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Roundup of News on PHEVs: Major Media/Online/TV
Oct 1, 2007 (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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Somtimes the news comes too fast for us to keep up. Here's a roundup.
- Conde Nast Portfolio's 5 page story on Green Cars
- Conde Nast Traveler's overview of PHEVs
- Newsweek on conversions and the US trying to catch up on hybrids
- IEEE Spectrum overview on battery technology
- on Toyota vs. GM vs. Ford on PHEVs
- Cleveland Plain Dealer on GM ads for Volt
- Detroit Free Press on GM vs. Toyota
- Green Car Congress on US Dept of Energy's $17M PHEV contracts
- German Public TV's 5-minute video on PHEVs

The October issue of this new business monthly includes a substantial five-page article, "Big Green Machines: Handicapping Toyota, G.M., Volkswagen, and the new clean upstarts in the race to the future."­culture-lifestyle/­goods/­cars/­2007/­09/­17/­Clean-Car-Wars

It's written by Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran, environment/energy correspondent for The Economist, who has written extensively about PHEVs there. He is the co-author of a new book, "Zoom: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future," whose publication date is today. (Order at­books.html .)

  • VV is skeptical about the infrastructure for ethanol.
  • He calls Tesla and other forthcoming electric vehicles "promising."
  • About PHEVs, he says "Hanssen [Greg Hanssen, co-founder of EnergyCS, now at EDriveSystems)] and like-minded activists have managed to whip up so much media attention and grassroots clamor for plug-ins that the big auto manufacturers have been forced to respond." He sees economic rather than environmental obstacles, and says "The main reason this technology may have a bright future is the noisy environmental movement supporting it. Advocates have even convinced the White House that this hobbyist’s invention is the Next Big Thing. Political pressure will force Detroit and Japanese automakers to devise at least a token number of plug-ins by 2010.
  • He finishes with hydrogen fuel cells and a leap of faith. After cataloging many of their limitations, he says "Fuel cells are the riskiest bet in clean-car technology, but they also have the most potential to change the game... fuel cells’ promise of clean, carbon-emission-free personal transportation and an end to oil addiction is so great that this long shot is well worth keeping an eye on." Some of the comments online also question hydrogen's benefits and feasibility.

    The Perrin Post: Secrets Every Traveler Should Know by Stephan Wilkinson
    Where Do You Plug In a Hybrid?
    September 13, 2007­cntraveler/­blogs/­perrinpost/­2007/­09/­where-do-you-pl.html
    Includes a large picture of a CalCars PHEV, a pretty good explanation of PHEVs,including a suggestion that they may be "The Next Big Thing," as well as some misinformation (about having to plug in, about the need for a plugging infrastructure), plus comments that respond to these concerns.

    From all indications, this excellent story is in the October 1 print issue of Newsweek -- but we didn't find it in our copy. PROJECT GREEN : Riding in the Slipstream The Japanese are way ahead in manufacturing hybrid cars. The good news: American entrepreneurs are cashing in on side products like souped-up batteries. By Daniel Gross­id/­20920172/­site/­newsweek/­

    ...the big idea behind the success of Japanese-made hybrids—the proposition that electric batteries can displace gasoline as fuel—has its own coattails. Across the United States, enterprises big and small are developing souped-up batteries, plug-in kits and technology that hold the potential to turn cars from gas guzzlers into power generators.

    [several paragraphs discuss A123Systems, Hybrids-Plus, EnergyCS, PG&E, the Chevy Volt, Google's conversions]

    The technology isn't fully competitive with gas-powered vehicles. Many of the start-ups in the space will likely fail. And there are also questions about how well these innovations—brilliant in the lab—will work in the real world on a mass scale. Of course, that's exactly what U.S. automakers said about hybrid vehicles themselves—1 million sales ago.

    The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which has in the past called PHEVs a "downright irresistable solution," put a PHEV on the cover of its September 2007 magazine, and the article, Lithium Batteries Take to the Road, by John Voelcker, Spectrum automotive editor is an excellent summary of the issues involving mostly-lithium batteries, including relatively non-technical discussions of cathode materials, and analyses of vendors including A123Systems, Altair Nanotechnologies, Gaia, Valence. and Tesla Energy.­sep07/­5490

    John O'Dell, has moved from the auto beat at the LA Times to Edmunds (joining consumer reporter Philip Reed and AutoObserver Michelle Krebs) and now writes at the Green Car Advisor. We think he's right that when GM, Toyota and Ford weigh in on their solutions (GM with series hybrid, Toyota with parallel, Ford with parallel and perhaps "blended," meaning the car could have no all-electric range), the public will be the winner. (We're often asked why smaller companies are bothering to try to compete with the GM Volt. The quick answer: look how many different kinds of internal combustion engine cars we have. There's surely room for a dozen PHEV contenders!

    Coming Soon: Plug-in Wars, Sept. 11, 2007­GreenCarAdvisor/­11 [snip] The latest battleground is in the automotive arena, as automaking giants General Motors and Toyota duke it out over whose strategy for a plug-in hybrid is best. Things heated up Monday as Toyota took on GM in a blog posting, GM’s outspoken vice chairman, Bob Lutz, took a swing at Toyota in a Frankfurt auto show interview, and two top Ford hybrid program executives suggested in interviews with Green Car Advisor that they favor the Toyota approach. [snip] We don't have a favorite in this technology race; perhaps both approaches can coexist. But we are happy to see several of the world's biggest automakers arguing over the best way to do something that can help improve the environment.

    CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER­html/­motoring/­2003909007_voltads28.html
    GM charges ahead with ads plugging Volt before it's built
    The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer
    Sept 28, 2007 in Seattle Times

    They've shown it around the world. They've discussed each technological breakthrough with reporters, and they've promised to do everything possible to produce it by 2010. Now, General Motors has taken the unusual step of advertising its Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid vehicle nearly three years before plans to produce one. Producing a car that could handle a typical daily commute without burning a drop of gasoline could catapult GM past Toyota as the leader in technologically advanced hybrids. But failure would prove the company unable to compete on innovation. [snip] Marketing experts said GM's strategy appears clear: It's not trying to sell the Volt as much as it is trying to sell the image of GM as a technological leader. Advertising progress could help the company shift its reputation from being a fossil of a bygone industrial era to a leader in global environmentally friendly technology. Thomas Powers, a marketing and management professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said GM could burnish its image with promises of futuristic cars, but there's a clear downside: "They have invested in this image-building exercise with unproven technologies. There's a big risk of over-promising."

    DETROIT FREE PRESS­apps/­pbcs.dll/­article?AID=/­20070927/­BUSINESS01/­709270410/­1014
    PHELAN'S CORNER: Hybrid systems get more exposure
    September 27, 2007


    Meanwhile, GM executives are quietly delighted Toyota ran into problems developing new batteries for the next generation of plug-in hybrids. GM badly wants to beat its Japanese archrival to market with a plug-in, which charges from a wall outlet and uses a small engine as a backup generator for long trips. Toyota, meanwhile, says the technology GM is developing is unsafe. "There's so much negativism, especially from one competitor," GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said. "The sooner we can disprove that, the sooner they've got some more egg on their face," he said in a thinly veiled reference to widely rumored battery fires in vehicles Toyota was testing.

    DOE to Provide $17.2M for Five PHEV Battery
    Development Projects; Focus on 10- and 40-Mile Electric Range
    25 September 2007­2007/­09/­doe-to-provide-.html

    The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected five projects for $17.2 million in DOE funding for plug-in hybrid (PHEV) battery development projects with an emphasis on batteries for both 10- and 40-mile range PHEVs. DOE will also provide nearly $2 million to the University of Michigan (U-M) to spearhead a study exploring the future of PHEVs.

    The five projects selected for negotiation of awards of up to $17.2 million from DOE aim to address critical barriers to the commercialization of PHEVs, specifically battery cost and battery life. Combined with cost-share from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC), these projects will allow up to $38 million in battery research and development.

    DOE funding is subject to negotiation of final contract terms and Congressional appropriations. Projects are expected to begin this year and continue through 2009; funding will come from DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (fiscal years ’07-’09). USABC will negotiate final contract terms with five lithium-ion battery developers. Companies selected for negotiation of awards include:

    • 3M of St. Paul, MN. Selected for an award of up to $1.14 million from DOE (total DOE/industry cost share: $2.28 million) over two years to screen nickel/manganese/cobalt (NMC) cathode materials through building and testing of small-sized cells;
    • A123Systems of Watertown, MA. Selected for an award of up to $6.25 million from DOE (total DOE/industry cost share: $12.5 million) over three years for a project to develop batteries based on nanophase iron-phosphate chemistry for 10- and 40-mile range PHEVs;
    • Compact Power Inc. of Troy, MI. Selected for an award of up to $4.45 million from DOE (total DOE/industry cost share: $12.7 million) over three years to develop batteries for 10-mile range PHEVs using high energy and high power Manganese-spinel;
    • EnerDel, Inc. of Indianapolis, IN. Selected for an award of up to $1.25 million from DOE (total DOE/industry cost share: $2.5 million) over two years to develop cells for 10- and 40-mile range PHEVs using nano-phase lithium titanate coupled with a high voltage Nickel-Manganese cathode material;
    • Johnson Controls ­ Saft Advanced Power Solutions of Milwaukee, WI. Selected for an award of up to $4.1 million from DOE (total DOE/industry cost-share: $8.2 million) over two years to develop batteries using a nickelate/layered chemistry for 10- and 40-mile range PHEVs.

    The University of Michigan’s Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute (MMPEI) will receive nearly $2 million from DOE to coordinate efforts among DOE and its Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and DTE Energy to conduct a two-year study on PHEVs. Specifically, the study will:

    • Evaluate how PHEVs would share the power grid with our Nation’s other energy needs;
    • Monitor the American public’s evolving view of PHEVs and provide the first national-level empirical data on how driving behavior differs with these vehicles compared to conventional gasoline, diesel, and hybrid vehicles;
    • Assess a possible reduction of greenhouse gas emissions with the increased use of PHEVs;
    • Identify how automakers could optimize PHEV design to increase performance while also reducing cost. U-M researchers and auto industry partners will build a simulation model to test different PHEV design concepts.

    Research for this study will take place over the next two years, and a preliminary report is expected to be released in January of 2008, at the Detroit Auto Show. DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability and Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) will fund this study (fiscal years 2007 and 2008, subject to appropriations from Congress).

    Here's an excellent story that aired on Germany's public TV network 3sat­neues/­sendungen/­magazin/­113184/­index.html is the German-language report­webtv/­?070916_googlecar_nes.rm is the five-minute video that starts with RechargeIT's PHEVs, continues with an interview with's Dan Reicher, and in the last two minutes shows Felix Kramer driving and talking about PHEVs, explains how PHEVs can be powered from home rooftop solar systems, and introduces "peak-shaving" from vehicle-to-grid systems.

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