Friday, December 28, 2007

Financial Times on Th!nk

Financial Times Deutschland has a report on Th!nk Global. Putting a little flesh on the bones of previous reporting. 10,000 Think City electric cars in 2009. Parts manufacturing in Thailand and Turkey. As previous reported, plan is to sell the car (€25,000) and lease the battery. Zebra batteries first. Online marketing and sales.
Think says it has battery supply contracts with three companies, and is moving into production. It plans to begin selling its cars in Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and the UK next year, with projected sales of 10,000 cars in 2009 and double that by 2011.
One question raised in the story is how Th!nk will fare as established carmakers bring electric cars to market.
With its modest volumes, it also remains unclear how Think will cope when bigger competitors such as Renault/Nissan and Daimler come to market with their own electric cars.
If Think can begin making thousands of cars per year in 2009, I suspect there won't be much competition for years. Subaru's snail's pace production plans are far from ambitious. GM's Vue and Volt plug-ins have no firm date to appear in showrooms. If Nissan or Mercedes are to make a serious electric offering in the same time frame, we'll have to hear something soon.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Subaru to Begin EV Sales in Japan in 2009


Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) has issued a press release, according to Green Car Congress, announcing that 2009 rather than 2010 will see the sales of the first 100 electric Subarus in Japan. FHI's President Ikuo Mori foresees the price down below $20,00 by 2012 for this subcompact, as production ramps up for the Lithium battery packs.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Electric Smart Car ForTwo Delivered by Mercedes

Mercedes-Benz has delivered the first of 100 electric Smart ForTwos to fleet customers in the UK. Coventry City Council will be using the electric Smart in its fleet.

Smart Car of America has the most complete report, straight from Daimler, with most of the relevant stats. The energy storage is a sodium nickel chloride battery. Same battery the first new Th!nk City cars are said to be using. Only stat missing in the report is the size of the battery pack.
Rated output 30 kW/41 bhp
0-60 km/h 5.7 s (0-37miles in 5.7secs)
Maximum speed approx. 112 km/h (just shy of 70mph)
Range approx. 115 km (just over 71 miles)
Consumption* 12 kWh/100 km
CO2 emissions 0 g/km
Could this herald a serious interest on the part of Mercedes to produce battery-powered vehicles?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Popular Mechanics Takes Aptera for a Drive

This wingless Jetsonian vehicle has seemed to me to be too much design, too much gadgetry, too much website, and not enough practical, buildable car. I thought I could smell the vapor.

Well, Popular Mechanics asked and the Aptera folks let them in. The magazine's Ben Stewart took the all electric car (3 wheeler) for a 20 mile spin in Carlsbad CA. And he came back impressed. There's video, lots of stills and most of the basic stats you'd want to know. And plans for a serial plug-in hybrid. 300mpg, they say. Yowsa! Here's to hoping all they say is true.

•Available 2008
•under $30,000
•120 mile range
•10kWh Lithium pack
•under 1500 pounds
Check it out here.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Electric Car Salute to Al Gore in Oslo


Electric cars, including many Th!nk City cars and at least one RAV4 EV, turned out in large numbers to salute Al Gore, lining Oslo streets as he drove (in a gasser) to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. (click on the photo below to see more photos thanks to ElBil Norge, click on the video image to see Youtube video.)


Electric car advocates know that nothing can take a bigger bite out of greenhouse gas emissions than switching from internal combustion to electric drive. Here's to hoping that Al Gore took a look out the window as he drove past. With the new solar PV on his Tennessee roof, he could do all his Carthage driving truly emitting no greenhouse gases, if, and only if, he drove an electric car. I'm hoping Governor Schwarzenegger takes the former VP and ally on global warming issues for a drive as soon as he takes delivery of his Tesla.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

EPA Says No: Dems Get Rolled Again

It took less than 12 hours.

The Democrats got rolled again.

Bush started the day signing the energy bill that Nancy Pelosi called "earth-shattering change in terms of energy policy" and Sierra Club's Carl Pope said "is a clean break with the failed energy policies of the past and puts us on the path toward a cleaner, greener energy future." To get a bill the president would sign, out dropped any challenge to big oil's obscene profits, a national renewable electricity standard, overwhelmingly popular wind and solar tax credits, and plug-in hybrid credits that might truly jumpstart an alternative automotive future.

They decided passing an energy bill and raising CAFE standards was worth any price. And now they've paid it.

They don't know how to lose with dignity and purpose. They could have done a bill, with solar and wind and RPS and plug-in credits and taxes on oil companies to pay for and seen it vetoed. Then when Bush had the EPA kill the CO2 waiver too he'd have looked like the enviro monster he is. Now he disingenuously argues the energy bill provided a 50 state solution, not a patchwork, as the automakers like to say.

So now we have a do-little energy bill and years more litigation.

Did Mayor Bloomberg in China Drive a Miles Javlon?

Autobloggreen is reporting that Mayor Bloomberg has driven the first Miles Automotive highway-legal all-electric car off the production line. What is certain is that he spoke before the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and said
After my remarks, I look forward to going outside and seeing some of the latest-model battery-powered all-electric cars that an American company—Miles Automotive Group—is developing in partnership with the Chinese Automotive Technical and Research Center or ‘CAT-ARC,’ the Chinese Electronic Technology Group Corporation, Lishen Battery Company, and the city of Tianjin.

“I will be joined by the chair of Miles Automotive Group, Miles Rubin, and its chief operating officer, Kevin Kiley. As well as by their Chinese partners: Zhao Hang, director of CATARC; Wang Xi Wen, vice-superintendent of Chinese Electronic Technology Group Corporation; Qin Xing Cai, general manager of Lishen Battery; Liang Rui, deputy general manager at Lishen Battery; and Wu Zhi Qin, general manager of Tianjin Qingyuan Electric Vehicle Company.

“Assembled here in China, the cars they are making can be marketed to drivers in both our nations, and in South America and the European Union, too. The result is a marriage of U.S. and Chinese technology that is taking us forward—toward 100 percent electric-powered vehicles that drastically reduce air pollutants, cut carbon emissions, and are less expensive to operate.
For a while they've said 2009, 120 mile range, $35,000. All good numbers to me. Let's hope we see some prototypes soon. And get some definitive test drive reports, from Mayor Bloomberg or whoever.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Everybody Happy: Bush to Sign Do-little Energy Bill

The opening line of the Detroit News story says all you need to know:
The House approved a stripped-down energy bill Tuesday and sent it to President George Bush, who is expected to sign the legislation.
The headline is a 35mpg CAFE standard for cars produced 13 years from now. Big whoop.

The best stuff in the bill is energy efficiency standards, including phasing out the incandescent light bulb.

The reality, however, is no removal of tax breaks for Big Oil; no 15% renewables standard for utilities; no plug-in hybrid incentives. Incentives for wind and solar were stripped out, as well, according to Sen. Boxer. "We're pretty disappointed," said Rhone A. Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, which sought an extension of the investment tax credit that expires at the end of next year.

But yes, there is a requirement for five times more ethanol than we now produce. "Clean tech" will have a place to throw some money, even if the environmental benefit is nil, the impact on petroleum usage minor, the impact on food prices unknown. As stated in the Washington Post story today, "For farmers and agribusiness, it is a windfall, providing more support than perhaps even the farm bill." 'Nuf said.

Why Nancy Pelosi calls the bill "a moment of change, of real change" is not yet clear. Most elements that would constitute a progressive energy bill have been dropped out.

I can't help thinking if carmakers are still producing masses of 20something mpg cars and pickups and SUVs in 2020, something envisioned with a 35mpg average, we're in big trouble.

Honestly, though, I think this standard will be overtaken by reality. Once a few plug-in hybrids and electric cars hit the market, and they will long before 2020, the relevance of these standards will disappear in the rearview mirror of reality.

Or you can read someone snarkier and more cyncial about these matters than I, Mark Morford the San Francisco Chronicle columnist.
...because it's Beltway politics and watching it too closely is akin to having your cerebral cortex raped by encephalitic trolls, I've only paid cursory attention to the massive, landmark energy bill that's right now passing like a painful gallstone through Congress and getting snagged here and gutted there and stripped of key provisions over here, all so Dubya won't veto it, given how it might be just too mean to his fat, piggish pals in Big Energy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Senate Strives for Palatable Energy Bill; Plug-in Credits In

The Detroit News is reporting on the efforts in the Senate to craft a viable energy bill. As presently consitituted, the Senate bill drops the requirement of electricity generators to achieve 15% renewable sources, but includes higher CAFE standards and major provisions for plug-ins, including conversions.
The bill also increases to just more than $1 billion consumer tax credits for buying a plug-in hybrid, with a $5,000 per-vehicle maximum. It also creates a 20 percent tax credit for consumers who convert their vehicle to a plug-in, or up to $2,500.
$5000 could cover, certainly goes a long way, to make up the differential between a gasoline only hybrid and a plug-in. Over 200,000 PHEVs. And if the OEMs don't step up to the plate, $2500 should push a significant number of hybrid owners to contemplate conversions coming to market in 2008.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Menahem Anderman: Enough Already

Menahem Anderman, PhD, is Mister Battery Consultant. CARB, DOE, Congress all seem to turn to him to analyze the state of battery technology. His reports always suggest batteries won't quite cut it for freeway-capable cars. His report at CARB in 2003 seemed to suggest the electric cars then on the road couldn't be functioning as well as they were. Drivers of electric cars were stunned at his low opinion of the state of battery technology. He's always called upon, contracted with, and his report inevitably finds batteries wanting.

At EVS23 he stopped at the Plug In America booth to challenge what he felt was the overly optimistic tone taken by these advocates in their questioning at various sessions. One of the things he specifically said to Sherry Boschert, author of Plug-in Hybrids, to demonstrate the inadequacy of NiMH in electric cars was that the batteries have been replaced in many of SCE's fleet of RAV4-EVs. Chelsea Sexton of Plug In America inquired of Ed Kjaer at SCE to find out what the truth is. Here's what Mr. Kjaer wrote in response to the inquiry:
How he [Anderman] arrives at this fanciful assertion is frankly mystifying to us.

Were he to actually ask we would tell him that the majority of our EV fleet has consisted of '98 and '99 MY RAV4 vehicles. Of the almost 14,000 NiMH battery modules powering these EVs only a little less than 0.5% had to be replaced!

A powerful testament to Toyota and Panasonic design, quality, durability and reliability. And what is even more impressive is the fact that these vehicles were from the 1990's.

Hopefully this answers Sherry's question...for the record!
Getting a government contract to express one's informed opinion about batteries is one thing. That Mr Anderman always find them wanting despite evidence to the contrary is, perhaps, his right. But spreading malicious falsehoods without asking for evidence from those in the know suggests a lack of professionalism that ought raise questions about his analysis and methodology. It's past time for CARB and other agencies to broaden their search for objective consultants to analyze the state of battery technology.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Slate's EV Acid Test: Are electric cars greener?

Every electric car advocate is asked the same question every day: Are EVs really cleaner, greener, better for the environment? The long tailpipe, and all that. Slate, the online magazine, has an enviro Q&A column, The Green Lantern, that asks the question today.
Driving one still has an environmental cost, mostly associated with the use of Santa's most feared stocking-stuffer: 49.7 percent of our nation's electricity is generated by the burning of coal. But if you break down the numbers, EVs still come out ahead of cars featuring internal combustion engines, especially in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.
...The real question, then, isn't whether EVs are environmentally superior to today's gas-powered cars, but how they stack up against another technological rival: plug-in hybrids. The Lantern promises to tackle that question soon.

EV1 Stirs Emotions Decade Later

An emotional Alexandra Paul, actress who appeared in Who Killed the Electric Car?, is interviewed by Matt Kelley of Next Gear in front of an EV1 that made an appearance at RenewableLa put on by by Energy Efficiency Solar.
video
I gather GM really did destroy the molds and sever relationships with suppliers, but it is so clear that if they simply re-released the EV1 today it would still be a show stopper. Who thinks that GM couldn't sell 5-10,000 EV1s for between $50,000 and $75,000? And wouldn't those cars, even if they took a loss on each one, bring more positive results for GM than the millions of dollars of "Gas-Friendly to Gas-Free" adverts endlessly appearing in the American media these days?

German Battery, German Electric Car?

An Agence France Presse report has produced a small flurry of articles this past week, here and here, for example, that has a German company developing Lithium batteries that would be suitable for electric cars. Li-tec is said to be working in cooperation with Bosch and Volkswagen, which has heightened interest.

One can only hope, despite scant evidence, that the fierce grip of internal combustion on the German automakers might loosen. German Greens have bought into hydrogen hype as much as California regulators. BMW is pushing hydrogen gas into the most complicated engine ever and dousing the American airwaves and celebrities with this unavailable $500,000 diversion.

The country has admirably pushed renewable electricity generation, offering subsidies and incentives greater than most any other nation. Their insatiable appetite for solar panels has kept the world price high and supply low. But somehow, the increasingly low-carbon grid has not enticed either automakers to manufacture or policy makers to create incentives for grid connected cars. Do the Germans actually intend to make a green grid, only to throw away 75% of the energy to the losses involved in hydrogen production?

Of late, the French, Irish and Finns are creating feebate structures that could push electric cars. The Norwegians have a host of EV positive initiatives. But the Germans, for all their green reputation, remain laggards. The German government has opposed the strictest CO2 emission proposals in the EU, in order to protect their domestic, comparatively more polluting, auto industry.

Perhaps a German battery will propel interest. An electric VW, say a Plug-in UP!, might bring boomers back to the car that brought them to their first Earth Day rally.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Th!nk City: Electric Civic for the 21st century?

Business 2.0's Green Wombat blogger Todd Woody has written up an optimistic report on the Th!nk City titled A Honda Civic for the age of global warming. As I mentioned a week or so ago, the first new Th!nk City electric car has rolled off its Norwegian assemblyline. Everything in the piece agrees with our previous understanding - Zebra batteries for now, EnerDel and A123 Lithium in the future; battery leasing in Norway; US release a number of years away at best. Biggest piece of news:
According to [CEO Jan Olaf] Willums, General Electric (GE) is now an investor in Think and the company struck a deal with GE to collaborate on battery technology.
Perhaps Andy Grove already had an inkling when he penned his incitement, as mentioned here, to "Think Disruptive." It wouldn't be the first time GE has dabbled in electric cars.

Friday, December 7, 2007

French CO2 Feebate Plan Good News for Electric Cars

The French government's Ministry of Ecology has instituted a CO2 based "feebate" scheme. Low emission vehicles will receive a rebate, high emission cars will be assessed a fee. Mid level emitters, representing about 45% of the cars currently sold, will be unaffected. As reported on the Green Car Congress website, electric vehicles would receive 5 times the rebate available to the best currently conceivable ICE vehicle. A Smart Car emitting less than 100 grams of CO2 per km would receive a €1000 ($1466) rebate. An electric car would receive €5000 (over $7300.)

French automakers probably have put more electrics on the road than all others combined, although they were limited to fleets. Hopefully this will spur Renault and Peugeot to offer consumers EVs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

EVS23: It's the Plug, Stupid

John Voelker has posted from EVS23 for IEEE's Spectrum, and he ain't writing about fuel cells. Except to point out that Honda's FCV rep actually got hissed as he dissed lithium batteries. The same lithium batteries without which Honda's much heralded Clarity who chug along like a quiet 1960s era VW bug.
The FCX Clarity will be leased for $600 a month, starting next summer, to selected customers in Southern California. “That means,” said one bystander, “that Honda’s picking up the other $600,000 on each vehicle.” Which is as good a way as any to summarize the cost challenges of fuel-cell vehicles—even before looking at the infrastructure challenges.

If one statement sums up this conference so far, it’s this one, overheard in the hallways: “It’s all about the plug-ins, stupid!”

Monday, December 3, 2007

Entourage Star Breaks Parking Law in BMW Hydrogen 7

It's a shame the video on TMZ.com doesn't include the reporter's voiceover, because the narration I heard when the story aired on TV caught the reality of hydrogen hype better than most serious enviro journalism. Automakers using movie stars to greenwash was its essence. The story, as reported on TMZ.com:
He's all for saving the environment, but Jeremy Piven also likes to break the law!

TMZ caught Piven in front of the Newsroom Cafe on Robertson with his new hydrogen-powered BMW yesterday, where the "Entourage" star asked us to tell the Governator to get more hydrogen stations. Sure, Ari!

It's great that he's going green -- but does that make him special enough to park in a red zone?!


A123 & LG Chem Battery Packs for Chevy Volt Unveiled at EVS23

GM-Volt.com is reporting on battery announcements at EVS23. Both A123 and LG Chem/Compact Power have delivered packs to GM for testing in the Volt. GM has announced plans for real world testing in vehicles in spring 2008, and with these batteries in hand, they appear to be meeting their announced timetable.

IEEE Tech Talk: Times They are a'Changin'

IEEE Tech Talk's John Voelker's report is titled EVS-23: A Surge of Energy for Electric Cars. It is a first comment on the palpable difference being experienced at this year's Electric Vehicle Symposium (EVS23), the electric drive industry trade show. An astounding 450 people attended Sunday's plug-in hybrid workshop. A member of congress, for the first time, spoke from the floor about promoting electric vehicles through federal legislation. Five major automakers have expensive displays. Voelker writes:
A year ago, the Chevrolet Volt was unknown......The demand for plug-in hybrids has exploded.....grumbled the City of Vancouver’s Brian Beck, “I’m ready to change the building code to require electric plugs throughout parking garages, but automakers tell me I can’t get their plug-in prototypes...
Still no plug-in hybrids or electric cars in showrooms, but things are looking up.