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Volt Safety Confirmed; New PHEVs Announced; Countering Media Misinformation
Jan 24, 2012 (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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January brings good news about the resolution of issues about Volt safety, announcements of many new PHEVs to come, many new sources of anti-plug-in criticism and misinformation -- and finally, a response mechanism -- and lots of other resources for CalCars-News readers who haven't had a chance to keep up with the latest developments.

NEW PLUG-IN HYBRIDS COMING INTO VIEW: the wave of announcements continues, with production PHEVs now expected including the Opel Ampera, Ford Fusion Energi, Honda Accord, Mercedes B-Class E-Cell, Volvo XC60, Audi A1 e-tron, Mitsubishi PX-iMIEV, possibly a Lincoln version of the Fusion and a Cadillac version of the Volt, and others at the concept stage, plus, of course, many pure EVs.

NHTSA CLOSES BOOKS ON VOLT FIRES: The National Highway Transportation Administration's review of fire-related issues on the Chevy Volt has been closed. The NHTSA's official statement:­About+NHTSA/­Press+Releases/­2012/­NHTSA+Statement+on+Conclusion+of+Chevy+Volt+Investigation . GM's precautionary measures announced Jan 5 for same-day February installations, have been approved. GM's statement welcoming the end of the investigation at:­index.php/­volt-blog/­18-volt/­2583-nhtsa-closure-of-volt-investigation-.html.

ONCE MORE ABOUT FIRES: We're glad to see more and more people compare the significance of a handful of fires weeks after crash tests with hundreds of thousands of conventional vehicle fires a year:­romm/­2012/­01/­08/­398210/­iran-electric-cars-and-our-stuck-narrative-gas-powered-vehicles-catch-fire-180000-times-a-year/ . Oh, and did you or anyone notice when Ford just recalled 286,000 SUVs over a potential fire hazard?­ford-recalls-450-000-minivans-suvs-defects-183215451.html

NEXT: CONGRESSIONAL QUIZ: Meanwhile, the head of NHTSA and GM's CEO Dan Akerson will testify Wednesday at a Congressional subcommittee hearing that Volt critics hope could extend their "fear, doubt and uncertainty" strategy. (On a parallel track to another House hearing Wednesday for cleantech critics reviewing the State Department's decision on Keystone.)

OTHER MOSTLY GOOD NEWS FROM GM: Volts produced for sale in California after Feb 6 will have Low Emissions Packages making them eligible for the 40,000 stickers allowing HOV (car-pool) lane access, and for a $1,500 state tax credit on top of the federal credit. We continue to hear that every car produced sells quickly. But GM has said it might scale down production plans from its goal of 45,000 US and 15,000 international Volt sales in 2012:­2012/­01/­10/­gm-says-it-if-necessary-it-will-cut-volt-production/ and­apps/­pbcs.dll/­article?AID=/­20120112/­OEM05/­120119914

ROUGH TIMES AHEAD FOR PLUG-INS? The path forward may not be smooth. By 2006 we had a broad and popular non-partisan coalition, endorsed by the Bush Administration to incentivize US production of cars and batteries, and provide credits to hundreds of thousands of early buyers. By 2011, when the cars arrived, we found EVs condemned by many as " Obama's pet project," earmarked for failure as part of political campaigns. Add to that a media onslaught that promotes the idea that cars arriving in the market at a rate twice that of hybrids a decade ago are in fact failing. Taken together, plug-ins now have an uncertain position. Advocate Chelsea Sexton in Jim Motavalli's book, High Voltage: The Fast Track to Plug In the Auto Industry," in February 2011 predicted "a couple of rough years" with "deployment missteps, changes in policy and negative media stories, whether earned or not." She suggested we scale back our expectations -- and avoid complacency.

END OF THREE EV CREDITS: At the end of 2011, along with corn ethanol credits and a cleantech loan program, credits for two- and three-wheeled vehicles, charging systems, and EV conversions were not extended. They lapsed because companies building businesses in this area didn't give it their attention -- or didn't have the resources to devote to the issue. We mourn especially the last one, a placeholder for a much larger credit we'd like to see for converting gas-guzzlers to plug in. At a time when there was significant interest in converting Prius hybrids to plug in, A123 Systems and its affiliate Hymotion, worked to build support for the credit. We hope that as gas-guzzler conversion companies emerge, they will be able to make the case for reinstating at higher levels.

IMPLICATIONS FOR FEDERAL $7,500 CREDIT. This current all-important program is the subject of increasing attacks. Uninformed criticisms have come after the introduction of a House bill to repeal the credits -- including ones from the Washington Post. See rebuttals and links to the editorial at PIC and Climate Progress.­blogs/­ezra-klein/­post/­are-electric-cars-really-a-disappointment/­2012/­01/­09/­gIQArQVWlP_blog.html . The greatest threat may come not from a direct attack but from an attempt to end the credit as part of a larger package of fiscal changes.

WE NEED MORE EFFORTS TO COUNTER MISINFORMATION. Great resources are out there. Pass the word about the Department of Energy three-minute video, Electric Vehicles 101, introducing and explaining EVs and PHEVs:­watch?v=M69GBL0IDzI . Don't miss a posting by Rocky Mountain Institute/Project Get Ready's Ben Holland and Randy Essex, countering the idea that 2010 sales were a disappointment.­why_so_many_critics_after_17000_ev_sales_in_first_yearn . Still, we need something more -- mechanisms equivalent to those that climate change deniers and others have perfected to jump on news stories as they appear.

SIERRA CLUB STEPS UP WITH EV MEDIA RAPID RESPONSE NETWORK: The Network aims to notify advocates of breaking stories and equip them with arguments for letters to the editor, online postings, articles, etc. It will focus on policies, including the new fuel efficiency standards, and on issues directly involving plug-in cars. To join and get more info, contact Sierra's Senior Campaign Representative for EVs, Gina Copland gina.coplon-newfield@....

FISKER SHIPS, WINS AWARDS: The Karma, which recently began shipping and had its own two episodes of precautionary modifications for a small number of cars delivered to customers, has won the Top Gear Luxury Car of the Year and Overall Car of the Year awards in addition to its previous Design of the Year award from Automobile Magazine.­top-gear-crowns-2012-fisker-karma-luxury-car-year-110655.html A test drive report by John Voelcker:­news/­1071965_2012-fisker-karma-brief-drive-report.

VIA PROGRESSES WITH LARGE VEHICLE PHEVS: Via Motors has gained credibility by enlisting GM veterans including Bob Lutz­motors-bob-lutz%E2%80%99s-help-aims-sell-2000-electric-trucks-year-111497.html . Via announced plans to sell several thousand "VTrux" -- extended range pickups, cargo vans and SUVs based on conversions of GM Silverado, Tahoe and Express vehicles.­2012/­01/­13/­via-motors-introduces-plug-in-work-vehicles/ It's significant that GM will provide "gliders" (vehicles without drivetrains), which can reduce the final cost. Roush Engineering is a partner­cleantech/­via-motors-rolls-out-converted-hybrid-electric-trucks/ and PG&E is a first customer­cgi-bin/­article.cgi?f=/­c/­a/­2012/­01/­10/­BUTI1MNFD7.DTL and­2012/­01/­13/­via-motors-introduces-plug-in-work-vehicles/ An evaluation of its potential:­news/­1071881_what-would-you-pay-for-a-100-mpg-via-full-size-pickup-truck.

VOLT TEAR-DOWN CalCars has been hoping someone would "open up" the Volt, as engineers did years ago with the Prius,and as the people at and do with appliances and high-tech gear. Finally one is in view. See 10 short videos at­driveforinnovation. Corporate sponsors Munro & Associates and TechInsights appear to be saving their findings for a conference in March in San Jose , but some of the videos (including one called "Under the Hood" show the careful redundant safety engineering features in the car.

RECENT SIGHTINGS OF RON GREMBAN AND FELIX KRAMER: See Ron on battery cooling issues at­articles/­read/­gm-volt-battery-fix-part-of-an-industry-evolution/ and Felix critiquing a popular new book on global violence for overlooking climate change­romm/­2012/­01/­14/­401194/­ny-times-dialogue-on-human-violence-omits-climate-change/

REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR OUT ON DVD: Starting this week, you can buy the movie; this will be followed by availability at Netflix and Hulu.


SUPPORT CALCARS: If you intended to donate at the end of 2011 but didn't, we have switched our 501(c)(3) sponsorship to the Electric Auto Association, of which we are a chapter. Go to­sponsor.html for tax-deductible contributions online by credit card or by mailing a check. Thanks as always for your help in keeping CalCars and our website running!

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