to stop their pursuit of zero emission vehicles."

GM contracted a Detroit company called ZevXchange to run distribution and marketing for the vehicles, which will be built and modified by Club Car of Augusta, Georgia, a unit of Ingersoll-Rand Co. Ltd. The program begins later this year.

After a year, the users have the option of buying the vehicles, which have to be modified with seat belts, windshield wipers and some other safety equipment, said GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss. Club Car will convert those that are not bought back to golf carts to sell on the used market.

California's regulations forcing automakers to offer up to 100,000 electric cars and other low-pollution vehicles on the road each year was scheduled to go into effect with the 2003 model year.

But GM won a court injunction delaying that order. Even though GM is confident that the zero-emission standards will be pushed back for years, if ever implemented, they want to book credits as early as possible in case the standards go into effect, officials said.

GM was once the industry leader in electric vehicles. It spent over $1 billion to develop the GM EV-1 electric vehicle in the 1990s. But the EV-1 was expensive and had a limited range of less than 100 miles before it needed hours of recharging time. GM stopped building the EV-1 a few years ago.

DaimlerChrysler AG and Ford Motor Co. have developed their own small electric vehicles to comply with California's regulations, rather than depend on an outside supplier.

"Customers don't want to buy electric vehicles and the batteries are expensive," Burns said. "The cost for ZEV (zero-emission vehicle) credits are extremely high. The manufacturer is going to bear that cost."

In addition, GM believes that many of the electric vehicles that will come to market are unsafe, with little crash protection. Officials said the golf cart-like electric vehicles that it sells will be for gated communities and businesses free of regular traffic.

Since the the demise of the EV-1, GM has spent billions of dollars on research into fuel cells, which use hydrogen to create electricity with only water and heat as byproducts, offering no pollutants and reduced reliance on imported oil.

Burns said California's regulations threaten to divert funds from fuel cell research, which he said holds far more commercial promise. This week, at a GM conference held in Santa Barbara, GM unveiled its latest fuel cell concept car, which Burns said could be on the road by 2010, and in vast numbers and making money before 2020.

But environmental groups say that GM could do much more in the near term, pointing to Toyota and Honda's recent hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles. They combine a traditional internal combustion engine with an electric motor for better fuel efficiency and less emission of carbon dioxide, which is considered a greenhouse gas.

"I don't think anyone's clamoring for more golf carts," said Kate Simmons, a member of the global warming and energy program with the Sierra Club. "There are real technologies that exist today that GM could put in their vehicles."

GM has said it will offer a limited number of hybrid pickups in 2004, and more hybrid vehicles later
GM To Benefit Most From Fuel-Cell Autos, Study Says

August 29, 2002
By Alan Ohnsman

West Chester, Penn. -- General Motors Corp. will benefit most among automakers as fuel-cell cars and trucks grow from a handful of test vehicles now to annual output of about 1.2 million in 2020, a consulting firm said.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. also will have competitive systems, an AutomotiveCompass LLC study said. Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity and under ideal conditions emit only water vapor as a byproduct. Demand will grow as pollution rules tighten, production costs fall and hydrogen fuel becomes available, the study says.

"Toyota and Honda will get there first, partly because of what they've learned already by working on (gasoline-electric) hybrids," said William Pochiluk, an analyst for the firm. "GM will be the biggest. They have a broader product lineup."

Automakers are racing to adopt the technology, used in spacecraft for decades, in anticipation of tighter anti-pollution rules. General Motors has said it expects to sell thousands of fuel-cell autos annually by 2010. High costs and few hydrogen-fueling stations limit current prospects.

Canada's Ballard Power Systems Inc., a fuel-cell maker allied with Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG, will become a major supplier as the market develops, the study said. West Chester, Pennsylvania-based AutomotiveCompass provides data and market research to automakers and their suppliers.

The study estimated about 320 fuel-cell vehicles will be operating in 2005, rising to production of more than 1.2 million in 2020. Under a best-case scenario in which issues such as fuel-station availability and vehicle costs are resolved faster, annual output may rise to 3.83 million by 2020, the study said.

Testing Prototypes

About 10 prototype fuel-cell autos now are being evaluated in the U.S., along with a few in Japanese and German road tests. Toyota and Honda have said they will lease small numbers of fuel-cell vehicles in the U.S. and Japan late this year.

Detroit-based General Motors, the world's largest automaker, has said it intends to be the first company to sell 1 million such vehicles. The company built 7.9 million cars and trucks last year.

"The study concludes that GM is a force to be reckoned with, and we agree," General Motors spokesman Scott Fosgard said.

General Motors has said that the cost of powering a typical U.S. family car with fuel cells is now about $37,500, or about 10 times the expense of a gasoline internal-combustion engine. Larry Burns, the automaker's vice president of research and development, last month said General Motors expects to erase that difference by the end of this decade.

The consulting firm's estimate of fuel-cell vehicle sales in 2020 is lower than General Motors' expectations. Burns last month said the automaker expects sales of 80 million to 90 million of the vehicles during the decade starting in 2010.

Looks like Ricers may take over in the future...
Japanese Car Makers to Team Up on Hybrids
Nissan will buy key components from Toyota, a move that could reinforce Japan's 'green' dominance.

September 3, 2002

TOKYO -- Significantly boosting the commercial viability of environmentally friendly cars, two of Japan's largest auto makers said Monday that they would collaborate in producing hybrid vehicles for the U.S. market.

Under the agreement, Nissan Motor Co. said it expects to buy key components from Toyota Motor Corp. for about 100,000 hybrid Nissan vehicles to be sold in the U.S. over a five-year period beginning in 2006.

So-called hybrid cars emit less pollution by using an electric motor to augment a gasoline engine. Toyota is the global leader in hybrid cars, thanks to its Prius hybrid sedan, which has sold 98,000 models worldwide since its introduction in 1997. The Prius has been most popular in North America, with 33,363 vehicles on the road since the September 2000 U.S. roll-out.

But to make the vehicles more profitable, Toyota needs far higher volumes. Producing more components would help lower per-unit costs, as would standardization.

"An environmental technology must become widespread," Toyota Executive Vice President Akihiko Saito said at the first-ever Toyota-Nissan news conference. "It gives us great joy that Nissan has given a high assessment to Toyota's hybrid technology."

Nissan Executive Vice President Nobuo Okubo said, "We must move beyond the efforts of just one company."

Prompted by the tightening of emissions restrictions and environmental concerns, auto makers worldwide have been racing to develop technologies.

Honda Motor Co. has developed a different type of hybrid from Toyota's. Toyota's system, at times, runs only on electric power; Honda's has no purely electric mode. Its Insight two-seater has sold 13,000 vehicles since 1999, primarily in the U.S. It is hoping to sell 24,000 Civic hybrids, launched this year in the U.S., in North America this year.

Honda officials in the U.S. have said that the Insight probably will be withdrawn from the market in about a year to make room for production of more Civic and other hybrid models.

Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. is preparing to market a hybrid version of its small Escape sport utility vehicle in 2004--and Ford-controlled Mazda is expected to follow suit with a hybrid Tribute, its version of the SUV.

Other major auto makers, including DaimlerChrysler and General Motors Corp., also are preparing hybrids for the U.S. and overseas markets.

GM and Ford, the world's two largest auto makers, have pulled the plug on efforts to develop marketable versions of battery-powered electric cars.

GM is reclaiming the two-seat EV-1 electric cars it has leased to a small group of enthusiasts for several years, and Ford announced last week that it will stop work on its Think electric vehicle and sell the division because of low demand and lack of government support. Ford has spent about $123 million on the Think unit and its development, and GM spent more than $1 billion on the EV-1 program.

The death of the two big electric-vehicle programs gives a big boost to the development of the hybrid as the environmentally friendly vehicle of choice until the auto industry can perfect the fuel cell, which produces electric power from hydrogen on board the vehicle and doesn't require storage batteries or external recharging.

Hybrids got another boost recently when California's zero-emissions mandate, which required auto makers to offer up to 100,000 electric cars and other low-pollution vehicles each year beginning with the 2003 model year, was blocked by a court injunction in a suit filed by GM.

Auto industry executives expect the California Air Resources Board to rewrite the mandate rules to permit more very-low-emission vehicles, as hybrids can be.

Monday's Toyota-Nissan agreement promises to widen the lead of Japanese auto makers over U.S. and European manufacturers in selling so-called green cars that produce lower carbon dioxide emissions and cleaner exhaust. But environmental friendliness doesn't necessarily translate into profitability. Though Toyota has indicated that it is eking out profit on the Prius, there are many doubters.

Nissan has maintained that it can't make money on hybrids with such low sales. Nissan discontinued its Tino hybrid model in 2000 after losing substantial amounts on the few vehicles it sold.

The cooperation of Toyota and Nissan, perhaps the fiercest corporate rivals this country has ever seen, astonished the Japanese. It would be as if McDonald's and Burger King said they were collaborating on a healthy burger, with McDonald's selling some of its secret ingredients and equipment to its archrival.

But it is a sign of Nissan's financial turmoil that it seized on Toyota's invitation to auto makers last year to cooperate on environmentally friendly technologies.

"We knew that volume would be key and if we pursued it independently, we couldn't get the required revenues," Nissan's Okubo said.

For years, Nissan was neck-and-neck with Toyota for bragging rights as Japan's top car maker in terms of sales and revenue. But in the last several years, Toyota has substantially widened its lead while Nissan faltered with an overly aggressive international expansion plan, a run of unpopular models, poor cost controls and a huge debt load.

Meanwhile, Honda came on strong, narrowly overtaking Nissan as the country's No. 2 auto maker. Nissan posted record profit for its last fiscal year, but largely through massive cost cutting and its booming U.S. operation.

Initially, Nissan will be installing a hybrid system under development by Toyota, including the transaxle and inverter. Nissan will install them in yet-to-be-announced models of its own--which could include SUVs--and continue development of its own engine.

Nissan insists that it too has technology to offer, including a lead in development of a lithium iode battery
Hybrid Cars Not Yet Ready To Take Off

Economic, environmental benefits won’t offset price-conscious consumers

September 11, 2002

ROME, Sept. 11 — Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are gaining popularity but their fuel economy and environmental benefits are not yet enough to win over price-conscious buyers in the key U.S. market, industry officials said on Wednesday.

HEV MODELS FROM Honda Motor Co and Toyota Motor Corp, which use both a conventional engine and an electric motor, are becoming more common in the United States and could take off soon in Europe, according to U.S. executives at a four-day European lead battery conference in Rome.

The vehicles use an internal combustion engine to recharge batteries and to provide extra power when accelerating.

In the United States, HEVs cost around $4,000 more than equivalent standard models.

“There is limited flexibility from consumers in terms of pricing,” Ted Miller, a Dearborn, Michigan-based executive with Ford Motor Co (F.N) told Reuters.

“If you can deliver a hybrid vehicle to a customer for very nearly the same price as a typical (non-hybrid) vehicle, the demand can be fairly significant,” added Miller, also a senior official of the U.S. advanced battery consortium (USABC).

Toyota has projected eventual sales of hundreds of thousands of HEVs per year for models like its Prius, Miller said.

Harshad Tataria, a Michigan-based executive with General Motors (GM), said the challenge was to bring HEV costs down to the level of standard vehicles and deliver performance.

“Once we come up with a cost which is the same as the cost of the regular vehicle, we believe the HEV will take off,” Tataria, who also represents the USABC research group, said.

“However, it isn’t going to be easy because we have to put in extra battery power,” he told Reuters.

“The hybrid vehicle does include fuel economy and reduces pollution, depending on the degree of hybridisation.”

Ford plans to introduce an HEV on a limited scale in the United States soon, while GM intends to launch low-hybrid HEV trucks there by around 2004, the executives said.

As fuel in the United States is much cheaper than in Europe, U.S. consumers feel little pressure to switch to HEVs, although the situation might change if fuel costs soared, delegates said.

“Many American consumers don’t feel obliged to economise on fuel as it is so cheap,” Miller said.

Most auto makers will be obliged to upgrade the electrical systems of their cars to meet increasing needs for power for electronic gadgets, delegates said.

Cars running on fuel cells — pure electric vehicles — are not projected to play any role in the automotive mass market before at least 2010, said Menahem Anderman, president of California-based Advanced Automotive Batteries.

Delegates said it would take many years to set up the infrastructure required to charge fuel cell cars.

Fuel cell cars have an onboard charger. Fuel cells convert fuel, usually hydrogen or methane, directly to electrical energy. Emissions are hot, distilled water.

Fuel cell technology would still need a battery to charge electronic devices.


The need for more safety and convenience devices in cars is fuelling demand for higher-powered batteries, such as the newly developed 42-volt battery, delegates said. The standard battery for cars today is the 12-volt lead acid battery.

“The global battery market for advanced (hybrid and 42 volt battery) vehicles, estimated at $70 million in 2001, is projected to exceed $250 million by 2005, and $500 million by 2008,” Anderman wrote in a report entitled “A Critical New Assessment of Automotive Battery Trends.”

In terms of units, the market in 2008 is expected to be evenly divided between nickel metal hydride (NiMH) and valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) at about 400,000 batteries each, the report said.

The “8ELBC” conference ends on Friday.
You know I am doing my bit for the environment as well... I've ordered the 8.1 litre with 4.10 diff ratio because I was told the fossil fuels are bad for the ozone layer. I figured I'd help burn it up real quick to get rid of it all. ;)
Skidd said:
You know I am doing my bit for the environment as well... I've ordered the 8.1 litre with 4.10 diff ratio because I was told the fossil fuels are bad for the ozone layer. ?I figured I'd help burn it up real quick to get rid of it all. ?;)

Now you got me curious... ???
What is the price of gas over there? ?You could make it easier for us by converting it to gallons and U.S. $ ;D
zimmsAV said:
Now you got me curious... ???
What is the price of gas over there? ?You could make it easier for us by converting it to gallons and U.S. $ ;D
Ok then, today unleaded fuel in Melbourne is 92 cents per litre.

Thats $3.48 Australian per US Gallon.

Or $1.91 US dollars per gallon.

And I suppose your going to tell me that you only pay about half that for your fuel?
Like I've said before, to truely make this comparison you really need to take into account the average weekly wage in each country. ?The problem with that is the "average weekly wage" is usually above what most people get. ?:2: