Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Volt for Real?

For those who think that GM is not serious about its new PHEV, the Volt, here is a piece that makes you think they are:

The Volt To Be Lutz's Legacy
May 21, 2007

So, I heard General Motors’ Bob Lutz on National Public Radio’s “Wait. Wait Don’t Tell Me” this past Saturday.The GM product boss said the vehicle he is most excited about, and the one he thinks will be the most significant for GM, is the Chevy Volt.

The Volt is the plug-in hybrid car GM showed at last January’s Detroit Auto Show.

The Volt, provided GM can get the lithium battery right, will go about 40 miles on an electric charge. At that point, the internal combustion engine kicks in and recharges the battery while you are driving. Imagine using your laptop computer on a battery. It runs down. You plug it in, and continue working. While you are working, the battery is also recharging. Apply that principal to cars, and that pretty much explains the Volt.

Given the fact that the car is not expected to sacrifice much in performance, and that is scalable to small cars, mid-sized cars and crossovers, no wonder Lutz is geeked about the Volt. Even he recognizes that the Volt will make historians forget about the (in my opinion) entirely forgettable Dodge Viper he concocted at Chrysler, as well as the 1000 horsepower Cadillac Sixteen concept car of a few years ago. The Volt will even make people forget that it was Lutz who gave us the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky. Good, sexy cars and a great price.

But the Volt could be in a class by itself.

Yes, the Volt should be Lutz’s legacy. I know the Volt isn’t here yet. But I can’t help thinking that this technology will make the current crop of hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape look like Ford Excursions. Estimates vary. But given the fact that something like 75% of driving in the U.S. is made up of short trips well under ten miles round-trip, a growing fleet of vehicles that can do that on battery power instead of gasoline is a huge game-changer.

No. Make that a world changer. (clip)

Volt technology, combined with reforms at power plants (cleaner coal technology and more nukes to generate electricity) to provide the electricity represents a greener cleaner U.S. It’s hopeful to think that if the U.S. was marching in the direction, it would give America a lot of stick to go to developing countries like India and China and say…”We figured it out…this is the technology we all should be investing in to save the planet. more

If the Autobeat of Newsweek sees this, it looks for real.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Easy as A123

Perhaps the most important milestone in developing Plug in Hybrids is the availability of an affordable, practical, and powerful battery pack. Here is a significant announcement by David Vieau, CEO of A123 Systems.

A123 Announces Standard Retrofit Module
Energy Blog
May 2, 2007

On May 1 in testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Finance, Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure, David Vieau, CEO of A123Systems announced that they will be testing a standard production hybrid with a supplemental battery module filled with their current production lithium ion batteries, converting it to a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), in various fleets in 2007 and intend to market it nationwide in 2008.

A123Systems produces Nanophoshate based lithium ion batteries with a combination of power density, durability and safety in excess of anything mass produced on the market today.


The battery module used to convert hybrid vehicles to plug-in hybrid vehicles will be certified to meet all applicable new car test standards and will be installed by trained mechanics in less than 2 hours. The module is small enough to fit into a vehicles spare tire well.

This module contains their current production battery cells and delivers enough usable energy for the vehicle to travel the equivalent of 40 miles on electricity, achieving as much as 150 MPG in urban driving and 100 MPG in highway driving.

This module is charged overnight from a regular 120 volt extension cord which plugs into the bumper. Since the average commuter travels under 30 miles per day, off peak nightly charging of this module both improves a utility's load factor and efficiencies while reducing total gasoline consumption and emissions dramatically. snip

At an initial 40 mile module installed price of $10,000 supported with a $3500 tax credit, the payback period for a fleet owner with $3.00/gallon gas is 2.5 years, against an expected life of 10 or more years.

The payback period for the average commuter driving 11,000 miles per year would be 5.5 years. These calculations place no value on the net reduction of approximately 100 tons of carbon dioxide and other emissions over the life of the vehicle and take no account of the cost reductions which could accrue from additional materials research and increasing production volumes.

The original equipment PHEVs due out early in the next decade utilizing even better batteries integrated directly into the vehicle at the factory will be more efficient and less costly. But there can be as many as 15 million standard hybrids on the road when plug-in volumes skyrocket from 2012 to 2017. more

In another important energy storage development Zenn has invested in EEStor.