Oct 6, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Mostly from this past tumultuous week, here are some of the most important media reports, videos, and related developments:
- September auto sales slump; hybrids hit less
- Plug-in cars on CBS Sixty Minutes
- Gov Schwarzenegger starts promoting plug-ins
- Kleiner Perkins leads Silicon Valley VCs to cleantech/plug-in investments
- Paris Auto Show roundup from Edmunds
- Chevy Volt goes to NASCAR
- Listening to GM Roundtable on future of transportation
- Popular Mechanics "reality check" on plug-in cars
- USA Today and Detroit News quotables
- Enthusiast's video: Highlander hybrid wants to plug in
- CNN report/video on conversion customers & Luscious Garage
- Series/parallel PHEV debates at EVWorld
- Ford says hydrogen 20 years away
- US Energy Department's publications site
- Joseph Romm/Climate Progress blog on clean coal
- Romm details bailout bill's energy provisions
- EESTOR continues to bewilder optimists and skeptics
SEPTEMBER AUTO SALES SLUMP: In the context of a growing global crisis, high fuel prices and declining resale values, auto sales plunged 26.6% from September '07, the biggest drop in 17 years. See many reports including http://www.latimes.com/business/investing/la-fi-autos2-2008oct02,0,3379305.story . Last week, Bill Heard Enterprises in Alabama, a 14-outlet chain in business for 89 years and one of the largest Chevrolet dealers, filed for bankruptcy http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122272847811388021.html?mod=googlenews_wsj . The combination of too many gas-guzzling vehicles and increasingly cautious, stretched consumers who can no longer get easy financing means that all carmakers face growing problems. We don't think that people "waiting to buy a plug-in car" are yet a factor, but that could start to come into play at some point. Meanwhile, sales of hybrids were down but by far smaller percentages-- for a breakout see http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/10/us-sales-of-hyb.html .
PLUG-INS FEATURED ON CBS SIXTY MINUTES: The Race For The Electric Car: Competition To Build A Viable Electric Car Heats Up, As Silicon Valley Gets Into The Game http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4502691n Leslie Stahl on Sunday, October 5 in a 13-minute segment featuring the Tesla Roadster and Elon Musk; the Chevy Volt and Bob Lutz; and Kleiner Perkins' Ray Lane. It describes the Volt as a PHEV and also shows the Aptera and Fisker Karma plug-ins as well. Our posting #3 in comments: Good story EXCEPT:
- an electric mile is half the CO2 of a gasoline mile when powered by the national (half-coal) grid.
- the Volt''s price just went down by $7,500 because of the tax credit signed into law on Friday as part of the bank bailout bill.
SCHWARZENEGGER TO DETROIT: GET OFF YOUR BUTT! Earth2Tech http://earth2tech.com/2008/09/27/schwarzenegger-to-detroit-get-off-your-butt/ reports that "California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger - one of the first civilians to own a Hummer - told car manufacturers in Detroit to "get off your butt" and stop living in the past of huge SUVs and cheap oil prices" in a Q&A after a speech at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club....The article goes on to say, Detroit must do a better job at developing these alternative fuel vehicles, he said, and pointed out that Tesla has been able to produce a successful electric car far before Detroit has. (Schwarzenegger is a Tesla customer). Of course he noted that California has managed to lure Tesla back to the state with an incentive package and that the startup has decided to build a $250 million plant in San Jose, Calif....he says he plans to host a governor's global climate summit in California in November. OUR COMMENT: Schwarzenegger has lagged behind many others in the state in recognizing that we could have plug-in cars now, while his expectations for a hydrogen highway remains a distant dream. Grist reports http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/9/24/9326/34045 that he has in fact already taken delivery of the vehicle but we haven't seen an official announcement anywhere. We hope his Tesla will help him become a strong supporter of plug-ins.
"CAPITALISM TO THE RESCUE: HOW GREEN WAS THE VALLEY:" If you can, get a copy of the Sunday New York Times Magazine to read the print version of the story by John Gertner you can also find at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/05/magazine/05Green-t.html . 10 full pages inside covering the entire range of investments and perspectives in Cleantech/Greentech (including fuels, batteries and plug-in cars) of leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. This article should put to rest much of the skepticism we've heard about KPCB's activities and intentions. (Not that any of this bothered the firm.) It includes quotes and perspectives from many partners, rather than simply highlighting most-often-quoted John Doerr. The issue's cover photo shows partners Al Gore, John Doerr, Bill Joy, Ray Lane and John Denniston with one of the first three TH!NK open EVs to arrive in the U.S. Joseph Romm discusses the article at http://climateprogress.org/2008/10/05/must-read-how-green-was-the-valley/#more-3943
PARIS AUTO SHOW REPORT: Edmunds Green Car Advisor Senior Editor John O'Dell, in "Bail-Out Passes, Includes Plug-In hybrid Tax Credits. Now Bring On the Cars!" http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/
"NASCAR, MEET THE CHEVY VOLT:" entertaining story about the Volt at Texas Motor Speedway and the issue of engine sounds http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/biztech/10/01/volt.car.nascar/?iref=mpstoryview
GM CENTENNIAL ROUNDTABLE: At least the first half of this hour-long dialogue on the future of transportation in the 21st Century is very much worth listening to. It features Larry Burns of GM, Mark Duval of EPRI, Don Hillebrand of Argonne Lab, ANL; John Gasesa analyst, and Chris Paine of 'Who Killed the Electric Car?, moderated by Joel Makower of Greener World Media.You can watch it at the GMNext website, but it may be easier to download the MP3 as a podcast. EVWorld makes that simple at http://www.evworld.com/article.cfm?storyid=1529 . (We unsuccessfully urged GM to provide a transcription, since so many people prefer to scan text.)
POPULAR MECHANICS SUGGESTS PHEV DOWNSIDES: "Toyota, Experts See Plug-in Car Trouble: Electric Reality Check" http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/new_cars/4285557.html by John Stewart picks up on very downbeat comments by Toyota's Bill Reinert at a conference in Portland where Toyota inexplicably began touting natural gas (only 20-30% lower in CO2 than gasoline) as an environmental option. The author cites numerous challenges, including "Expensive Batteries vs. Dealer Costs/Limited Life Span vs. Gas Usage/Low Sales vs. Environmental Benefits/Charging Habits vs. Grid Savings." Some of the contentions are unsupportable, and we wouldn't be surprised if some quotes were out of context. The story also reports, "Toyota confirmed that its plug-in Prius is scheduled to go on sale as a 2010 model with an EV-only range of about 10 miles after testing on li-ion models begins with North American fleets in about a year," which is more definitive than anything else we've seen but is not a direct quotation.
USA TODAY ONE-LINER: "At least in the near future, electricity seems to be the answer for powering cars" says Sharon Silke Carty in "Model T turns 100; it was truly an engine of change" http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2008-09-28-model-t_N.htm?csp=34
DETROIT NEWS PUBLISHES CATCHY PHRASE: writing an Op-Ed in the Detroit News, Monday, September 29, 2008, "Don't let U.S. lose car battery race" http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080929/OPINION01/809290325/1008/OPINION01 , Charles E. Gassenheimer says "Electricity is in the air in Detroit. ." He's CEO of Ener1 Inc., whose subsidiary EnerDel, develops and builds lithium-ion batteries at a factory outside Indianapolis
VIDEO: WHY MY HIGHLANDER HYBRID WANTS TO PLUG IN, an 8-minute primer by enthusiast Edmund J Haemmerle III of NJRenewableEnergy.com http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iu_ob3U9NaU
CNN REPORT AND VIDEO ON CONVERSIONS: an excellent story and 90-second video clip featuring the spotless Luscious Garage in San Francisco: "Hybrids trick out, plug in" http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/09/30/hybrid.electric.conversion/index.html
What kind of people are converting to this conversion? "We've seen such a diverse group of people," said Coquillette. "We have some people who come in who are entrepreneurs, who are business people, there are some people who are diehard environmentalists, but there are some people who come in, they just want to burn less gas."... And driven customers don't seem to be letting cost discourage them from the conversion. "Customers are not coming to me and saying, 'I'll do this if there is a rebate.' People come to me and say, 'I want to do this right away,' " said Coquillette.
SERIES-PARALLEL PHEV DEBATES AT EVWORLD.COM: At Overcharged! http://www.evworld.com/article.cfm?storyid=1541 by By Chris Ellis, read an article and several exchanges about the competing designs. Some of this discussion also happened earlier at our posting last week, Gas Guzzlers: Crush 'Em or Convert 'Em? http://www.evworld.com/article.cfm?storyid=1540
FORD SAYS HYDROGEN AT LEAST 20 YEARS AWAY:
US ENERGY DEPT PUBLICATIONS: Here's a good resource you may have missed: http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/vehicles/plugin_hybrids_publications.html The Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center provides plug-in hybrid electric vehicle-related publications, reports, and newsletters.
JOSEPH ROMM ON "CLEAN COAL" http://climateprogress.org/2008/10/03/
is-the-biden-obama-position-on-clean-clean-coal-a-mistake/#more-3937 a thoughtful piece on how it's playing out in the election, with URLs to educate yourself on the issue
ROMM ON BAILOUT BILL'S ENERGY PROVISIONS:
EESTOR MYSTERIES: We're often asked what we think about this stealth Texas batterymaker that has been working for several years on a solution providing far greater energy density than today's batteries. Now after deals with little-known Zenn Motors and giant Lockheed-Martin we have one more announcement of a deal with a small two-and-three-wheel company. This raises more questions than it answers, as you'll see by perusing the comments at http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/09/lightevs-signs.html .