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Obama's Briefing; Sandalow To DOE; Automaker News; Nat'l Wildlife Federation Embraces PHEVs
Mar 27, 2009 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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We have lots of positive developments and links to report on: more from the President's visit to Southern California Edison, very encouraging news of two appointments, new plug-in car news from Europe, China, Korea and the U.S., a strong endorsement of PHEVs by the National Wildlife Federation (the nation's largest conservation group), a thoughtful interview with EPRI's Mark Duvall, and our thoughts about promising energy storage news and about the new Tesla Model S EV.

PRESIDENT AT POMONA: EVWorld does a great job reporting on President Obama's trip last week to Southern California Edison's Electric Vehicle Technology Center in Pomona, CA. See the "open access" article at­article.cfm?storyid=1671 . (EVWorld limits some stories to $29/year subscribers. This story, "Plugging In America's President," SCE's Ed Kjaer explains to EVWorld Editor about the four-part briefing the President received: a "Garage of Tomorrow" showing how everything can be smart: grid, home, appliances, meters and consumption; energy storage (the one that the President asked the most questions about); vehicles (including a Ford Escape PHEV that Obama would prefer to his hybrid Escape in Chicago), and non-road applications for forklifts, etc. At the EVWorld page, you can listen to or down load an illuminating 39-minute video.

ONE MORE LINK FROM PRESIDENT'S VISIT: At­kabc/­video?id=6719171 you can see the President's entire 14-minute speech to the crowd at the event. It starts with the introduction of the President by Levon Atarian, Test Center Day Garage Foreman, a former auto repair shop owner, who movingly described how much it means to him when his kids say he's "helping the world." Plus we've solved one mystery: who were the high school students Obama mentioned were in the audience? They turned out to come from the nearby Village Academy High School. A week before, in his speech on education, Obama had highlighted their YouTube video about the impact on their families of the economic and foreclosure crisis, "Is Anybody Listening." He invited them to visit the EV Center.

We're very encouraged by the new positions in the Administration for David Sandalow and Jon Wellinghoff. Both will be able insiders as we continue the process of working to get substantial numbers of plug-in cars on the road.

We've frequently described the work of JON WELLINGHOFF, member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which among other responsibilities, oversees 368,000 miles of electricity transmission lines. Wellinghoff, whose Nevada background was in consumer protection and utility law, has been on the Commission since 2006 and Acting Chair since 2006. Now he's the FERC Chair. See his interview in the Washignton Post march 21, "Climate Change 'Big Priority' for Energy Commission Chief,"­wp-dyn/­content/­article/­2009/­03/­20/­AR2009032003194.html in which he again raises a concept that in 2006-2007 helped put the national spotlight on the potential of "vehicle to grid:" someday PHEVs could be "Cash-Back Hybrids" with owners being paid to make their parked cars available to utilities for energy storage and services.

DAVID SANDALOW has been nominated to fill out the top-level Energy Department team under Dr. Steven Chu as Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs. Sandalow is the author of the 2007 "Freedom from Oil: How the Next President Can End the United States' Oil Addiction," whose roadmap for the next President meshed well with Obama's campaign positions and with the policies now emerging from the Department of Energy. He was the lead organizer of the Brookings Institution/ national conference, "Plug-In Electric Vehicles 2008:What role for Washington?" and edited the book with the same title with articles by leading plug-in experts, available for pre-order at­books.html or at­press/­Books/­2009/­pluginelectricvehicles.aspx . Recently at Brookings and the Energy and Climate Working Group of the Clinton Global Initiative, in the Cllinton Administration he was Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Environment and Science and Senior Director for Environmental Affairs on the National Security Council. Before that he was at the World Wildlife Fund. See­gwire/­2009/­03/­23/­23greenwire-obama-taps-sandalow-bp-official-for-highlevel--10246.html for more on his nomination as well as that of Seven Koonin as DOE Undersecretary for Science. Koonin is a physicist and former provost at CalTech, and as BP chief scientist helped create the UC Berkeley/Illinois Energy Biosciences Institute.

ONE MORE MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP ENDORSES PLUG-INS:­news/­story.cfm?pageId=3EA0670A-5056-A868-A024780932AC421F In a press release, we read, "Nation's Largest Conservation Group Stands Up for General Motors' Recovery Plan," we read, In a letter to President Obama's Task Force on the Auto Industry, National Wildlife Federation President and CEO Larry Schweiger said GM's plan to develop advanced battery technology for plug-in hybrid cars is "a critical step in confronting global climate change." General Motors is making a serious commitment to develop plug-in hybrid and electric cars, and the battery technology that goes into them, that can transform the way our nation captures and stores energy," Schweiger said in a March 20 letter to the Task Force. Schweiger noted that a rapid introduction of affordable, plug-in electric vehicles, together with the smart grid infrastructure to make more efficient and sustainable use of electric transmission, will help the nation transition to clean energy and substantially cut carbon pollution that causes global warming. "Increasingly electrifying our vehicle fleet is a transformational change, not only for GM and other auto companies, auto workers, suppliers and the manufacturing sector, but for everyone in this country who uses electricity in any way," Schweiger said in the letter to the auto panel. "We need to make investments in companies like GM who will deliver the technologies critical to achieving that clean energy economy." "The next generation vehicles being developed by GM are one of the bold solutions we need to protect jobs and create new ones while transitioning away from the dirty fossil fuels that cause global warming," Schweiger said. "Through the huge American auto supply chain - manufacturing, parts, electronics, research engineering, software - next generation vehicles made here get us green jobs across America." The widespread use of plug-in hybrid vehicles over the coming decades could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by more than 450 million metric tons annually in 2050 the equivalent of removing 82.5 million passenger cars from the roads, according to a recent EPRI and National Resources Defense Council study. NWF does not agree with GM on all aspects of environmental policy. Schweiger said NWF has agreed to disagree with GM on the details of fuel economy regulations and will continue to push for tough standards that require automakers to meet higher fuel efficiency standards. If you enjoyed reading this, the short complete letter at­nwfwebadmin/­binaryVault/­Presidential_Task_Force_on_Autos.pdf is even better!

FISKER TO TAKE ORDERS FOR PHEVS THIS SUMMER IN US: Irvine-based Fisker Automotive has announced that it will begin selling its Karma luxury PHEV this summer, manufacturing this fall, and delivering cars in early-mid 2010. It will set up 32 dealerships IN 17 states for the $89,700 vehicle ($82,200 after credit). The company currently has 1300 pre-orders. (The dealership in Sunnyvale, CA will be across the street from Sunnyvale Toyota, both owned by the Price Family Dealerships.) For dealer list see­article/­20090326/­ANA05/­903269955/­1078 . For more business news about the company and its selection of Canadian battery supplier Advanced Lithium Power, see­news/­science/­environment/­la-fi-fisker12-2009mar12,0,5015379.story?

FORD CONTINUES COMING AROUND: A report of comments by top Ford executives, "Ford Hybrids Offer Ford Plug-In Electric Solutions"­ford-hybrid/­article11748.html includes shows them speaking positively but sticking to slower timetables than other carmakers: "Ford is heading in the direction America and our customers want us to go, which is a green, high-tech and global future," Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in a statement. Hybrid cars have become a top priority for every American automaker. Ford wants to take the lead by offering a new battery electric commercial van in 2010 and a new hybrid electric vehicle in 2011. The automaker also plans to offer a new hybrid plug-in version by 2012. "I think that is where society would like to see the entire industry go, and Ford is going to lead that charge," Ford said. "Next-generation hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure battery powered vehicles are the logical next steps in our pursuit of greater fuel economy and sustainability," Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of Global Product Development, said in a statement.

ABU DHABI INVESTS IN DAIMLER WITH PLUG-INS IN MIND: Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments PJSC $2.65 billion investment makes the firm the largest single shareholder in the German automaker (beating out Kuwait's 7.6%). The Wall Street Journal­article/­SB123776367498808703.html and others reports explain the motivation: "We are delighted to welcome Aabar as a new major shareholder that is supportive of our corporate strategy. We look forward to working together to pursue joint strategic initiatives," Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche said. Daimler said the cooperation will focus on joint initiatives in the areas of electric vehicles, the development of innovative compound materials to be used in automotive manufacturing and social projects such as the establishment of a training center in Abu Dhabi to educate young people for positions in the auto industry. [Currently Mercedes plans to bring a pure EV to market in 2010.]

CHINA'S BYD TO TANTALYZE US WITH ITS TWO PLUG-INS IN MAY: BYD, the first company to sell a mass-produced PHEV, will bring its F3DM PHEV and its E6 EV to the annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway Corp on May 2 in Omaha, Nebraska. A subsidiary of the Warren Buffet company has invested in BYD. See the report at­english/­2009-03/­25/­content_11071887.htm , The PHEV went on sale to fleets in China last December and will be more broadly available in the country in June. We hope the cars will be shown in other places in the U.S!

CHINA ANNOUNCES GREEN CAR PACKAGE: The Wall Street Journal in a story, "China Uses Green Cars To Bolster Auto Sector" by international automotive journalist Norihiko Shirozou­article/­SB123773108089706101.html says, China announced measures to kick-start domestic automobile demand by encouraging the development of more environmentally friendly cars, the latest move to bolster the Chinese auto industry amid slowing sales growth. The new package, which is supposed to supplement auto-industry stimulus steps announced in January, is designed to keep overall sales in the world's second-biggest car market growing at an average of 10% annually over the next three years, the government said. The 10% growth target is considered ambitious by some analysts, but if China succeeds, it would have auto sales of well over 10 million units this year, and could displace the U.S. as the world's biggest auto market by unit sales. The latest measures, which appear to be aimed at restructuring the industry over the long term, include 10 billion yuan, or about $1.5 billion, in research subsidies over the next three years to improve Chinese auto makers' use of safety, alternative-energy and other technologies. Wolfgang Bernhart, a senior executive at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, said the plans highlight a shift in the country's industrial policy to encourage companies to focus on electric-vehicle technology. The government wants Chinese auto makers to use the relatively low barrier to entry for electric vehicles to narrow the gap with bigger foreign rivals and guarantee the industry's steady long-term growth, he said. The new auto-industry plan, announced on the main Web site of China's central government, said China aims to create capacity to produce 500,000 "new energy" vehicles, such as all-electric battery cars and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles. The plan aims to increase sales of such new-energy cars to account for about 5% of China's passenger vehicle sales.

HYUNDAI'S "BLUE-WILL" PHEV CONCEPT CAR At­archives/­2009/­03/­hyundai_blue-wi.php we see a photo of a Korean car with no production plans, described as "the plug-in hybrid with a face only a mother could love...a bizarre-looking car that resembles a grimacing beaver...with a strange open-mouthed grin ... we're afraid this design might scare away more buyers than it attracts."

EPRI'S MARK DUVALL INTERVIEWED: Mark Duvall, Director of Electric Transportation at the Electric Power Research Institute, presents in a very accessible, conversational form, the latest distillation of the business case for PHEVs. In an interview with journalist John Voelcker published by the IEEE Spectrum at­mar09/­8409 , he responds to the latest misinformation and questionable analyses, including a Carnegie Mellon study that questions whether large battery PHEVs will be viable. Duvall's response makes clear that the under-10-mile electric range expected for several hundred Toyota PHEVs expected in late 2009-2010 may disappoint the fleet owners who evaluate them.

RELATED NEWS: ENERGY STORAGE: It's hard enough for us to deliver to you the most important developments in PHEVs, but occasionally we see the importance of noting developments in infrastructure and in all-electric vehicles. In recent days we've heard of very promising developments in batteries and nanocapacitors. While we're delighted to hear of these, we think hopeful announcements and enthusiasm for future technology can obscure what we can do now with "good enough to get started" products.

RELATED NEWS: TESLA MODEL S: On all-electric vehicles, of course, we favor all solutions that displace fossil fuels with electricity -- we are rooting for EVs as strongly as anyone. Why then do we promote PHEVs? Because of factors including drivers' strong (if sometimes unjustified) "range anxiety" plus the cost of large battery packs, we expect that PHEVs will be the main transitional platform for large automakers for at least 5-10 years and maybe longer.

We highlight some of the most significant aspects of Tesla's announcement of its second-generation Model S, slated for delivery in late 2011 (read all about it at­2009/­03/­26/­tesla-model-s-50-000-ev-sedan-seats-seven-300-mile-range-0-6/­ and at­cars/­2009/­03/­first-look-of-t.html ) that have implications for PHEVs as well as EVs:

  • Just as the Roadster forever dispelled the idea that a plug-in vehicle had to be funny-looking and underpowered, the new vehicle is a strong competitor for the market of people spending $40-$50,000 for a luxury sedan. This vehicle will be better than most BMW, Cadillac, Lexus etc. vehicles. One notable feature--front and rear trunks because there's no large engine--means this 5 adult/2children vehicle has more carrying capacity than station-wagons and most SUVs.
  • It pioneers with three answers to the range problem: buy the "low-end" 160-mile range battery and rent the 300-mile battery for that one week a year when you travel far. (That approach gives us hope that Americans may someday realize they don't need to own a big SUV or pickup truck if they can easily rent one for those few times they're needed.) When the infrastructure is available, fast charge in 4 hours at 240 volts, 5-8 minutes at 480 volts. And if the infrastructure is built, the floor-mounted battery can be swapped.
  • Demonstrating continuing advances in batteries, the vehicle will probably have a longer warranty for the battery than for the car!
  • At the launch event, CEO Elon Musk said this $49,900 vehicle (after the $7,500 tax credit) will be both sold and leased; or the battery only can be leased. Because of lower fuel and maintenance costs, Tesla calculates that at $4/gallon gas, it offers a lifetime cost of ownership equivalent to a $35,000 gasoline car.

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