Wednesday, October 24, 2007

WSJ on Electric Possibilities

Joseph White, Wall St Journal Detroit bureau chief, is writing about electric cars again, this time about the majors. He's in Tokyo reporting from the big Japanese Motor Show.
Hybrid or All-Electric? Car Makers Take Sides
Nissan-Renault continue talking up small all-electric cars. Toyota and GM are continuing down their differing hybrid paths. Honda, the quintessential internal combustion company, is lobbing criticism at hybrids, a market Toyota exploited better than Honda. White suggests Honda is lining up with Nissan, seeing a future not in hybrids but rather electric cars. Perhaps the lithium batteries upon with Honda depends to make it's FCV function will actually see the light of day in a full-function battery electric car.
"My feeling is that the kind of plug-in hybrid currently proposed by different auto makers can be best described as a battery electric vehicle equipped with an unnecessary fuel engine and fuel tank," [Honda President and CEO Takeo] Fukui said at the company's research-and-development center.
Is Honda's Fuel Cell vehicle a battery electric with an unnecessary, expensive, impractical, inefficient fuel cell stack and hydrogen storage tank?


Zobeid said...

My interpretation: The engine and gas tank are "unnecessary" if you are building a small, slow, limited-range electric car, a "city car". That's the role Honda envisions for BEVs -- someday in the distant future, after a miracle battery has appeared.

William Dryden said...

The miracle battery has been here for 10 years. Nickel metal hydride batteries even like being left half discharged so you do not have to worry about the 8 hours it sits in the parking lot while you are at work.

Luxury Cars said...

Hmm... Interesting topic. I agree with William.

Anonymous said...

I found a Chinese battery that could break the present stranglehold on battery sources for EVs, hopefully available to the EV conversion market. It is a large format Lithium cell of the long lasting and "safe" chemistry, LiFePO4. Google "Thunder Sky Battery" to find a 90 AH cell.

I have suspected that it would be the Chinese that would actually build EVs as I think (hope) they are independent from the Western business forces that have blocked EVs so successfully over here. I have been to China on business and I have seen the rapid industrialized growth presently taking place there. I don't they will allow themselves to be locked into petroleum.

Chinese Lithium batteries, 24V, 36V, and 48V, are already for sale on EBAY for electric bikes, and they are priced at about 1/3 the cost of American ones.

It may be unpatriotic to cheer-on and wish for market success for a Chinese firm that may flood our market with products, but in the area of EV's I will since it's apparent that our companies will only build EVs reluctantly (and so far, will not).

Anonymous said...

I want a pure battery electric car, but I don’t think we will see one built by the car companies we grew up with.
Who does not want EV’s in our driveways:
-Legacy Automakers, because they, and their dealer networks do not earn enough revenue by selling cars. A look at how large their service departments are (and our out-of-wallet experience with them) shows what’s at stake revenue-wise because EV’s never need service beyond tire changes. EV’s don’t even need brake jobs due to electronic regenerative braking that does most of the work. Their ordinary friction brake pads and rotors thus last the life of the car (as shown on the Toyota electric Rav4).
The large established car companies depend on their service department, like printer companies depend on sales of ink cartridges. So why did Toyota sell the Rav4 instead of leasing and crushing as GM did with the EV1? It’s a mystery, but I came across a blog that mentioned that a Toyota exec at a public speech mistakenly said that the cars would be sold, and so to save face, Toyota reluctantly sold the Rav4. Buyers, however, now post on blogs that they actually had difficulty in getting the Toyota dealer to sell them an electric Rav4 and that they were highly pressured to instead buy a Gas Toyota or a Prius.
-Oil companies, for obvious reasons. Note they are also major stockholders in auto companies and thus probably have influence over their board of directors.
Business firms exist to make profits, but profits are going to be reduced if EV’s replace the ICE car. Much of our economy is based on the automobile, and its upkeep. Almost every business is related in some way to the car. What will happen to employment if the need to service a car is practically eliminated?
What happens to Midas, Pepboys, Kragen’s, smog check, AMCO, gas stations, Jiffylube, general service repair centers, the manufacturing plants that fabricate repair parts, the UPS people that deliver the parts, the corner deli or Taco Bells frequented by those firm’s workers at lunchtime? What about government agencies that depend on collecting all manner of tax revenue from the above interlinked economy?
If people understand this scenario, then they will understand why they can’t yet buy an EV from the legacy business infrastructure. Only recently can one sniff the scent of a potential EV from start-up EV manufacturers like Tesla (too costly for mass production partly because they hand-solder a battery pack of 6000 Lithium AA sized cells together in series-parallel groups), Aptera, and even the tiny BugE, etc., because a startup company does not need to address the risk that a service-free vehicle will parasitically affect revenue from other parts of its company. And startups probably are not in business relations with oil companies either. One interesting emerging EV contender is the Chinese and their unstoppable manufacturing base. Google the “Miles EV” and “Thunder Sky” Lithium battery (which can replace the suppressed NiMH battery. Google “95 AH Large Format NiMH battery” to see that a 30 million dollar lawsuit dismantled the Panasonic plant that built these batteries that gave the Toyota Rav4 EV more than 100 miles of highway speed range- 10 years ago). The Chinese don’t have any obligations to any western business or oil cartel. Although they are importing oil at increasing rates, I think they are taking steps to limit dependency on oil by mass producing EVs. A $4000 Lithium powered highway speed scooter motorcycle just appeared from China: the “XM-3500Li” You can buy it now online.
Curiously, Nissan’s CEO has advocated a pure EV but I have a hard time believing he really will build one and that the announcement is mostly PR “green washing” in nature. After all, Nissan has service centers, too.