Feb 25, 2011 (From the CalCars-News archive)
We long ago gave up making sure everything about plug-in hybrids and related issues showed up at CalCars-News, since people have so many other ways to get information -- and of course we have our hands full on advocacy and on driving our new plug-in cars. So here's a roundup of recent news items we've found most interesting -- we bet all of our readers have missed at least one or two! To make it easier to scan, we've divided the 17 topics and 32 links into categories: Auto Industry, Policy & Market Penetration, Energy Policy & Fossil Fuels, Media.
CHEVROLET VOLT DEBATES LEAVE OUT THAT WHOLE
"VISION THING": That's the opinion of former USA Today Detroit Bureau Chief David Kiley, writing at AutoblogGreen on the importance of the Chevy Volt for GM and the auto industry. http://green.autoblog.com/2010/12/18/opinion-chevrolet-volt-debates-leave-out-that-whole-vision-thi/ . His piece reminds us of comments we've heard frequently: back in 2008, if GM had not been able to point to the Volt as its future, its chances of receiving public investments to stay alive would have been near-zero. Mark Reuss, GM's President of North America, said as much in an interview http://green.autoblog.com/2011/01/19/in-deep-with-gms-mark-reuss-at-naias/ that's summarized and pointed to (along with logos for all the Volt's awards) at http://gm-volt.com/2011/01/20/gm-north-american-president-on-the-importance-of-the-chevy-volt/ . And as GM accelerates volume production plans, the Volt will be for sale in all 50 states by year-end.
BYD'S LOW-PRICED PHEV HEADING TOWARD THE U.S.
PlugInCars.com publisher/editor Brad Berman offers the first on-the-road review of the F3DM from China at http://www.plugincars.com/first-drive-byd-f3dm-chinese-plug-hybrid-106831.html and links to his articles in the Sunday New York Times. Feb. 18, 2011.
GM'S PROGRESS: After announcing on January 26 that it wouldn't tap $14B from the US Treasury under the 2007 Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program (a $25B fund from which Ford, Nissan, Tesla and Fisker have borrowed), GM announced on February 23 a profitable year for the first time since 2004. Its $4.7B net was the highest since 1999. Of course, this came after the company assigned pension obligations, laid off many workers and closed many dealerships as part of its bankruptcy and restructuring. GM gave its remaining hourly workers bonuses averaging $4,300. The company is still 1/3 owned by the U.S. Government, and the stock will have to appreciate significantly for the U.S. to break even.
AUTOMAKERS APPROACHING 4-WHEEL DRIVE PHEVS:
People we meet who live in or travel frequently to cold climates or mountains often say they won't buy another car until it has a plug -- but it has to be usable in deep snow. Progress is encouraging even though we don't yet see commitments for sales in North America:
- Land Rover (now owned by Tata Motors of India) has announced the Range_e, a diesel-electric plug-in hybrid version of its Range Rover Sport.
- Volvo (now owned by Geely of China) will unveil at the Geneva Auto Show in March the Diesel-Electric V60 wagon PHEV for sale in Europe in 2012.
- Ford, GM, Toyota, and Subaru have announced plans for plug-in SUVs or crossover vehicles, but none are described as 4WD.
BILL FORD BULLISH ON PLUG-IN CARS: Ford's Executive Chairman at the Detroit Auto Show: "We don't know [about market acceptance], but one thing we do know is the technology is ready for prime time. These vehicles are fun to drive--you don't have to give up anything to drive them. That was always the tradeoff with prior green efforts... .So now finally we have the technology to deliver everything to customers and with things like plugins you don't have the range anxiety so that does kind of relieve most of the tradeoffs, certainly... . ultimately, our country has to decide is this where we really want to go... ." http://www.greencarcongress.com/2011/02/expert-panel-report-finds-achieving-1m-plug-in-vehicles-in-us-by-2015-would-require-concentrated-act.html
RAPID ELECTRIC VEHICLES DELIVERS CONVERTED
GAS-GUZZLER TO ARMY: Vancouver-based REV (a conversion company we highlight at http://www.calcars.org/ice-conversions.html ) has delivered the first of four Ford vehicles -- three Escape SUVs and one F-150 pickup truck -- to the U.S. military's leading advanced vehicle center, US Army Tank Automotive Research Center (TARDEC). The attraction of the vehicles goes beyond electrification to their use as Ancillary Power Vehicles with two-way charging capabilities. http://i.green.autoblog.com/2010/12/13/rapid-electric-vehicles-delivers-first-of-four-battery-powered-a/ Dec. 13, 2010 And while we're on the subject of conversions, wheel motors continue to develop -- once they're in mass-production and affordable, they will make conversion of smaller vehicles more practical. http://evworld.com/news.cfm?newsid=25224 Feb. 15, 2011
POLICY & MARKET PENETRATION
PROVOCATIVE PREDICTION: "The Future of Clean Energy Rests on Consumers and Electric Vehicles:" David Crane, CEO of Fortune 250 power company NRG Energy says, "if one of the new electric cars is just a little bit successful and starts selling hundreds of thousands of units a year, that would blow all other greentech product sales out of the water." http://gigaom.com/cleantech/the-future-of-clean-energy-rests-on-consumers-electric-vehicles/ Feb. 23, 2011
ADMINISTRATION EXPANDS SUPPORT FOR PLUG-INS: Vice Pres. Biden followed Pres. Obama's State of the Union address on Jan. 26 with steps to get a million plug-in vehicles on the road by 2015. DC proposes transforming the existing $7,500 tax credit into an automatic rebate at the time of purchase, ensuring that all buyers are eligible. The 200,000 vehicles/manufacturer credit ceiling could rise to 500,000. http://www.energy.gov/10034.htm . A Feb. 8 Energy Department analyses showed no production bottlenecks to reach a million. http://www.greencarcongress.com/2011/02/doe-20110208.html . Its table may already be out of date, since it doesn't include Toyota, Honda and BYD, and may have understated Nissan's initial volumes. (State-by-state models from The Center for Automotive Research and Pike Research project only about half a million plug-ins sold by 2015.) On Feb. 14, the proposed budget also includes an 88% increase in R&D for vehicle technologies, increases in ARPA-E and Energy Innovation Hub programs for batteries and transportation, and a $200M program to spur concentrated development of plug-in cars in 30 communities -- a version of what the Electrification Coalition has proposed. http://www.greencarcongress.com/2011/02/budget-20110214.html Feb. 14, 2011
INTERVIEW WITH VOLT'S MARKETING MANAGER: "Ears Wide Open, Chevy Volt Marketing Manager Collects Driver Feedback " How John Hughes and the company are tracking responses by drivers to the Volt. http://www.plugincars.com/ears-wide-open-chevy-volt-marketing-manager-collects-driver-feedback-106763.html (We think they have even great opportunities to track, analyze and benefit even more from drivers' views and experiences.) Feb. 3, 2011
PROFILE OF NORTH BAY NISSAN'S GREG DEXTER, TOP
LEAF DEALER: His story shows the impact of the grass-roots support for EVs and PHEVs on one dealer's vision and strategy to gain the confidence and the orders of plug-in car buyers. http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13746_7-20029344-48.html Jan. 28, 2011
ENERGY POLICIES & FOSSIL FUELS
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, ON GAS TAX, CHEERS ON THE VOLT:
In "If Not Now, When?," the New York Times columnist and author, says, "With one little gasoline tax, we can make ourselves more economically and strategically secure, help sell more Chevy Volts and free ourselves to openly push for democratic values in the Middle East without worrying anymore that it will harm our oil interests." http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/opinion/23friedman.html Feb. 23, 2011 In "The Big Leak," back in December he addressed the same idea: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/05/opinion/05friedman.html . And a related opinion piece by "Beyond Oil" conference organizer Steve Marshall and Plug In America chair Dan Davids, "Don't tax electric cars; stabilize tax revenues instead" http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20110213/OPINION04/702139995/-1/OPINION Feb. 13, 2011
OIL: International organizations and oil companies are acknowledging that conventional sources of oil are becoming depleted faster than easily accessible sources are found. Now "fracking," the controversial drilling technique that's been hailed as a miracle technology for natural gas, is now being extended to crude oil extraction. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110210/ap_on_re_us/us_shale_oil Feb 10, 2011 The arguments against "drill everywhere" forces can't rely on expectations of "peak oil" but have to focus on the unacknowledged external costs fossil fuels impose on all of society. And arguments for increasing domestic supply many years from now are not very convincing as the world continues to be held hostage to a globally priced fuel much of which comes from unstable petrodictatorships.
COAL: A new study of economic, health and environmental costs that are not included in the "cheap" price of coal could total 17.8 cents/kWh of electricity generated. http://climateprogress.org/2011/02/16/life-cycle-study-coal-harvard-epstein-health/ Feb. 16, 2011.
NATURAL GAS: The Environmental Protection Agency reconsiders assumptions that replacing gasoline with NG lowers greenhouse gases by 30-40%. Taking into account the full life-cycle of gas production, especially methane emissions in production and distribution, brings down the numbers. http://www.propublica.org/article/natural-gas-and-coal-pollution-gap-in-doubt Jan. 25, 2011.
"WORLD ON THE EDGE," LESTER BROWN'S NEW BOOK: We've been a fan of Brown for years (and he of CalCars: http://www.calcars.org/photos-people.html#LB. His "Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization" volumes, versions 1-4, have now been succeeded by "World on the Edge, How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse." This up-to-date and very readable book describes the intersecting problems of food and water supplies, climate and climate refugees, and fossil fuel dependence that lead to global security issues. And it presents the solutions, notably including plug-in hybrids and renewable energy. See more about him and a link to his recent Washington Post story at http://climateprogress.org/2011/01/20/lester-brown-extreme-weather-climate-change-record-food-prices/ . Order the book at Earth Policy Institute http://www.earth-policy.org or at http://www.calcars.org/books.html
BUY "CHARGED UP & READY TO ROLL: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO PLUG-IN ELECTRIC VEHICLES": The completely-revised 2011 edition of Plug In America's consumer resource guide. It's really "Everything You Want Everyone to Know" about Plug-Ins." It belongs in every auto dealership, every legislative office, and on every driver's bookshelf. Its 64 pages and 20 articles are comprehensive and comprehensible. See which six automakers have full-page ads, which two have half-pagers, and which didn't show up. And it even has a chapter, "Converting a Gas Guzzler," co-authored by Shannon Arvizu ("Miss Electric") and Felix Kramer. You get a digital copy automatically if you join http://www.pluginamerica.org . And you can order as many print copies ($5+$3 shipping) at https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2711/shop/item.jsp?storefront_KEY=553&t=&store_item_KEY=3484
BIG CHANGES AT GM-VOLT.COM: After four successful years, Lyle Dennis, publisher and editor of the highly successful GM-Volt, announced at "GM-Volt: a Turn in the Road" http://gm-volt.com/2011/02/15/gm-volt-a-turn-in-the-road/ his return to his full-time neurologist job and his family life. He sold the site to VerticalScope, a company with online forums including Autoguide. New management's first posting was at http://gm-volt.com/2011/02/18/gm-volt-charging-forward/ . One of the most entertaining posts before the transfer came from Volt Vehicle Line Director Tony Posawatz: "Lighting the Way and Passing the Torch" http://gm-volt.com/2011/02/10/lighting-the-way-and-passing-the-torch/ . Posawatz commemorates his fifth anniversary as GM Employee #1 on the Volt project. (gm-volt's partner site, http://www.nissan-leaf.net , has not attracted a large user base compared to http://www.mynissanleaf.com .)
ELECTRIC CARS GET CHARGED FOR BATTLE is a long Business Week cover story on the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_02/b4210048400234.htm Dec. 29, 2010
GENE AND THE MACHINE: THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT
THE ELECTRIC VOLT: We heard from many readers who couldn't stop laughing about this Washington Post Sunday Magazine cover story by resident humorist Gene Weingarten. He describes his expectations and discoveries as he drives the Chevy Volt. (Only Dan Neil's reviews in the Wall Street Journal of the Volt and the Leaf entertained people more.) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/21/AR2011012105347.html Jan. 30 2011
VOLUNTEER WANTED: We're looking for an experienced social networker, ideally but not necessarily in the SF Bay Area, who can help us promote and auction Felix's once-unique now historic (see http://www.calcars.org/photos.html and pages linked from there) white 2004 Prius converted to a PHEV. It now has a nearly-new Hymotion A123Systems battery pack and we're hoping a buyer will keep its signs! Please write to jobs at calcars.org