Sep 2, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Two more automakers are reported to be planning PHEVs -- see stories below. We've updated our page "How Carmakers are Responding to the Plug-in Hybrid Opportunity at http://www.calcars.org/carmakers.html . Please let us know if we've missed anything. (From 2005-2007 we tracked most automaker comments on this page; now the volume of reports is so high that we're updating only the summary table.)
We've also revised our home page to provide better links to the most popular and important pages.
Below we also include a second story: GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz says the company has selected its supplier for batteries for the Volt, but the winner won't be disclosed until the end of the year. We discuss the speculation on that subject. That Detroit Free Press story also has the welcome statement from Lutz, "The actual production of production vehicles may be earlier" [than November 2010 for the Volt]. On the down side, it seems to imply that the Saturn Vue PHEV might not appear until 2011 rather than 2010 -- which we haven't seen anywhere else.
MAZDA (33% owned by Ford): Mazda plans Volt rival
Autocar has learned that Mazda engineers are hard at work trying to develop a rival to the Chevrolet Volt – a car which uses a petrol engine to charge a battery pack which powers the wheels via an electric motor.
Senior sources say that trials are currently underway in Japan, with a prototype that uses a rotary engine to charge the battery pack. The tests are sufficiently advanced that Mazda has a working prototype in a Mazda 5 MPV bodyshell. Company bosses are said to be keen to put this system into production but no firm decisions will be made until the cost of batteries is reduced.
In the meantime the company will concentrate on simpler green technologies. The first stop-start Mazda will go on sale in Japan next year and the system is expected to be rolled out globally on a variety of models.
HYUNDAI: Hyundai Going Electric With Hybrids and Plug-Ins By Keith Barry lSeptember 01, 2008 http://blog.wired.com/cars/2008/09/hyundai-going-e.html
Hyundai's been making so many announcements about electric vehicles and hybrids lately you'd think it was ZAP. The Korean automaker's promised to put a hybrid subcompact, a hybrid mid-size and a plug-in competitor to the Chevrolet Volt on the road within five years. There's even some speculation at least one of them could be stamped "Made in the USA."
Hyundai's going full-bore with its electric program, launching a partnership with Korean companies LG Chem, SK Energy and SB LiMotive to develop the batteries its cars will need if they're to start hitting the road by 2010 as promised. LG's got a solid background, having provided some of the batteries General Motors is considering for the Volt. The Japanese dominate battery tech these days, but Hyundai says the Koreans could catch up by 2013 -- at which point the company hopes to put a plug-in hybrid on the road. Korean automakers are spending nearly $1 billion on battery tech, and the government has kicked in $40 million.
HYUNDAI MOTOR TO SELL PLUG-IN HYBRID BY 2013
Monday, August 25, 2008; Posted: 02:41 AM
SEOUL, Aug 25, 2008 (AsiaPulse via COMTEX) Hyundai Motor Co. said Monday it plans to begin selling a battery-powered hybrid vehicle that can be recharged at standard outlets by 2013, hoping to catch up to its Japanese rivals in the race for plug-in hybrids.
Asked when Hyundai would launch a plug-in hybrid, the South Korean automaker's chief technology officer Lee Hyun-soon replied it would be "possible after 2013."
Lee made the remark during a government-arranged event that brought together domestic companies such as LG Chem Ltd.and SK Energy Co. to sign a memorandum of understanding to develop battery technology for the next-generation hybrids.
"Currently, Japan is far ahead in regards to battery technology, but the technology gap isn't so wide," Lee said.
GM settles on Volt's battery maker / Automaker to reveal it by the end of 2008 BY KATIE MERX • FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER • August 29, 2008 http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080829/BUSINESS01/808290343
JOLIET, Ill. -- General Motors Corp. has decided on a battery maker for the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric vehicle, but it's not saying who it is, yet, Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said Thursday on the sidelines of a media event touting the automaker's 2009 vehicle line. Lutz said GM plans to announce the battery supplier by the end of the year and will show the production version of the much-anticipated electric-drive vehicle "fairly soon."
GM is hoping to regain a solid reputation for technological leadership and return to profitability with the Volt and a growing lineup of more fuel efficient and alternative energy vehicles, some of which it showed to automotive journalists Thursday in Joliet, Ill.
The Volt, which is expected to drive 40 miles on an electric charge alone and about 400 miles using an onboard gas-burning generator to recharge its lithium-ion battery, is not expected to be available publicly until November 2010. But it is already the symbol GM is using to promote an image of fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness. "The actual production of production vehicles may be earlier," Lutz said.
Because the battery technology necessary to make the vehicle possible is yet unproven, GM has been working closely with two battery makers -- Continental and LG Chem -- to develop the power supply for the Volt.
Lutz said Thursday that the automaker expects to have a large number of production Volts operating in a test fleet by the end of 2009. "The Volt is real ... and test work is progressing nicely," Lutz said. "We haven't hit any obstacles so far for the batteries. They are all performing flawlessly. It's almost scary we are not seeing any problems with the batteries."
GM does plan to launch a plug-in hybrid, Lutz said. The Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid is to make it to market in 2011.
WHO WINS THE VOLT BATTERY CONTRACT? GM has been saying for some time that it's been happy with the performance of both contenders -- A123Systems/Continental and LGChem/Compact Power.
Analysts and journalists are trying to figure out which consortium is the winner. The cleantech and broad investment community is paying even more attention to plug-in cars since A123Systems filed for a $175M Initial Public Offering -- see a comprehensive report at http://earth2tech.com/2008/08/08/battery-maker-a123-systems-files-to-raise-up-to-175m-in-ipo/ . (For a laugh, see how the Chinese Lucky 8 that determined the start of the Olympics meant that this IPO was filed at 8:08 AM on 8/8/08: http://www.xconomy.com/
Some reporters speculate that the delay in announcing the winner could be in some way tied to that company's "quiet period." We have no inside information, but a simpler explanation -- that GM, which has promoted the Volt energetically in multiple venues for the past year, wants to make the most of the announcement.
GM VIDEOS: We found the images in the one-minute ad GM aired during the Olympics quite inspiring. Several comments complained about the triumphant voiceover. If you missed it, see it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ITuKHpWKlQ . See an earlier 30-second ad at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_J2Jx51XZs&NR=1 .