Monday, June 30, 2008

VW Jumps on the Bandwagon

Another major manufacturer is jumping on the plug in hybrid bandwagon. Here's the story from Motor Trend:

VW jumping on plug-in hybrid bandwagon
with TwinDrive system
June 26 2008

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn announced today that pre-production testing of the automaker's plug-in hybrid electric system, dubbed TwinDrive, is underway with the full support of the German government. If all goes as planned, VW is hoping to introduce the technology on vehicles by 2010, that magical year when plug-in electric vehicles being promised by multiple automakers are supposed to hit the world's roads.

During a presentation of Volkswagen's new electric car program entitled "Fleet Test: Electric Drive Vehicles," Winterkorn explained that TwinDrive can power a vehicle solely on electricity for up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) and can be plugged into to existing power outlets for recharging. Much like GM's system in development for the Volt, the car's lithium ion battery power supply is supplemented by a traditional gasoline engine for long distance travel.

"While the E-motor on a typical hybrid model just supplements the combustion engine, the exact opposite is true on the TwinDrive: here the diesel or gasoline engine supplements the E-motor," Winterkorn said. "(clip)

According to Jalopnik, "the Twin Drive can be run in electric-only mode for a range of up to 30 miles using an 82 HP electric motor. But, there's also a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel that makes 122 HP which can take over once the batteries have been drained. When the two powerplants combine, you have a parallel hybrid with about 174 HP.

Wired adds this:

"Start-stop technology will save power and regenerative braking will help generate it. VW says the car will use lithium-ion batteries and have an all-electric range of 31 miles. The company recently signed a deal with Sanyo to develop li-ion batteries; the electronics company plans to begin production next year and says it will spend $769 million on the effort during the next seven years. "

As for VW's overall plans, RiverWired writes:

"Volkswagen will have three hybrids, one of which will plug in, and an all-electric car in dealerships in 2010. The Touareg SUV and popular Rabbit hatchback will be available as hybrids, while the Jetta will be a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.The electric car will be a limited edition of the new up! concept.

No word yet on how many of these four cars will actually hit the market in 2010. German-language car magazine Auto Motor und Sport reported that VW CEO Martin Winterkorn just recently announced the plan to build the green Vee-Dubs. The PHEV Jetta will -- theoretically -- be in good company, as GM is working furiously on the Volt and Toyota will offer a plug-in Prius."

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel spoke at the Volkswagen event where he stated that he expects around 1 million hybrid cars on German roads by 2020 and more than 10 million a decade later.

Meanwhile, John McCain has hired Plug in Activist Jim Woolsey as his energy advisor.

Woolsey believes that "the greatest danger to the country now is not nuclear and chemical weapons but climate change and the American dependence on oil which is partly blamed for causing it.

Mr Woolsey believes the greatest weapon in America's arsenal is not the stealth bomber, the Abrams tank or the F-16 jet – but the humble plug-in hybrid car that will let most people do their daily drive on electric power. "

And on the day of that announcement, McCain came out for a $300 million prize for a new game changing energy storage device, ten times more than the feds are spending now.

As the Economist says, it may truly be the beginning of the end of the Petrolhead.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Toyota Plug In

Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe made his company's intentions clear yesterday about PHEVs. Here's the story from the LA Times:

Toyota promises plug-in hybrid vehicle in U.S., Japan and Europe by 2010
By Yuri Kageyama,
The Associated Press
June 11, 2008

TOKYO -- Toyota is introducing a plug-in hybrid with next-generation lithium-ion batteries in the U.S., Japan and Europe by 2010, under a widespread "green" strategy outlined today.The ecological gas-electric vehicles, which can be recharged from a home electrical outlet, will target leasing customers, Toyota Motor Corp. said.

Such plug-in hybrids can run longer as an electric vehicle than regular hybrids, and are cleaner.Lithium-ion batteries, now common in laptops, produce more power and are smaller than nickel-metal hydride batteries used in hybrids now.

The joint venture that Toyota set up with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which makes Panasonic products, will begin producing lithium-ion batteries next year and move into full-scale production in 2010, Toyota said.

Toyota also said it's setting up a battery research department later this month to develop an innovative battery that can outperform even that lithium-ion battery.

Japan's top automaker, which leads the industry in gas-electric hybrids, has said it will rev up hybrid sales to 1 million a year sometime after 2010. (clip)

"Without focusing on measures to address global warming and energy issues, there can be no future for our auto business," Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe told reporters at a Tokyo hall. (more)

Meanwhile, in the United States, the political environment to support plug ins continues to grow.

"On June 11 and 12, the Brookings Institution and will host a conference entitled “Plug-In Electric Vehicles 2008: What Role for Washington?” The event represents the biggest gathering of national powerbrokers discussing the role of government regarding plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.

The list of attendees includes Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.); Representative John Dingell (D-Mich.); New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman; Jon Wellinghoff, commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and CEOs and top executives from Ford, General Motors, Federal Express, and Southern California Edison.

Event Summary

Oil prices are at record highs. The overwhelming dependence of our cars and trucks on oil strains family budgets, threatens our national security and contributes to global warming. Plug-in electric vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce the United States’ dependence on oil.

Yet can this potential be realized? If so, how?

Is there a national interest in putting millions of plug-in vehicles on the road soon? How should policymakers in Washington, D.C., respond?

You can watch the event here.

Clearly, as indicated in this opinion piece from the Orlando Sentinal, the time for Plug-ins is Now.

For all the concern over climate change and heavy reliance on foreign oil, there has been little attention given to a technology that could be the key to help resolve both problems: the electric plug-in automobile.Given the public's desire for cars that cost less to run, Detroit now has a golden opportunity to fill a large potential market for plug-in hybrids -- essentially gasoline-electric cars modified to run in an all-electric mode for all or a large part of a daily commute.

Detroit could not only pre-empt this market in America, but also could establish a true world car that would help relieve all countries of their overwhelming dependence on oil for automotive transportation. (clip)

But real change won't come until car owners recognize the need for it. That time may have arrived now that gasoline prices have hit $4 a gallon or more."

You can help that real change come.

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